Soul Station Feature: Balanza y Su Ritmo

Con Carbon No Se Juega

It is not always easy to discover information about latin music from the 1940s and earlier. This is a good example. I have not been able to discover much about Balanza y Su Ritmo. This group had releases for the Ideal (based in California) label in the late 1940s. There may have been as many as seven 78s. There were also two releases on Ansonia; they may date from the same time. It is a jaunty big band and the pianist is quite good. There is a brief solo at the beginning of the record and more at the end. While this isn't quite mambo, it is a spirited guaracha and it is as good as that of the leading bands of the time in Cuba.

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Soul Station Feature: Wynonie Harris

Oh Babe!

Wynonie Harris was a great and important singer for jazz, jump blues, r&b, and rock'n'roll. He had many huge hits from the mid 1940s into the early 1950s. Oh Babe! was one of his last, from 1950. It also reunited him with the Lucky Millinder Orchestra, the band that had backed him on his first successful releases. Oh Babe! did not come to him from blues or r&b writers and artists, as it was written by Louis Prima, a jazzy trumpeter and band leader from New Orleans. Prima had been performing since the late 1920s and began recording in 1934. During the mid 1940s his big band records had the energy and verve of nascent r&b and he made many fine records in this vein. Oh Babe! was released on his own Robin Hood label, and cut with Keely Smith, whom he would marry in 1953. Prima's record was popular but not as much as the Harris disc. But it is just as good, featuring tart, flag waving trumpet (and two trumpets toward the rousing end) a very solid beat and fine vocals from Prima and Smith. This is the original 78 version; there are several others out there, some shorter and all slightly different. I do not know what their sources are. But please, enjoy this great original!

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Soul Station Feature: The Answer

I'll Be In

The early success by The Turtles might have prompted their label to do more in the folk rock vein. This is perhaps the most interesting and hard rocking 45 that emerged from that label, White Whale. The Answer were apparently from Berkeley, and within a year they split up and two members became The Drongos; they also had a 45 on the same label, White Whale. This side rocks harder than most Bay Area folk rock, though the vocals are distinctive of that sound and done very, very well. From November of 1965. A great and not well known 45!

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Soul Station Feature: Smokestack Lightin'

Look What You've Done

For a time, the band Smokestack Lightnin' was popular at the Whiskey A Go Go in L.A. Taking the group name from a Howlin' Wolf song, they did feature blues, blues rock and some gnarly psyche. Their earlierst 45s were done in 1967 before they got signed to Bell. From the end of 1968 to the start of 1970 the band cut four 45s and an album. Much of their material is very good, in part because of producer Bones Howe and also because singer Ronnie Darling's raspy voice handles the material very well. This track is from their second 45 and once the organ enters, it gives off an early scent of The Doors. The guitar solo is also quite sharp and edgy. Perhaps their most commercial release was their last, a version of the Delaney Bramlett gem, Hello, L.A., Bye-Bye Birmingham, but it came out at the same time as the one by Blue Cheer.

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Soun Station Feature: Frank Culley

Ready For Action

Frank Culley, who became known as Floorshow, was a hard blowing sax player who was at one time the leader of a house band used by Atlantic Records. He had two hits for the label, Cole Slaw and After Hours Session, both in 1949. He also added his sax to many Atlantic r&b records. Prior to blowing for Atlantic, he cut two discs for the Lenox label. I've only heard the first of the two, which is probably from the end of 1947 or the start of 1948. One side, The Pig Is Diggin', is quite interesting because it has many boppish aspects, as well as some wild honking. But it is nowhere to be found. So I offer up the B-side of Lenox 513, which pretty much limits its bop moments to the very end, but which has some wild, trick-bag playing and whistles from Culley. In a few years this kind of jazzy r&b would be called rock'n'roll.

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Soul Station Feature: Don Sleet

The Hearing

Maybe trumpeter Don Sleet is better known than I think, but I tend to doubt that. While Sleet was fairly active in the late 1950s and into the time he recorded his only album (1961), after it was released, his drug problems increased and they plagued him for many years. He died at age 48. Sleet is on records by Lenny McBrowne, singer Gloria Smyth (who may be less known than Sleet!) and he also apparently recorded with Howard Rumsey and is on a Shelley Manne big band record. His lone album, which was on Riverside, features Jimmy Heath and Wynton Kelly. It is a great record, and here is one of its several great tracks. Thanks to Louis Ludwig for hipping me to this fairly overlooked player and recording!

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Soul Station Feature: Space Opera

Country Max

During one of my visits in 1972 to the CBS office in St. Louis county, I received a promo of an album by Space Opera. Parts of this record clicked with me right off. Very few people I played it for liked it. I could not find anything about the group or the album. Somewhat recently I discovered that two members of the group had been involved with a project that Uni Records released in 1968 as by Whistler, Chaucer, Detroit and Greenhill, that all of Space Opera were from Texas and had known T-Bone Burnett. Unable to gain traction at home, by the beginning of the 1970s, Space Opera was in Canada, and that is where they recorded the self titled album which was initially released there on Columbia. The U.S. release was on Epic. The album contains great country rock, jazzy folk and stupendous prog psyche (listen to Over And Over). The 45 release is as good as 70s country rock ever got and to me, it beats the hell out of The Eagles and many other similar bands!

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Soul Station Feature: Dwight Twilley

I'm On Fire

Phil Seymour and Dwight Twilley knew each other in Tulsa, but decided they wanted to make music and be discovered in Memphis. They eventually contacted Ray Harris, a former Sun artist, and Harris introduced the them to rockabilly. Back in Tulsa they met and recorded with U.K. producer Denny Cordell; he had started Shelter Records with Leon Russell. Their initial 45 was recorded in 1974 and released in 1975. Hitting #16, it would prove to be the biggest hit for the Dwight Twilley Band. A second 45 and an album followed in 1976 and still with Shetler, they also had an album through Arista in 1977. Seymour would depart in 1978, and quite sadly, pass away in 1993. The Twilley Band made great rockabilly (in part because of guitarist Bill Pitcock IV) and fantastic pop. Their vocals might suggest the Everlys and Lou Christie, but their arrangements and delivery is indeed unique and special. I was lucky to have seen this band three times and they were killer!

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Soul Station π: L.A. Rock 65-66

Check out my new show tonight for a snapshot of mid 1960s L.A. I feature one great, great band you may not have heard of, The Preachers. Wow are their records a revelation! Other bands included are The Arrows featuring Davie Allan/Davie Allan and the Arrows, Love and the Chocolate Watch Band. Did you know that as the Hogs, an early version of the Watch Band covered Allan's Blues Theme? Well, you can hear them both tonight. It's a rad show!

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Should Station Feature: The Bad Plus

Everybody Wants To Rule The World

Jazz musicians have been attracted to pop tunes since there has been jazz. I would like to think that it is partly because the musicians have big ears and open minds, though the overwhelming number of jazz versions of Beatles songs in the 1960s probably had more to do with dreams of $$$$ than anything else. Still, when the piano trio The Bad Plus made their debut, tongues and fingers wagged at the band playing music by ABBA and Nirvana. The trio has clearly gotten past that, and the pianist, Ethan Iverson has become a star. He left and was replaced by Orris Evans last year. I think the most engaging of their pop and rock covers is the Tears For Fears cover. The arrangement and approach reminds me of how Hampton Hawes deconstructed Bacharach with perhaps his most adventurous trio, consisting of Henry Franklin and Michael Carvin. Iverson isn't as amazing as Hawes, but still, this is damned fine. From Prog, the trio's fifth album (2007).

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Soul Station Feature: Cannibal & The Headhunters

Get It On Up (Get Up The Courage)

East L.A. was a hot bed of hybrid rock, soul and boogaloo in the 1960s. Mexican American bands like Sunny and the Sunliners and Thee Midnighters were wildly popular and had hits, too. Thee Midniters caught on with a cover of Chris Kenner's Land of 1000 Dances at the end of 1964 and Cannibal and the Headhunters followed in a month. The Frankie Garcia (he was Cannibal) version did a little better and has certainly been remembered much more so than the one by Thee Midniters. Kind of a shame as Thee Midniters were an incredible band and they outlasted Cannibal and his group, too. Garcia and company were done by the beginning of 1969 when they had their farewell, a hot dance number that owes a lot to older dance grooves by the Isley Brothers and the Righteous Brothers.

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Soul Station Feature: The Village Callers

Evil Ways

Because of Santana, the Willie Bobo tune, Evil Ways, has become well known. It was written by Bobo's guitarist, Clarence Henry and appeared on album in 1967. A rock group from East L.A., The Village Callers, recorded their version in the late spring of 1969 for the L.A. label Rampart, and it did well enough in California markets that it was picked up by the Bell label in September. It's popularity was noticed by employees of CBS in San Francisco, and they started a campaign to have it released as a 45, since Santana's Jingo had died. They were successful and at the very end of December, Evil Ways became the second Santana 45, and hence a big hit. It isn't just that the Village Callers deserve some note; their record is also really great and deserves to be heard. If it is really true that the accomplished pianist Hector Rivera had something to do with their management, that would also give the Callers a direct tie to the N.Y.C. latin soul and boogaloo scene. But I have no idea if that is actually true.

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Soul Station Feature: Little Esther Phillips

Better Beware

I just love the music Esther Phillips made. Though she had a tumultuous life and battled drug use, she made her singing mark on blues, r&b, jazz and soul, just to cite the most obvious. She was an accomplished singer at age 15, and had big hits on her own or with Mel Walker. Most of her early records were overseen by the great Johnny Otis, and she benefited from his big band. Better Beware opens with staccato lead guitar from Pete Lewis leading to and a stirring arrangement. After Phillips has her pointed say, Ben Webster enters on sax, relaxed at first and then he gets going. Lewis follows him. It is truly amazing how much music and emotion fit into less that two minutes and forty seconds!

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Soul Station Feature: Harmonica Slim

Going Back Home

Harmonica Slim (Travis Blaylock) has spent most of his musical life as a sideman, playing on records that are not by him. He has made one well respected album and at least four 45s. This is on the earliest, and it is a beautiful example of harmonica blues. He has the right, almost natural tone and though it was most likely recorded in Los Angeles, it could pass for something done in Chicago during the mid 1950s, which is when it was recorded. Once upon a time, blues records like this were not uncommon. That is not at all the case now.

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Soul Station Feature: Chuck Jackson

Are You Lonely For Me Baby?

Chuck Jackson has one great voice. It has been many years since I last saw him, but in the late 1990s he STILL had that marvelous baritone voice. His career began in the 1950s as a member of the Del Vikings. His own records began to chart by 1960 and he was consistently there for the decade. He is perhaps best known for I Don't Want To Cry and Any Day Now. My early favorite is I Wake Up Crying. As the decade passed, some of his releases became harder soul and less pop, including his final Wand 45 done with Papa John Schroeder, before he signed with Motown. His strongest hit there was a cover of the 1966 Freddie Scott smash, Are You Lonely For Me Baby; produced by Clay McMurray before his greater success with Gladys Knight, it id dynamite. I do truly dig the Scott record, but this is very great as well, and hit #27 on the national r&b chart in 1969.

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Soul Station Feature: Tammy Montgomery (Tammi Terrell)

This Time Tomorrow

Before Motown and success on her own and with Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell had recorded as Tammy Montgomery, which was her born last name. Her final 45 as Montgomery was done with Bert Berns and leased to Checker. While I like the A-side, I find the B-side more interesting, with its sly fuzz guitar and the twang break in the middle! It might not be her very best solo outing (that is quite possibly her hit remake of This Old Heart Of Mine) but this is a very solid effort from her and producer Berns.

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Soul Station Feature: Royal Guardsmen

Leaving Me

I am not sure why I started to collect the records of the Royal Guardsmen since I don't really like their Snoopy hits. But it did allow me to discover that they were a pretty talented band. They could rock AND sing, as a few of their sides are almost as well sung as records by the Association. Their first 45, before any of the Snoopy records, was a version of Baby Let's Wait, which had already been out on the debut Young Rascals album. It was mildly popular in Florida, which is where the band was from. But the B-side is a solid rocker, with a rousing fuzz guitar line. It is NOT a Snoopy recording, that is for sure!

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Soul Station Feature: Joe L. Carter

Please Mr. Foreman

"I don't mind working, but I do mind dying!" In the late 1960s that became a slogan and a line of protest in Detroit, and in many ways it was adopted from a great blues by Joe L. Carter. Carter recorded as Joe-L (or Joe L.) and he had several 45s on small Detroit labels in the late 1960s. Please Mr. Foreman (on the Classic label run by Rudy Robinson) was one of them and if not the best, certainly the one which attracted the most local attention. In 1971 he worked with Willie Mitchell and had two more releases; one of those four sides was even a re-recording of Please Mr Foreman.

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Soul Station Feature: Billy Jack Wills

Teardrops From My Eyes

Billy Jack Wills was the youngest brother of the famous fiddler and western swing band leader Bob Wills. He did not get a chance to lead his own band until brother Bob left California for a residence on Oklahoma. The much younger (20 years) Wills was quite current in his musical interests, which included jump blues, r&b and even bebop. He was able to to center his own band around two great and unique musicians: Tiny Moore on electric mandolin and Vance Terry on pedal steel guitar. While Billy Jack made a few fine records for MGM from 1954 to 1957, perhaps his best recordings were done for radio transcription services, like this killer version of Teardrops From My Eyes.

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Soul Station Feature: Washboard Sam

Gamblin’ Man

Washboard Sam (Robert Clifford Brown) went from being one of the most popular blues artists in Chicago during the 1930s to a police officer who, when he passed in 1966, ended up in an unmarked grave. He came to Chicago in the early 1930s from Memphis and shortly there after began recording for the famous/infamous Lester Melrose. While I like some of his 30s sides, the records he made that I like the most all were done after WWII and they have a slight jazz tinge to them. This one in particular has a nice sax solo, followed by pianist Bob Call, someone who has been largely overlooked. But after that, there is a profoundly great electric guitar solo by Willie Lacey. Lacey had become known for playing with John Lee Williamson (THE Sonny Boy Williamson) before his tragic death. His fluid lines and dazzling technique are unlike any other guitarist I can think of in Chicago during the late 1940s, and his work on this record is quite great!

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