Showing posts with label Throwback Thursday. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Throwback Thursday. Show all posts

Thursday, May 16, 2024

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Come for the Shame, Stay for the Scandal


Earlier this week I saw Mississippi bluesman Cedrick Burnside play at the Tumbleroot here in Santa Fe. As I suspected, Burnside, grandson of the late master R.L. Burnside, was fantastic and any Santa Fe blues fan who missed it should regret it.

But this post isn't about the music Burnside played. It's about a joke he told Monday night.

It was a funny joke, but I already knew the punchline. That's because I was familiar with this song I first heard by Gabriel Sanchez, aka Baby Gaby.

Here's that song:

Despite the name "Pepito" and Baby Gaby's exaggerated Mexican accent, I've always suspected that the dysfunctional family poked fun at in this tune might not be Mexican at all.

And in fact, that's the case.

The first known published telling of this tale was "Madame la Marquise." a poem satirizing French aristocracy by British-born poet Robert Service in his 1940 collection Bar-room Ballads: A Book Of Verse.

Here's how it starts out:

Said Hongray de la Glaciere unto his proud Papa:

"I want to take a wife, mon Pere." The Marquis laughed: "Ha! Ha!

And whose, my son?" he slyly said; but Hongray with a frown

Cried: "Fi! Papa, I mean -- to wed. I want to settle down."

The Marquis de la Glaciere responded with a smile:

"You're young, my boy; I much prefer that you should wait awhile."

Kind of wordy, no? It takes a few lines more before the Marquis gets around to warning his lovesick son about the dangers of possible incest.

And that leads us to a classic zombie movie ...

In 1943, the calypso star known as Sir Lancelot (Lancelot Victor Edward Pinard) wrote a song for -- and appeared in -- a creepy film called I Walked With a Zombie.  (But no, Roky Erikson never covered this)

Lancelot called the tune "Fort Holland Calypso Song" (Not "Fort Collins" as it's mistitled in the video below. My daughter lives in Fort Collins and if there were any zombies there, I'm pretty sure she would have told me.)

Check the scene below:

Notice the refrain and the melody are very similar to the song Baby Gaby sings. But there's no story about a lad wanting to marry girls his dad thinks are his secret sisters. 

But skip ahead about 20 years and another calypso singer, Lord Melody rewrote Sir Lancelot's lyrics, adding the basic ""Madame la Marquise" plot, and here we go. But I still don't know why he'd call his song "Wau Wau":

"Shame"-- or "Wau Wau" spread around the Caribbean. Puerto Rico-born pop singer Shawn Elliott had a hit in South America with his version:

Here's Peter Tosh of The Wailers, backed by The Skatellites in 1965:

Tex-Mex folk-rocker Trini Lopez also sang of this troubled family:

Also in the '60s, Buffy Sainte-Marie sang an Irish-style song called "Johnny Be Fair," which tells the familiar story, though Canadian folklorist Edith Fowke quotes The Buffy Sainte-Marie Songbook, (1971) where the singer introduces "Johnny Be Fair," saying her song was "based on a joke I heard from an Irishman ..." 

And this seemed like an affirmation to me. The strange idea that prompted me to look into this song was a weird and unsubstantiated notion I had that the story told in the Baby Gaby song I love might have originated in Ireland. "Pepito" is much closer to Lord Melody and the others posted above, but the plot is the same as Buffy's:

But as we all know, shame and scandal often leads to Madness! The British punk-ska group recorded this in 2005.

Now all us Cedrick Burnside fans need to convince the man to craft his joke into a song ...

Cedrick at Tumbleroot, Santa Fe, NM 5-13-24

For more deep dives into songs, check out The Stephen W. Terrell Web Log Songbook

Thursday, April 11, 2024

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Tales of Tobacco Road

I was born in a dump / Mama died and my daddy go drunk...

These are the first words of a song that became one of the most covered tunes of the 1960s, though the covers have gone well beyond. "Tobacco Road" is the story of poverty, sentimentality and a young man's determination to better his circumstances. Or maybe "sentimentality" shouldn't be part of that description, as in the last verse, the singer declares his desire to "blow it up and start all over again."

It sounds like some ancient blues song, something John or Alan Lomax might have picked up from some half-drunk sharecropper or mean-eyed Angola Prison inmate.

But, no, it was written by John D. Loudermilk, a country and pop songwriter from Durham, N.C. He wrote it and was the first to record it 1959 (and released in 1960).

Loudermilk, in a 1988 interview in American Songwriter, spoke of the origins of what probably is his best-known song:

I got the idea for writing that song from a road in our town that was called Tobacco Road because it was where they rolled the hogsheads full of Tobacco down to the river to be loaded onto barges. Along that road were a lot of real tough, seedy-type people, and your folks would have just died if they thought you ever went down there.

He didn't mention that "Tobacco Road"  previously had been used as a title of a 1941 movie directed by John Ford, as well as a 1933 Broadway play, both of which were based on a 1932 novel of the same name by Erskine Caldwell. 

But that's neither here nor there. The movie, play and novel largely have been forgotten, while the song is a classic. It's been recorded by everyone from Edgar Winter to David Lee Roth; from Hank Williams, Jr. to The Jefferson Airplane ... and lots of folks in between.

Here's that original 1960 version by Loudermilk:

But Loudermilk's version failed to become a hit. It wasn't until the 1964 British Invasion, when a one-hit-wonder band called The Nashville Teens recorded it. And yes, their one hit was indeed wondrous:

And soon after this, the song became a garage-rock standard. One of my favorites was by The Blues Magoos.

Even before The Nashville Teens, Lou Rawls gave "Tobacco Road" some soul gravitas: 

Eric Burdon performed the song with The Animals. But a few years later he did a more interesting version with War:

Had you told me that "Tobacco Road" was written especially for Bobbie Gentry, I probably would have believed you. It's just her kind of tune:

Junior Wells took it to Chicago in 1990:

And in 2007, Southern Culture on the Skids returned the song to its rightful North Carolina home:

For more deep dives into songs, check out The Stephen W. Terrell Web Log Songbook

Thursday, February 08, 2024



I went out for my daily afternoon walk yesterday in the cold and the wind. I wore my loudest, tackiest Hawaiian shirt, initially out of ironic defiance of the elements I supposed. But not long after I got home from that miserable trek, I learned the true reason for my fashion choice: 

Mojo Nixon was dead.

Mojo -- real name Neill Kirby McMillan, Jr. -- died after a heart attack while aboard the annual Outlaw Country Cruise, where he's participated as a performer and emcee for years. He was 66.

 I think fellow Mojo fans will appreciate that the first thought to pop into my head after reading this sad news about Mojo dying on a cruise ship was "Elvis needs boats, Elvis needs boats ..."

Like most of his fans, I suppose, I first became a Nixon devotee after seeing the insane video of his signature song, "Elvis is Everywhere."

 Not long after seeing that landmark video in the '80s, Mojo and his washboard rubbing partner Skip Roper came to Albuquerque, the EL Rey Theater I think, so I got to see him live. One outstanding memory from that show: Mojo at one point went out went out into the crowd (the first time I'd ever seen slam-dancing to acoustic music!) and stood on a table or chair to serenade the revelers below. I was standing right behind him. During the song he turned around and spoke directly to me:

"Stop lookin' at my butt!"

I saw him again a couple of years later inn Santa Fe, when he performed with his super group, The Pleasure Barons, which included Dave Alvin, John Doe, Rosie Flores, Katy Moffatt and a tall, gangly deep-voiced maniac called Country Dick Montana, who Mojo often referred to as his "de-mentor."

And a few years after that, during one of my first South by Southwests, I saw a brief afternoon Exhibition Hall Mojo performance. 

That was the last time I ever got to see him. I'm really kicking myself now for somehow never making it to one of Mojo's notorious SXSW parties at the Continental Club.

But like Celine Dion's heart, Mojo's music will go on. As I've seen all over various social-media posts since yesterday "Mojo is Everywhere!" So here are some of my favorite Mojo tunes.

This one is on the very first Mojo album I ever bought. It's called "I'm Gonna Dig Up Howlin' Wolf":

Here's a video that MTV did NOT want you to see, starring Mojo with Wynona Ryder as Debbie Gibson:

Speaking of The Pleasure Barons, here's a track from that band's only album, Live from Las Vegas, with Mojo covering Jerry Reed:

And here's one from Prairie Home Invasion, Mojo's album with Jello Biafra:

Finally, here's the song that made us all fall in love. 

Don't cry. Mojo's with Elvis now.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

THROWBACK THURSDAY: "We Had the BEST Music Back in the '60s"


Sorry, Mike. Even my grandmother hated your song.

OK, Boomers ...

One thing that routinely disgusts me on Facebook are members of MY GENERATION, who routinely post lame memes and other much-shared screeds with the basic message, "Kids these days might think we're a bunch of doddering old farts now, but they're just jealous because back in the '60s we had the best music ..."

There are scores of variations on this theme. Sometimes it's used as an attack on "modern" sounds (i.e. anything made after 1976). Often there's a streak of self-righteousness, i.e. "Our music helped stop a war," etc. And sometimes it's just wistful nostalgia.

Whatever the motive, it's embarrassing to oldsters like me who did love a lot of the music of the JFK/LBJ/Nixon eras, but who also delight in discovering new sounds.

And here's the thing: for every group like The Beatles there were a dozen Gerry & The Pacemakers. For every Bob Dylan, there were a dozen Johnny Tillotsons. For every Sam the Sham, there were a dozen Englebert Humperdincks. And so on ... 

So below, are five songs you can post in reply to the next softheaded, "our music was the best" Boomer meme that pollutes your Facebook feed.

Let's start with this gem:

One day when I was back in grade school I was riding with my grandmother in her car. The following song came on the radio and by the time Mike Clifford started whining his vocal part, my little hand darted to the radio to turn it off. My grandmother laughed. "You really don't like that song, do you," she said, clearly amused. "I HATE this song!" I replied. She laughed again, but at that moment, a music critic was born.

Hear for yourself ... 

Here's one from a pint-sized proto-Michael Jackson (or at least a Frankie Lymon also-ran), 12-year-old Ronnie Goodson and his group The Hi-Lites, described by the experts at Wikipedia as, "a slow ballad sung from the point of view of a young boy expressing his wishes that he and his sweetheart would stay together."

So touching ...

This, the only big hit for Philadelphia singer Diane Renay, actually was produced by Bob Crewe, best known for his work with  The Four Seasons, whose "Rag Doll," co-written and produced by Crewe, is probably my favorite single ever. It's hard to believe that Renay's naval-gazing dreck was released the same year as "Rag Doll." Renay attempted a follow-up hit with "Kiss Me Sailor." But that one didn't go anywhere, though reportedly it was popular with San Diego sex workers.  

"But, Steve," you're probably saying, "These ones so far are all from the early '60s, before the musical revolution started by cool bands like The Beatles, The Stones and The Bob Dylans had fully taken root!"

That's true. But that so-called revolution couldn't halt the onslaught of Gary Puckett & The Union Gap:

And while this 1966 hit by a band called The Trade Winds was pure peak puke, on the upside, if it kept just one potential addict away from the drug culture, it was worth it:

I promise, I'll play none of these songs on Terrell's Sound World next Sunday.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Celebrating Zappa's Birthday


Frank Zappa with hamsters. (Created with a free IA app)

On this day, 83 years ago in Baltimore, Maryland a child named Frank was born into the Zappa family. And he grew up to be the most famous Zappa of them all.

Do I really have to tell you who Frank Zappa is? If so, YOU'RE READING THE WRONG DAMN BLOG!!!!!

So without any further fiddle faddle, let's just play a bunch of randomly ordered Zappa tunes and say "Happy birthday, Frank! You've been truly missed these past 30 years."

"Who Needs the Peace Corps?" (Originally on We're Only In It For the Money, 1968) 

"Stevie's Spanking" (Originally on Them or Us, 1984)

"Your Mouth" (Originally on Waka/Jawaka, 1972)

"Dumb All Over" (Originally on You Are What You Is, 1981)

"Ms. Pinky" (Originally on Zoot Allures, 1976)

"Later That Night" (Originally on Cruising with Ruben & The Jets 1968)

Zappa: Tangled Up in Squids

Thursday, December 07, 2023

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Just a Little Old Fashioned Christmas Cheer


I'm nothing but an old softy when it comes to Christmas.

So in that spirit of the season, here is a handful of the most beloved Christmas songs of all time. And to those nitpicky nabobs who might say this Throwback Thursday seems more like a Wacky Wednesday, I'll just say, "WHY DO YOU HATE CHRISTMAS?!??!?"

Let's begin this celebration with a traditional song by the ascended master Soupy Sales:

Speaking of surfing, The Butthole Surfers offer their snappy version of "Good King Wencenslaus," which apparently is another name for Santa Claus or maybe the little lord Jesus:

And now for a stunning Claymation take on "The Carol of the Bells":

Joe Pesci knows that Santa is a good fella:

And how can it be a Christmas without Wesley Willis? 

Kay Martin always fills me with Christmas spirit:

Joseph Spence always believed in Santa:

And finally, I really dig Angry Johnny & The Killbillies and they really dig Christmas:

So lets have a safe and meaningful holiday, and always check your Christmas cookies for drugs and razor blades.

For hours and hours of warped Christmas songs, check out my Big Enchilada podcast Christmas specials.

Thursday, November 09, 2023

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Belated Birthday Tribute to Sir Doug

Doug Sahm with Freddy Fender during a Texas Tornados set during the 1997
South by Southwest at Austin's Hole in the Wall.

Three days ago, November 6, would have been Doug Sahm's 82nd birthday. And later this month, Nov. 18, will be the 24th anniversary of Doug's death.

Congress should just go ahead and declare November to be Doug Sahm month!

Son Volt sings songs of Sahm in Ft. Collins
Earlier this week, I posted on Facebook about Doug's birthday, mentioning the fact that I recently saw Son Volt up in Colorado. That band's most recent album, Day of The Doug, is a Sahm tribute album, and  their show kicked off with a lengthy set of some of those songs as well as a take on "Give Back the Keys to My Heart," a Sahm song on Uncle Tupelo's final album. which featured a guest appearance by Doug himself. (For those not familiar, Uncle Tupelo was the previous band of Son Volt leader Jay Farrar.)

This morning, two of my friends, Rick and Walt, reminded me that there were previous Sahm tribute albums. So on this Throwback Thursday, let's look at all these albums.

Way back in 2002, The Bottle Rockets did an album called Songs of Sahm honoring Sir Doug. Here's a tune from that album:

Skip ahead to 2009 and we'll find a various-artists compilation called Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm, with contributions from the likes of Dave Alvin, Alejandro Escovedo, Delbert McClinton, Little Willie G of Thee Midnighters and Greg Dulli of The Afghan Whigs. Santa Fe's own Terry Allen did one of the best tracks on this tribute, "I'm Not That Kat Anymore":

But my favorite song on Keep Your Soul was the extremely soulful "Be Real," performed by Freda & The Firedogs, vocals by long, tall Marcia Ball:

Here's a track, from the latest Son Volt album, Day of The Doug, which happens to be the title track of the previous tribute:

And though it's not from a tribute album, one of my favorite Sahm coverd through the years is this one by Alvin Youngblood Hart:

So happy Doug Sahm Month to all who celebrate. Keep groovin'!

Footnote: I was the reporter who broke the news that Sahm had died in Taos in 1999. As I was about to go home from a long day of work at the Santa Fe New Mexican, an editor got a tip that he'd died in a Taos hotel room. Sadly, it turned out to be true.

For my coverage of Sir Doug's death in 1999 -- the initial scoop, plus a second-day story, in which I interviewed a local woman who'd spent time with Doug in Santa Fe before he died -- check this old blog post: CLICK HERE

Yes, Sir Doug was there at that Son Volt show!

Thursday, October 26, 2023

THROWBACK THURSDAY: In Praise of Faux-Folk

Old Hickory leads The Wonderful 99 at the Battle of The Alamo

In the late 1950s and early '60s there was a fun little trend in country music. With songs like Johnny Horton's "The Battle of New Orleans," "El Paso" by Marty Robbins, and Jimmy Dean's "Big Bad John" suddenly there were all these story songs on country radio -- with many of them crossing over to Top 40 stations.

With many such hits concerning historical events and characters, this phenomenon sometimes is referred to as "faux folk." Some say faux folk was a response -- basically a chance to cash in -- on the rising popularity of actual "folk" music, such as the surprising success in 1958 of The Kingston Trio's "Tom Dooley."

Also, I suspect that at some of these were reactions to current events of the day. More on that later.

"The Battle of New Orleans" probably is the best known of the faux folk songs. But Johnny Horton sang others as well, including "Sink the Bismark," a historical song about more recent history, the 1941 sinking of a German battleship during WWII:

In addition to "El Paso," (Fun fact: El Paso is the only city in New Mexico that is not a city in New Mexico) Marty Robbins also sang of a bigger violent skirmish in the great state of Texas. Robbins' "The Ballad of The Alamo" was a tie-in with the 1960 John Wayne movie The Alamo. The melody, which can be heard in the movie, was composed by Ukrainian-born Hollywood soundtrack genius Dimitri Tiomkin (whose other "hits" include "Do Not Forsake Me" from the Gary Cooper classic High Noon). The lyrics were by Paul Francis Webster, who also wrote the words for "Black Coffee," The Twelfth of Never" and the Spiderman theme (!). 

There's no known recording of Marty Robbins singing "Spiderman."

Speaking of New Mexico, here's some faux folk from Johnny Cash:

Also from that era came "The Ballad of Davy Crocket," which tied in with the huge Disney-inspired Crocket craze of the mid '50s. (Here's a good recent podcast about that phenomenon.) This version below appeared on a Doug Sahm album, with some help from The Gourds:

I wrote about Claude King's "The Burning of Atlanta" in an old Tune-up column a few years ago. So being the pompous cheeseball that I am, allow me to quote myself:

This 1962 single was the follow-up to Claude King’s biggest hit, the country classic “Wolverton Mountain.” In many ways, the song — which concerns Gen. William Sherman’s torching of the Georgia city in Nov. 1864 — fits in the “faux folk song” phenomenon of that era ... But “Atlanta” has an edge to it, especially considering what was going on with the civil rights movement in the South in 1962. King singing, “We don’t care what the Yankees say, the South’s gonna rise again,” was more than a little charged in this context.

Like all trends in popular music, the faux-folk era ended quietly and faded into the mist of our memories. Many of the songs live on, "El Paso" being the best example. (The blast couple of times I've seen Marty Stuart, he's sung the song by that other Marty.)

But a few decades later, John Prine and Peter Case (who's appearing in Santa Fe on Nov. 12) co-wrote a little tune called "Wonderful 99," which satirized the faux-folk era. It appeared on Case's 1992 album Six-Pack of Love.

The first verse goes:

You've heard about the dirty dozen and the tales of the green beret

The men that sank the Bismarck and the fighting C.I. A. 

But if you're talkin' danger then one name comes to mind 

Make an unwise decision call the wonderful 99

I can see Johnny Horton smiling from beyond 

Thursday, September 28, 2023

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Fall Fashions, Zoot Suit Edition

A zoot suit with some Hi-De-Ho!

On this Throwback Thursday let's celebrate the zoot suit, a type of apparel that's inspired many musicians -- as well as sparking a bloody, racist 10-day riot in Los Angeles.

A 2016 article in Smithsonian Magazine described the suit and its significance,

With its super-sized shoulder pads, sprawling lapels and peg leg pants, the zoot suit grew out of the “drape” suits popular in Harlem dance halls in the mid-1930s. The flowing trousers were tapered at the ankles to prevent jitterbugging couples from getting tripped up while they twirled. By the ’40s, the suits were worn by minority men in working-class neighborhoods throughout the country. Though the zoot suit would be donned by the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong, it was “not a costume or uniform from the world of entertainment,” the Chicago big-band trumpeter and clothier Harold Fox once said. “It came right off the street and out of the ghetto.’’

Maybe the first song with "zoot suit" in the title was "A Zoot Suit (for my Sunday Girl)." It was recorded by all sorts of folks in the '40s including the Kay Kyser Orchestra (who did the original in early 1942), Benny Goodman, The Andrews Sisters and, later, even Dave Van Ronk. 

My favorite version is the one by Dorothy Danridge and Paul White:

Then there's these guys, whoever they are. (Seriously, does anyone know? Please tell me!)

WARNING: This video probably is illegal in Florida!

Skip ahead to the early 1960s and we'll find a little combo called The High Numbers. 

The who? 

That's right! It's the band later known as The Who. I don't think Pete and Roger and the boys actually ever wore an actual zoot suit though:

Known as the first Chicano play on Broadway, Luis Valdez's 1979 musical Zoot Suit (made into a movie starring Edward James Olmos in 1981) was based partly on the 1943 zoot suit "riots" in Los Angeles, in which U.S. Navy members stationed in southern California attacked zoot-attired Chicanos (and Filipinos. And Blacks) in East L.A., as the cops turned a blind eye. Because, you know, patriotism. (Just a few months ago, the Los Angeles City Council formally apologized for "effectively sanctioning the violence perpetuated eight decades ago.") 

The Cherry-Poppin' Daddies had a huge hit in 1997 with their own song about that ugly little stain on American history. 

Now those sailors know where their women went for love!

Thursday, September 21, 2023

THROWBACK THURSDAY: The History of "Happy Birthday to You"


Tomorrow, September 22, 2023, will mark the 8th anniversary of a federal judge's landmark decision that declared the song "Happy Birthday to You" to be in the public domain. That decision led to a subsequent settlement in which Warner/Chappell, the giant media corporation that claimed to have owned the copyright, agreed to repay, to the tune of $14 million, those who had licensed the song.

But, contrary to a rumor I just made up, Judge George H. King, did not admonish Warner/Chappell by declaring, "You look like a monkey and you smell like one too."

"Happy Birthday to You" undoubtedly is the most sung 10-second song in the USA. 

Yes, 10-seconds. Remember singing it -- twice -- while washing your hands every few minutes during the early months of the COVID pandemic? As a 2020 article in Billboard noted:

This has led to some strained attempts at humor, as people try to defuse the tension we’re all feeling. Mark Ronson tweeted: “Been washing my hands for 7 minutes singing ‘happy birthday’ by @StevieWonder x2. I didn’t know they meant the ‘other’ birthday song… smh.”

The melody that everyone loves while someone brings a flaming cake to the table was written by a couple of sisters, Patty and Mildred Hill in Kentucky back in 1893.

The first version was titled "Good Morning to All," and was meant to be sung in the classroom. (Patty was the principal of the Louisville Experimental Kindergarten School, while Mildred was a teacher there.) This early version of the song, which didn't mention any birthdays, was published in Song Stories for the Kindergarten and Primary Schools a book written by the sisters. But, according to The Farmer's Almanac:

Nearly ten years after their first song book was published, the Hill sisters were invited to a neighbor’s birthday party. It was then that Patty changed the words of “Good Morning to All” to “Happy Birthday to You,” in an effort to make the occasion more festive. The song was the highlight of the party, and obviously caught on.

Sounds like some party!

Oklahoma City's beloved Ho Ho the Clown, about to
sing "Happy Birthday" to my brother, back in the
days when we weren't all afraid of clowns.

Billboard, however, noted that "There are various accounts of how `Good Morning to All' morphed into `Happy Birthday to You'."

The Songwriters Hall of Fame website says:

The sisters copyrighted their original song in October 1893 but years later in March of 1924, it appeared without authorization in a songbook edited by a Robert H. Coleman. In the book, Coleman used the original title and first stanza lyrics but altered the second stanza’s opening line to read, “Happy Birthday To You.” Thus, through Coleman, the sisters’ line “Good Morning dear children,” became “Happy Birthday dear (name).”

During the next decade, the song was published several times, each time with minor alterations in the lyrics. By 1933, the widely accepted title was “Happy Birthday To You.” When the song was soon being belted nightly in the Broadway musical, As Thousands Cheer, a third Hill sister, Jessica, tired of the ongoing theft of the melody and total lack of royalty payments, took the case to court.

And apparently she won. The tune was dropped from As Thousands Cheer, and, as the Songwriters Hall of Fame notes, "...Western Union and Postal Telegraph both ceased using the song in singing telegrams. A Broadway hit play with Helen Hayes, `Happy Birthday,' arranged for the star to speak the lyrics so the producers might avoid paying royalties to the authors."

The copyright saga of "Happy Birthday to You" serves as a great example of corporate greed. The publisher of the Hill sisters' Song Stories for the Kindergarten and Primary Schools was the Clayton F. Summy Company, which became the Summy-Birchard Company in 1957, and became a division of the Birch Tree Group in 1970, only to be gobbled up by Warner/Chappell in 1988.

But that lawsuit against Warner/Chappell, originally filed in 2013 by documentary filmmaker Jennifer Nelson returned the song to the people two years later.

Just a week after Nelson filed her suit in New York, a singer named Rupa Marya, singer with a band called Rupa & The April Fishes, filed a similar suit in California, where the cases were combined.

Marya told The Hollywood Reporter that a San Francisco audience had sung the song to her on her birthday in 2013. But... "When the band tried to add that live rendition to an album, she was hit with a lawyers demand for payment to license the song."

Here is Rupa, in the center, with her lawyers and others at the law firm singing the song they fought for:

Here is what is song has to be the most famous performance of this song. Marilyn took more than the mandatory 10 seconds. Nobody complained:

Kermit Ruffins does a version of "Happy Birthday to You," that features lyrics I first heard in elementary school:

For more deep dives into songs, check out The Stephen W. Terrell Web Log Songbook

And, oh yeah, today is my birthday. I guess
I've been hearing this song for 70 years now.

Wednesday, September 06, 2023

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Happy Birthday, Jimmy Reed


Mathis James Reed, better known in this world as Jimmy Reed, would have been 98 years old today. However, he died at the age of 50 back in 1976 at the age of 50.

Happy birthday, Boss Man!

Reed, who like so many of his generation of blues singers migrated from Mississipoi to Chicago, left behind an amazing catalogue of songs, some of the most recognizable blues tunes this side of Muddy Waters.

He began recording on the Chicago-based label Vee Jay in 1953  (Hey, they had The Beatles for a short time!) Encyclopedia Brittanica --not usually my first go-to blues history source --described his tunes: 

"They almost invariably featured the same basic, unadorned rural boogie-shuffle rhythm accompanied by his thickly drawled "mush-mouth: vocals and high, simply phrased harmonica solos."

Mush-mouth? I dunno ...

Jackie Meyers of Mississippi Writers & Musicians wrote:

Much of his success can be credited to his friend Eddie Taylor, who played on most of his sessions, and his wife, Mama Reed, who wrote many of his songs and even sat behind him in the studio reciting his lyrics into his forgetful ear as he sang. His hits appealed  to blacks and  whites. Many of his blues songs were even adopted by white R&B groups during the early 60’s.  He was the first of the Chicago electric bluesmen to break through to the pop/rock market. Reed  had fourteen  hits for Vee Jay on the R&B charts between 1955 and 1966.

Among those who have covered Reed tunes are Elvis Presley, Count Basie, Willie Nelson, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Grateful Dead, Waylon Jennings Sonny James and scores of others.

But nobody sounded like mush-moth Jimmy!

Here are a few of my favorite Reed songs.

Honest, I do love this one:

And if you don't love Jimmy Reed I'm going to ask you to Hush:

I'm amazed no insurance company never tried to use this one in a comercial:

But my favorite has always been Big Boss Man. I always have imagined some bone-weary Egyptian slave defiantly shouting this into the air while working on some pyramid.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Happy Birthday, Wynonie Harris


On this day, August 24, in 1915 in Omaha, Nebraska, Wynonie Harris was born.

Happy Birthday, "Mr. Blues."

Harris isn't nearly as famous as he ought to be. But those familiar with his works know a special joy, a special dirty joy!

As Bill Dahl wrote in AllMusic:

No blues shouter embodied the rollicking good times that he sang of quite like raucous shouter Wynonie Harris. "Mr. Blues," as he was not-so-humbly known,  joyously related risque tales of sex, booze, and endless parties in his trademark raspy voice over some of the jumpingest horn-powered combos of the postwar era.

Harris started out his show biz career as a dancer, but, inspired by the like of Big Joe Turner and Jimmy Rushing, he soon became a professional singer. And he left Omaha for Los Angeles in 1940.

He made his recording debut in 1944 fronting Lucky Millinder's band on the song "Who Threw the Whiskey in the Well" -- though by the time it was released the next year, Harris had left the band. Here's that song:

By 1945, Harris had a solo career, signing first with Philo Records. Most of the tunes I know and love, however, came from Harris' time on King Records. 

Harris had many R&B hits in the late '40s and early '50s. But his career began to fade. Harris died at the age of 53 of esophageal cancer in 1969.

Here are some songs from Wynonie Harris' glory years. Let's start with "Good Morning, Judge":

Here's a sweet ode by Harris to his grandmother:

I don't know how much air play this song, "Kept on Sittin' on It" actually got back in 1947. But I'd like to think a lot.

And finally, here's one in which Harris expresses his fondness for sweet, gelatin-based desserts: 

Thursday, August 03, 2023

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Remembering Erik Darling


On this day in 2008, folksinger Erik Darling died at the age of 74 after suffering with lymphoma. Those who loved his music believe he just walked right in and sat right down in Heaven.

And though he died in North Carolina, he lived in Santa Fe during the 90s and early 2000s. Unfortunately, I only got to meet him once, when he came to my office to give me his latest -- and sadly his last -- album, Child Child.

It's likely that most people aware of Darling probably remember him for his role in a folk-pop group called The Rooftop Singers, who had a huge crossover hit called "Walk Right In," a cover of a 1929 song by Cannon's Jug Stompers.

Here's the original: 

And here's the hit version by The Rooftop Singers. According to The New York Times, this version was "rearranged by Mr. Darling with twin 12-string guitars, played in a pounding, percussive style. The song became a No. 1 hit and created a fad for 12-string guitars." (A "fad" I guess that Roger McGuinn picked up on):

But while technically Darling was a one-hit wonder, Darling had quite a history in the Great Folk Music Scare of the 1950s-early 60s. Before starting The Rooftop Singers, he was a member of two popular folk groups, The Tarriers and, for more than four years, The Weavers, where he took the place of Pete Seeger. 

Seeger told The Washington Post that Darling was "tremendously talented musician with a subtle sense of poetry and musicianship. . . . He wasn't loud, he wasn't flashy, but very sensitive."

Though not as well known as The Weavers or even The Rooftop Singers, The Tarriers was an influential little trio. For awhile the group included Alan Arkin -- another celebrity Santa Fe resident -- before his acting career took off.

They recorded a Jamaican folk tune called "The Banana Boat Song" in 1956, the same year that Harry Belafonte released what would become his signature song, "Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)." 

Darling and fellow Tarriers said they first heard it done in Washington Square by folk singer Bob Gibson, who had recently heard it during a visit to Jamaica. According to The New York Times, the Tarriers combined it with another Jamaican song called "Hill and Gully Rider" and retitled it "The Banana Boat Song." Darling and pals "watched in amazement as it climbed the pop charts and set off a craze for calypso music, fueled in part by Harry Belafonte's reworked version of their song, `Day-O.'"

Here's The Tarriers version:

And here's The Tarrier's take on "Tom Dooley." Hang down your head, Kingston Trio, The Tarriers did it first: 

Darling also recorded several solo records. Here's a salty little song from his 1958 self-titled album

After the Rooftop singers broke up in 1967, Darling drifted in and out of the music biz. 

I don't know the precise time Darling was in Santa Fe, but in 1994 he released an album called Border Town at Midnight at Stepbridge Studios (now Kitchen Sink) in Santa Fe with local musicians Sid Hausman and Lynn Lucas. Also playing on this album were bassist Laurianne Fiorentino, fiddler Gretchen Van Houten and drummer Jeff Sussmann.

 (Unfortunately I couldn't find any of this album's songs on Youtube or Spotify, so I'll just post the album cover.)

Below is a song Erik did with the Kossoy Sisters in 1997. It's called "The Wagoner's Lad" and contains some lyrics, ("My horses ain't hungry, they won't eat your hay ...") that later appeared in Peter, Paul & Mary's song, "Pretty Mary":

Finally, here's the title cut from the CD Erik Darling gave me 20 years ago. RIP Erik. I wish I'd gotten to know you better.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Everything's Coming Up Rosey

Last week, on July 14, 2023, Roosevelt "Rosey" Grier -- former NFL star, preacher, actor, author, RFK bodyguard and needlepoint master -- turned 91 years old.

Happy belated birthday Rosey!

And, oh yeah, this is a music blog, so I should also add "soul singer" to Rosey's resume. In fact, being far more into rock 'n' roll than sports, I first became aware of this giant of a man when I saw him on Shindig and other TV shows in the mid 60s.

Grier was born in Cuthbert, Georgia in 1932. Right after that fact, Wikipedia lists his height at 6'5" and his weight at 284. I assume that wasn't his height and weight at birth.

After playing track and football at Penn State University, Grier was drafted to play defensive tackle for the New York Giants. After eight seasons he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams. Grier and other members of the Rams' defensive line -- Lamar Lundy, Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones -- became known as "The Fearsome Foursome."

In fact, when I first saw Rosey on Shindig in January 1965 -- an episode that also included The Kinks, The Dave Clark 5, Glen Campbell and Petula Clark -- he was with The Fearsome Foursome. Here's a song from that appearance, with Rosey singing lead and the others just dancing around:

But this wasn't Grier's first splash in the world of music. In fact, he'd been recording singles since 1959 and cut his first album in 1964. This is his first single, a cover of a doo-wop classic made famous a few years earlier by The Moonglows:

I also remember seeing Rosey do this song, which is better known by its version by Johnny Cash

Finally, I'll leave you with this soul classic, originally recorded by Ben E. King (and written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, based on an Italian pop song, "Uno dei Tanti"). This also is from that famous Shindig episode. 

Thursday, June 29, 2023

THROWBACK THURSDAY: A Musical Salute to Slim Pickens


Today, Thursday June 29, is the birthday of Louis Burton Lindley, Jr., but most people who remember him know him by his stage name Slim Pickens.

Happy birthday, Slim!

Pickens, who died in 1983, was born in Kingsburg, Arizona in 1919. His dad was a dairy farm and young Louis took a quick interest in horses -- he allegedly got his first horse at the age of four -- and eventually was drawn to the rodeo.

According to his obituary in The New York Times, "Mr. Pickens came naturally by his ability to play saddle tramps and range bums, for before he got his first Hollywood role he had spent 20 years as a rodeo bronco buster, trick rider and clown."

According to that obit:

Mr. Pickens said that when he dropped out of school at the age of 16 to join a rodeo: ''My father was against rodeoing and told me he didn't want to see my name on the entry lists ever again. While I was fretting about what to call myself, some old boy sittin' on a wagon said, 'Why don't you call yourself Slim Pickens, 'cause that's shore what yore prize money'll be.''

Indeed, his pickins were slim in the rodeo biz for 20 years or so. But in 1950 he lucked out when film director William Keighley saw him perform at a rodeo and offered him a screen test. He was hired for Keighley's Rocky Mountain starring Errol Flynn. He played a character named "Plank."

No, Slim didn't get his name 
on the poster
He became the ultimate cowboy character actor, appearing in countless westerns, mostly as a comical sidekick. He also made a ton of t.v. appearances in shows from Annie Oakley to Circus Boy to McMillan and Wife to B.J. and The Bear.

But undoubtedly Pickens is best known for his role in Stanley Kubrick's 1964 dark political comedy Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. There, as  B-52 pilot Major T. J. "King" Kong, he made his greatest rodeo ride of his career as , riding a nuclear bomb like a bucking bronco into eternity.

But this is a music blog, and Slim Pickens also was a recording artist -- albeit a late-blooming one. And a friend of mine -- seriously -- had a lot to do with that. 

New Mexico singer/satirist and my longtime pal Jim Terr is responsible for nearly all of Slim Pickens' slim discography.

Terr says he first met the actor in the 1970s at the Burbank Airport ("I think," Terr adds). At the time, Terr says "I couldn't even think of his name. I said, `Aren't you  in the movies?' " To which Pickens responded And "Why, I haven't been in the movies since, oh, about 9 o'clock this morning over at Warner Brothers."

Terr continued: "I immediately had the idea of trying to get him to do a line as `the Sheriff' on The Last Mile Ramblers''s song, `The Hurrier I Go.' I talked to him on the plane (we were on the same flight), and he said heck yeah."

But Terr recalled, "I had a hard time catching up with him when  he was here, hunting with his buddy [then Governor] Bruce King," who Terr notes had a voice very similar to Pickens'. " I finally buttonholed him in the men's room of the Albuquerque airport when he was departing."

He not only "buttonholed" Pickens, he recorded the old cowpoke's line right there in the Sunport restroom!

After that the idea for a Pickens album was born, and in 1977 Slim Pickens was released on Terr's Blue Canyon label. As it turned out this would be Slim's only album ever to be released, though Terr said Pickens also recorded many unreleased tracks with Willie Nelson. Pickens also recorded a Christmas song, which you'll see below.

Terr recalled Pickens cutting a bunch of local radio station IDs to promote the album): "This is Slim Pickens and when I'm in  Salt Lake I listen to [whatever the station was]." Then he turned to Terr saying "God, I hope I'm never in Salt Lake."  

Here's Slim blowing harmonica with Festus in the Dodge City Jail -- perhaps awaiting extradition to Salt Lake City -- on the beloved TV western Gunsmoke:

Slim sings a Kinky Friedman song:

The writer of this song, Guy Clark, reportedly said Slim's take on his masterpiece his favorite version:

The only other record Pickens released after his Blue Canyon album was this maudlin Christmas song in 1980 -- which I'm surprised didn't become (an ironic) smash hit on Dr. Demento's show:

Here's The Last Mile Ramblers, the band that, as I've often said, provided much of the soundtrack for my drunken college years. Slim's restroom cameo is at the end of the song:

The only other record Pickens released after his Blue Canyon album was this maudlin Christmas song in 1980 -- which I'm surprised didn't become (an ironic) smash hit on Dr. Demento's show:

Though Slim didn't appear on this song (he'd been dead for nearly 30 years), The Offspring still paid tribute to the actor's greatest moment in Dr. Strangelove:

Finally, while looking last week for Slim Pickens songs for this post, I discovered that there was another Slim Pickens, a country bluesman whose real name was Eddie Burns. Here's a song from this Slim Pickens:

Ride 'em, Slim!


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