Friday 19 April 2024

In Praise of Older Women

Todd Andrews is one of my absolute favourite song-poem stylists: his thin, warbly voice is at odds with the country-western songs he regularly performed for Nashville outfit Nu-Sound Records and, as a bonus, his performances invariably include a spoken word section. For me, he is a purveyor of song-poem gold.


Although I have tried, I have really struggled to find out much about Todd Andrews. For a time I laboured under the misapprehension that he and writer-producer Alex Zanetis (of song-poem outfit Royal Master) were the same person, but that seems not to be the case. Zanetis had a deeper, more sonorous (and much more accomplished) voice than Andrews, and my assumption that the two men were one and the same was came from the fact that Andrews recorded for Royal Master under the name Allen Scott, and having heard Zanetis’s solo recording Are You Ready For the Lord, where he sounds similar to Andrews/Scott. However, I’m now convinced that Zanetis and Andrews/Scott are most certainly two different people.


A division of Nashville Music Productions, Nu-Sound was primarily a song-poem company, but like several others it occasionally dabbled in more mainstream releases. The company actually enjoyed a couple of US chart hits with Keith Bradford, another of Nu-Sound’s stable of singers (who scored a number 89 hit on the Billboard Country chart in 1978) and veteran country singer Rusty Draper, whose Harbor Lights was a minor hit (number 87, to be precise) on the same chart in 1980. 

Nashville Music Productions were operational from at least 1968 though to 1986, although associated labels seem to have been operating into the early 2000s. Their usual schtick was to charge people $45 for a lead sheet – a simple, handwritten piece of sheet music, one copy only – and follow that up with an offer to have the song professionally recorded for a further $110. Each letter would be accompanied by an official looking contract, and each contract would be accompanied by a further request for money: the $110 had brought the songwriter a cassette, but for a further $350 he/she/they could have 50 copies of the song on 7” single. The offers would continue, with extra fees for rhyming dictionaries, biographies, lists of companies to mail the record to and so on. Writer, DJ and singer Shad O’Shea writes about his own experiences with the company in his 1986 book, Just For the Record.

One of the nascent songwriters happy to pay a minimum of £495 to have their words etched into vinyl was J. Lambert, the author of the 1979 release My Baby’s in Texas and its wonderful flip side, Older Women. A J. Lambert wrote a better-known song, Lester’s Gone, in tribute to Lester Flatt the same year, but there’s little doubt in my mind that would have been Jake Lambert, who wrote for Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs in the 1960s: our ‘J. Lambert’ is/was nothing like as accomplished.


We may never know what became of our J. Lambert (nor of Todd Andrews/Allen Scott for that matter), but their words are still here for you all to enjoy.


Download Texas HERE


Download Women HERE

Friday 29 March 2024

The Now Sounds of the Rave-Ons

Full disclosure: I have written about some of the tracks on this album before, but that was back in 2010, and the links to the two tracks are long dead.


Over their many years in the song-poem field, Columbine Records issued dozens upon dozens of compilation albums under the title The Now Sounds of Today; if their catalogue is to be believed there could be as many as 300 or more. Each of them contained anything up to 20 different tracks, most from aspiring hit makers but occasionally featuring one or two covers of standards from the American songbook, included no doubt to add a patina of authenticity to the company’s nefarious money-making scheme.


Packaging these albums in dull, generic sleeves (often with different catalogue numbers printed on the sleeve and disc) saved both time and money, important when the overall budget for each project was close on non-existent. It seldom mattered if the details on the sleeve were wrong, as customers were unlikely to know any better: on this particular volume, track five, I’ll Never Say No To You is credited to Rave-Ons but actually performed by Bob Grummer; the following track has no artist credit at all on the sleeve but does feature the band elsewhere referred to as the Rave-Ons.


The musicians involved would not have seen cue sheets for the songs they were being asked to perform before entering the studio, yet even taking note of the ridiculous rate that Columbine churned this material out many of those musicians - consummate professionals and song-poem stalwarts like Kay Weaver, John Muir (aka Gene Marshall) and Ralph Lowe - managed to do a half-decent job.


Several of the song-poem companies had their own studio band: Cinema, for example, issued hundreds of records credited to the Real Pros, a shifting collection of studio musicians which at times was nothing more than a one-man band (a la Rodd Keith) and at others a full-blown band fronted by Dick Kent, and Columbine had the Rave-Ons.


I believe that there were at least two different incarnations of the Rave-Ons. The band of that name that appears on side one of this album, for example, is a laughably inadequate three-piece who can barely put a tune together, led by a vocalist who simply cannot sing. On side two, the Rave-Ons are fronted by superior song-poem session singer Ralph Lowe. That’s Ralph on vocals on the brilliant Journey’s End, the rather pedestrian Heavenly Baby, and A Friend, a boring lyric only lifted above the mediocre by the fact that Ralph is singing from a woman’s point of view about his/her ‘soul sister’.


To call the (side one) Rave-Ons inept is putting it mildly, but the act appearing on side two are perfectly serviceable, and make a decent fist of things. The band credited as Rave-Ons on side one of this collection (and who appear on several other Columbine albums in my collection) are nowhere near as capable as Ralph’s backing act: they simply have to be a different set of musicians.


It's beyond belief that anyone at Columbine could have sanctioned the release of this drivel; yet more proof if you needed it of the contempt that these outfits had for the people stupid enough to send them their hard-earned dollars. The (side one) Rave-Ons’ singer 'performs' in a garbled, high-pitched whine racing through the lyrics at speed, clearly wishing that he wasn't there while the rest of the band (keyboards, bass and drums) play the same basic tune on all of the cuts on the album, never managing to rise above the mediocre. All in all, they sound to me like the school band of my nightmares.


Anyway, make up your own mind, for here is the entire album. All 19 tracks, split into the original two sides for your listening pleasure. Apologies for the jump on Erica Campbell’s Heartaches (track eight, side two), but this appears to be a pressing fault. Stand-out tracks are Ralph and the Rave-Ons with Journey’s End (side two, track three) and pretty much all of side one, but especially the exceptional opener Curse of an Evil Woman, Happy Inside of Me (track three) and the insanely awful My Only You (track seven).

Download Side One HERE

Download Side Two HERE

Saturday 23 March 2024

Close the Hearse Curtains, Please!

A record that was recently brought to my attention by blog follower Melody Loves Books, here for your enjoyment is the utterly mad May 1968 single Requiem (For a Girl Born of the Wrong Times).


Requiem (For a Girl Born of the Wrong Times) was recorded by singer Betty Barnes, a white soul/pop singer who issued several 45s in the late 1960s, recording first for RCA and then Kapp. Barnes’s best-known single is the Northern Soul classic Walking Down Broadway, but I cannot imagine anyone dancing to Requiem (For a Girl Born of the Wrong Times) at a Wigan all-niter. 

A Betty Barnes (from Austin, Texas) recorded a couple of hillbilly singles in the mid-50s for TNT and had some success as a songwriter (penning the November 1957 single for Jimmy Dee, Don't Cry No More), and a second singer by the same name (from Pittsburgh, according to Billboard) issued a single in 1962 on Bodway: see the comment below from Bob at Dead Wax for more details on those.


Composed by songsmiths Lor Crane & Bernice Ross, the flip side was simply an instrumental version of the plug track, with our Betty’s voice wiped: the demo copy features the same song on both sides. Ms Ross, who scored top ten hits in 1964 with the Danny Williams single White on White, and in 1965 with Don’t Just Stand There for Patty Duke, also wrote a Spanish version of the lyrics, but I’ve yet to track down a recording of that version.


The lyrics that Ms Ross came up with for the English version are simply astounding: ‘Dig that crazy caddy! She never rode in one of them before, it’s even got curtains in the back door…’ The Cadillac with the curtains is, of course, a hearse, and the girl being transported by the same vehicle is on her way to her own funeral. This odd little disc doesn’t quite know what it wants to be: it begins from the point of view of someone watching the hearse drive past, but by the end of the song (if you can call this wretched piece of musical excrement a song) the girl narrating the story is clearly doing so from inside the box.


Kapp clearly realised fairly quickly that they’d picked a wrong ‘un: Betty’s follow-up, Destiny’s Child, was issued in July and plugged mercilessly as her debut for the label. The powers that be at the company obviously wanted to forget that this particular slice of bad taste existed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, in 2006 the track turned up on the Ace Records compilation Dead! The Grim Reaper's Greatest Hits.


Brilliantly creepy and completely mad, Requiem (For a Girl Born of the Wrong Times) was not a hit, and does not appear to have been issued outside of the USA and Canada. But here it is now, just for you.




Download Requiem HERE

Thursday 14 March 2024

My Yummy, Yummy Love Note Tree

A couple of tracks from a wonderful and rare song-poem album that I’ve owned for a number of years but have not blogged before, the wonderfully-titled Delick Records Invites You to Pick a Delick Record of “The 12 Most Unpopular Songs” in the Little Yellow House of Icka-Delick-Music. The 12 Most Unpopular Songs, to use the more popular short version of the rather unwieldy title, was produced for lyric writer Francis E Delaney by Lew Tobin’s Five Star Music productions company.


Most of the discs that emanated from Five Star – and its associated label, Sterling – feature full group performances: this album is different in that it features Five Star’s two best-known vocalists, Norm Burns and Shelly Stewart (Mrs Lew Tobin), accompanied by the solo piano of Mr Tobin himself. Tobin proves himself to be a more than capable pianist, and both Burns and Stewart are perfectly serviceable – if somewhat emotionless - vocalists.


The 12 Most Unpopular Songs was issued around 1968 on the tiny Delicks Records label from Icka-Delick-Music of Chicago Ridge, Illinois. The label also put out at least three 45s, Betty Bond’s wonderful Blinky, The Blue Nosed Snowdeer (1971), Shelly Stewart’s Gentle On My Body (backed with Yummy, Yummy, Dum-Dum, although I do not know whether that is the same version as appears on the album), and the 1969 single The Quiet Americans by the Chain Reaction. Three of the four tracks on the two singles were also written by Francis E Delaney, known to his friends as Frank, but whereas Blinky, The Blue Nosed Snowdeer is very much the kind of thing you would expect from our Francis after listing to this album, the Chain Reaction single is a slice of garage rock, with fuzz lead breaks, out-of-tune rhythm guitar and a plaintive vocal from a teenage male singer. The B-side, the rocking Only the Bleeding (Hey, Boy!) was penned by Raymond L. Lovato, presumably a member of the band.


A Raymond Louis Lovato worked in advertising, ran a tourist resort in Palm Springs and now writes fiction with lifelong friend Michael Black. I’ve no idea if that’s the same man, but as this one wrote and published poetry in high school and college I reckon it’s a fairly safe bet. Like Raymond, Frank – who was born in 1936 - also saw himself as a bit of a writer, self-publishing the 1978 book When Elvis Played His Music: (the World Began to Sing) and the 2006 collection Memories Minutes in Time: Poetry, Words and Music and Love.


Frank was born in 1936, to Martin and Mary Delaney. As he wrote, ‘My father met my mother at Marshal Fields during the depression. They got married and in three short years, she was the mother of five step-sons and two sons of her own… My six brothers were in the U.S. Army, Marines and the Canadian Air Force. I watched all my brothers go to war and watched them all come back alive. I was the lucky one I didn't have to go.’ Frank recalled that he ‘Graduated from Mount Carmel High School class of 54. I played cornet and piano. I started writing poetry and wrote my first song at age 21. From 1969-1971, I took a correspondence course with the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Didn't finish it, did 17 of 20 lessons. Wish I did finish it…’ He died in January 2023, at the grand age of 86.


As well as the album and singles, Frank wrote or co-wrote many other songs, some of which he seems to have sent Mr Tobin’s way, including 1977’s MOE (More of Everything), but for others - including Dance Your Cares Away, I’m Returning to Georgia, The Way you Wear Your Hair (all 1977), Love is Wanting, too! (1978), Real Live Toy (1979), and Tantalising Music Magic (1980) – he worked with other musicians able to translate his ideas. His songs appeared on at least one more album: Boots on the Floor, The Man in Me, and The Way You Look at Me all turned up on a 2000 CD from Nashville Records. His last known song was Ribbon on a Tree, a tribute to the victims of 9/11.


Anyway, here are a handful of tracks from The 12 Most Unpopular Songs, Norm Burns and Lew Tobin with My Love Note Tree, and The Hickory Kick, and Shelly Stewart and Lew Tobin with Stop It, Stupid and the ridiculous and misogynistic Yummy, Yummy, Dum-Dum.




Download Tree HERE 

Download Yummy HERE

Download Kick HERE

Download Stupid HERE

Friday 9 February 2024

I Like My Stew

A little oddity for you today from 1968, and Radio One DJ Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart, accompanied by a 40-strong choir of pre-pubescent boys and girls.


Edward Stewart Mainwaring (23 April 1941 – 9 January 2016) was a British radio broadcaster and TV presenter, principally known for his work as a DJ, initially (in the UK at least) at Radio London before joining BBC Radio 1 as one of their first ‘name’ presenters when the station launched in 1967. He hosted the Saturday morning show Junior Choice from 1968 until 1979, and he became a well-known face on television, as a presenter of both Top of the Pops and Crackerjack.


Credited to Stewpot and the Save The Children Fund Choir, the A-side is a cover version of the Jeff ‘Please Let Me Be a Beatle’ Lynne song I Like My Toys, originally recorded by Lynn’s band The Idle Race. The flipside, co-written by Stewart, is a song-cum-comedy sketch entitled Myrtles Birthday (sic): Myrtle was a character Stewart had first voiced on his Radio London show. The disc was issued to raise money for the Save the Children Fund, and all profits ‘including half Ed’s own royalties’, according to a contemporary newspaper report in the Liverpool Echo, would go to the charity, which apparently cost £5,000 a day to run. The Echo reviewer called it ‘Cute, catchy, slightly tongue-in-cheek and engagingly youthful’. I somehow doubt this effort made much of a dent in the charity’s finances, but you can’t begrudge the effort put in by those involved.


Recorded at the legendary IBC studios, the disc was issued by MGM in October 1968, a few months after fellow DJ Kenny Everett issued his sole single on the label, covers of the Nilsson songs It’s Been So Long and  Without Her. Apparently, Everett used the backing track to I Like My Toys to make jingles for his Capital Radio show. It was produced by Bill Landis, best known for his work with Paul and Barry Ryan, and Dusty Springfield, but who also produced Tony Blackburn’s MGM single It’s Only Love. Whoever it was at MGM that thought a Radio One DJ was capable of having a hit single was wrong, as none of these baleful recordings made the charts. To Landis’s credit, he also produced the Settlers’ magnificent Lightning Tree, which most of you will remember as the theme to the 70s kid’s drama Follyfoot, and worked with Marianne Faithful.


Anyway, here are both sides of the engaging, slightly deranged I Like My Toys.




Download Toys HERE 

Download Myrtle HERE 

Saturday 13 January 2024

Ode to Billie Joe

A recent discovery, one I was completely unaware of until I started looking around for a few new tracks to include in what turned out to be the last episode of the World’s Worst Records Radio Show, is this little nugget from Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, Look For Love, issued in May 1977.


Issued on Fiat Records (named after its founders, James J. Fiatarone Sr, and his wife, Marie-Louise Fiatarone), Armstrong’s debut disc came in a plain paper sleeve accompanied by a flyer featuring a photograph of the precious toddler resplendent in a ‘look for love’ t-shirt. The flip side - and I love this conceit – featured an interview with the youngster, titled “Meet” Billie Joe, that was taped in a San Francisco recording studio immediately after the Fiatarones and Armstrong put down the A-side. Claims have been made that the tracks were recorded at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, California, the same studio where Green Day would later record Dookie in 1993, but the label on the 7” clearly stated that it was recorded in Frisco, on the other side of the Bay.


The Fiatarones had written Look For Love three years earlier and had already published the sheet music for the song, but it was not until they met little BJ that they knew they had found the right singer for their magnum opus. To promote the record the precocious nipper appeared on the nationally-syndicated TV show San Francisco Live. It's a shame that the couple had nothing up their sleeves for the flipside, but in “Meet” Billie Joe, we get to learn a little about what is important to the fledgling musician. Armstrong reveals that he can play piano and that he likes school, where his favourite thing is to hear stories from the bible.


Billie Joe Armstrong was just five years old when Look For Love was recorded. He had been taking music lessons from Jim Fiatarone, who ran the Fiat Music Company in a shopping mall in Armstrong's hometown of Pinole. Fiatarone convinced Armstrong’s mother to let her boy record Look For Love. It appears that very few copies of the one-off pressing were issued - estimates vary at anything between 50 and 800 - and it is now a super-rare collector’s item, with a copy currently on offer on Discogs for $5,000. Mentioned briefly in Billboard in November 1977, it would be Armstrong’s last solo recording until 2020. At elementary school he met Mike Dirn; the two bonded over a mutual love of music and formed the band Sweet Children at the age of 14, later changing their name to Green Day.


Look For Love appears to be the only disc associated with the Fiatarones, although they founded (and still run) the Academy of Language and Music Arts in Orinda, California. The child who would grow up to lead the multi-million-selling band was clearly not embarrassed by his earliest outing, as a short clip from “Meet” Billie Joe turned up on the Green Day album International Superhits!, the band's first greatest hits collection, introducing the song Maria


Armstrong clearly saw something in the Fiatarones schtick, as in 2011 he did something similar with his own 13-year-old son Jakob (aka The Boo) issuing a four-track EP featuring the teenager backed by a band that comprised of his other son, his wife, and himself (as Daddyo) on bass.


Anyway, here are both sides of this wonderful little disc. Enjoy!

Download Look HERE

Download Meet HERE

Sunday 24 December 2023

Christmas cavalcade 2023 - Part Three

Well, with just a day to go before we all get to fill our faces with turkey (or whatever your chosen alternative might be), there’s just enough time for one last installment in this year’s Christmas cavalcade.


If you were listening to the festive edition of the World’s Worst Records Radio Show earlier this week, you would have heard me playing snippets from a cute 1960s kid’s Christmas tale, Shirley Higginson’s The Lisping Elf. Well, here’s the whole thing for you to do with as you will. 

The Lisping Elf was issued at least twice -once in the early 1960s on Corpat Records (my copy, picked up in an antiques centre in Exeter, comes from this original pressing) and again, during the second half of the 1970s, by LEI records. The charming music (which always reminds me of the kind of thing you would hear during BBC schools’ broadcasts during the 1970s) was composed by Tommy Banks (a.k.a. the Reverend Thomas Banks) one half of the Canadian folk duo Tom and Judy. Ms. Higginson was an author – based in Edmonton I believe - who specialised in fables for children: her other works include Ralph the Flying Dog and Ice Cream Sneakers.


Next is a recent (like, this morning) YouTube find courtesy of the always excellent Thrift Store Vinyl channel. Issued in 1974, here from Austin, Texas are the Wilson family (well, the Wilson kids at least) ‘singing’ Santa’s Surprise

Composed by Dick Culp and Billy E. Nix (guitar player, songwriter and owner of Ben Records), the Wilson family would issue at least one further record on Darva, the 1976 single Candy Cane Castle, backed with Running Through The Sunshine.


And finally, for this year anyway, here’s a song-poem oddity from Gene Merlino. Professional vocalist Merlino did most of his song poem work for two labels, Preview (as Gene Marshall) and Columbine (as John Muir), but also recorded for a number of other companies under a variety of different names. 

Some time back, obscure music collector Sammy Reed unearthed a 45 on the George Liberace Songsmiths label (Lee’s violin-scratching brother had his own publishing company, which also dabbled in the song-poem world), the rather fun and jaunty Santa’s Mommy Must Have Had Quintuplets, and although the vocalist is not credited on the disc itself (the only credit is for the lyric’s author, Clate Hazelwood), the singer is unquestionably Merlino.


Well, there you go. Enjoy these tracks, and I shall be back soon with some decidedly un-festive fare for you all.


Happy Christmas!


Download Lisping HERE


Download Surprise HERE


Download Mommy HERE

WWR Most Popular Posts