Friday, 7 December 2018

Christmas Cavalcade 2018 - Part One

Welcome, my friends, to our annual look at the world of bad Christmas records.

I’m kicking off this year’s Cavalcade of tinselly terror with a suggestion from an old friend. For many years, until its untimely demise a while back, Lord Of the Boot Sale was one of my ‘go to’ blogs for odd and obscure music, so I was incredibly happy to hear from its creator (and curator) recently. He kindly sent me a couple of tunes to share with you, and I’m honoured to do so.

Here’s little Johnny Alvin with both sides of his single, Santa Claus Wrecked My 'Lectric Train (Thanta Cwaus Wecked My Wectwick Twain) and Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Released by Warner Bros. in November 1958, Johnny (on some copies he’s credited as Johnnie) was just nine years old when the single hit the shops, and he has the distinction of having issued Warner’s first ever Christmas-themed 45. He is not, despite what Discogs may have you believe, the same Johnnie Alvin who was an American Doo Wop singer, active in the 1950s and 60s, who was a member of groups including the Fabulous Playboys and The Falcons. By some bizarre twist of fate, Johnny’s cover of Rudolph was the best-selling version of the song in the U.S. in 1960, despite competition from Paul Anka, Gene Autrey, Spike Jones, Guy Lombardo, David Seville and the Chipmunks and many others.

As an extra, he’s another suggestion form The Lord, Little Susie and Who Put The Gum in Santa’s Whiskers… a little further down the ‘novelty’ route than we usually go here, but we’ll make an exception for this Dr. Demento favourite.  

Released in 1956 by MGM in the States (backed by Christmas Season) there was a second Little Susie single issued six years later, this time on Roulette, (Why Does Everybody Imitate) My Daddy on which Susie (I don’t know for sure if it’s the same Little Susie, sadly, but let’s assume that it is), playing the role of Caroline Kennedy, complains about people impersonating JFK. It’s silly, but nowhere near as brutally bad as her debut.


Enjoy!

Download Wrecked HERE


Download Rudolph HERE



Download Whiskers HERE

Friday, 30 November 2018

Susan Zagon... and on, and on

Whistling is, pretty much, a lost art form. In the 50s and 60s we were used to seeing (and hearing) whistlers pop up on TV and on records (Mrs. Miller, Roger Whittaker…) and in my own collection I have whistling 78s from the 30s and 40s, but very few of the whistling stars of the cabaret stage went as far as to make an entire album dedicated to whistling.

One of the few who did was Chicago’s Susan Zagon.

There were a number of professional whistlers plying their trade, of whom the best known was probably Fred Lowery in the States and Jan Lindblad from Sweden, but I doubt either of those stars of the whistling scene sold their albums from a box on the counter of their family’s rattan furniture store.

Susan issued her sole album, Whistler, on her own Zagon Records sometime in the late 1960s. On the twelve tracks, noted as “songs, variety and classic, also Bird Imitations” according to the rear of the sleeve, Susan is accompanied by pianist Marian Johnson.

The album must have sold well enough to have gone through at least two impressions, as there are copies with two distinctly different sleeves out there. The whole thing reminds me of Florence Foster Jenkins, with the earnest Susan warbling away while her own Cosme McMoon (in the shape of Ms. Johnson) fills in the gaps and tries valiantly to keep up. The comparison seems apt, as both Florence and Susan recorded versions of Liadoff’s Musical Snuff Box.

Susan first became interested in whistling as a child, telling a newspaper that “I loved listening to opera records, but I couldn’t sing along because I had no voice. I can’t even talk loud or yell. But I could whistle, so I followed the recordings by whistling along. My mother was very enthusiastic. I think she loved the whistling more than I did.” Mom wanted Susan to find a teacher and, at 19 years-old Miss Zagon began to train as a professional whistler, spending some $10,000 over twelve years to hone her craft.  

“This was easier said than done,” she revealed. “There is no glut of whistling teachers after all.”

Anyway, here are a couple of tracks from Susan Zagon: Whistler for you to marvel over. See you next week for the start of this year’s Christmas Cavalcade.

Enjoy!

Download Birdling HERE


Download Snuff HERE

Friday, 23 November 2018

Pray for Joanne

A shortish post today, primarily because I am still having problems with Facebook: the social media behemoth refuses to engage with me and I cannot find out why they have decided to ban any and all links from the World's Worst Records.

I only became aware of the Joanne Duo catalogue a short time ago, when Ronnie Carrott (great name), who was listening in to the debut World's Worst Records Radio Show, pointed me towards their miserable rerecording of My Prayer, the 1939 song with music by violinist Georges Boulanger and lyrics by Carlos Gomez Barrera and Jimmy Kennedy. It's shocking, with distinct overtones of the great Grace Pauline Chew, and - naturally - I went off in search of more. 

Discogs only carries a listing for one EP, a copy of which I immediately bought (autographed, for just £1!), but the Joanne Duo apparently also issued a full-length album and a cassette-only collection too.

Tom and Joanne Clarkson were regulars on the South Coast cabaret scene, and frequently found in the lounge of Mediterranean cruise ships, entertaining the passengers. Originally from Leeds, the multi-instrumentalists (Tom appears to have played keyboards, guitar, bass and xylophone, his wife all manner of percussion) settled in the tiny fishing village of Kingsdown, a few miles along the coast from Dover sometime in the late 70s, and were active from 1978 (or earlier: that's the first mention of them I can find in The Stage) until at least 1989. Appearing with light entertainment heavyweights including Freddie "Parrotface" Davies and Roy Hudd, it seems the Duo made a decent living. One can only assume that their magic was impossible to capture on disc.

Here's The Joanne Duo with My Prayer and their disco stomper Those Fascinating Eyes, which was composed for Joanne by Dover restaurant owner Julian Laffranchi. 

Enjoy!

Download Prayer HERE



Download Eyes HERE

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Episode Two

If you missed the second episode of the World's Worst Records Radio Show fret not, for you can stream the programme any time you want from the pop-up player HERE

Some of you will no doubt be aware that we're having a few problems with Facebook - the network has suddenly decided, with no warning and no reason - to block any and all links to this blog. If you rely on Facebook to alert you when a new post goes live, until I manage to get this fixed (and find out what heinous crime I've committed) there's a good chance you'll miss something. My suggestion is that you either follow me (@dwbullock) on Twitter or that you simply check in here every Friday after 10am (UK time) or so. I'll still post updates on Facebook, but for now, they will not link directly to the blog.

There will be a new post tomorrow, so stay tuned... and thank you all for the support.

Friday, 16 November 2018

The Fable of Faye Bull

Faye Bull, what a name! It has to be a pseudonym, surely? No one can be called Fable! A quick search has found me a Brenda Faye Bull, an Alison Faye Bull, a Ginger Faye Bull. A Donna Faye Bull and a Shirley Faye Bull all living in and around the Carrollton area at some point, so maybe it’s not a pseudonym at all.

Still, here’s an oddity from 1971 penned (and, on the flip Don't Blame The Children, sung/spoken) by Miss or Mrs. Faye Bull of Carrollton Alabama. What makes this doubly interesting is that the a-side, The Legend of Henry Wells is sung by Halmark song-poem regular Jack Kim (a.k.a. Kimmel). Although it does not feature one of the usual Halmark backing tracks and the name of label supremo Ted Rosen does not appear anywhere on the disc, I’ll bet my bottom dollar that our Ted was involved somewhere down the line. Producer credit is given to one Josh Kane, of Sterling, Illinois.

Issued by Escambia Records (ES 112), the A-side tells the story, in Jack’s inimitable, over-the-top style, of the ghostly image that appears in an upstairs window of the Pickens County Courthouse in the county seat of Carrollton, Alabama, which was built in 1877-1878. The image is claimed to be the face of freed slave Henry Wells.

According to a common version of the myth, Wells was alleged to have burned down the previous courthouse that stood in the town in 1876 (the first had been destroyed in 1965 by Union forces during the Civil War). He was arrested but escaped and went on the run. When found two years later, he was again arrested (in January 1878) and, while waiting for his ‘trial’ (Wells was, in fact, lynched by a white mob soon after his arrest) lightning struck the window he was staring out of and left an impression of his face. It’s a great story, but sadly it does not conform to the known historical facts: the windows of the newly-built courthouse were not installed until after Wells was lynched, so could not contain his image.

The story of Wells' face in the courthouse window seems to have been based on two separate historical events, the lynching of African American Nathaniel Pierce, and the arrest of Henry Wells. Pierce was being held on charges of murder when, on September 26, 1877, an armed mob forced their way into the jail where he was being held, took him outside the city, and lynched him. Pierce's lynching was not reported as having anything to do with the burning of the courthouse, but Wells – already suspected of both the arson and of an armed robbery - later confessed to burning it down.

Wells’ accomplice in the robbery was arrested in January 1878. He confessed to the burglary and blamed Wells for the burning of the courthouse. Wells was caught a few days later. When confronted by the police, he tried to flee and was shot twice. He confessed to burning the courthouse, likely under coercion, including beatings. He died from his wounds five days later.

I’ve not been able to find much info about Escambia Records, but the company (and Faye) had a few mentions in Billboard between September 1971 and July 1972. The first mentions that “an upcoming release… will feature a country band living in Czechoslovakia,” the second (January 1972) confirms that “Faye Bull has turned out another story-song for Escambia Records. She first did ‘the Legend of Henry Wells’ and has followed with ‘Fare-Thee Well, Mary Jane Clowers’, recorded by the Cool Tatoo from Sterling, Ill.” The company’s final mention tells us that “President Marve Hoerner [of De Grande Music and Crus de Oro Productions] has recorded a recitation single, both sides of which were written by Faye Bull, and put out on Escambia Records.”

I should not need to tell you that I am now in the process of tracking other Escambia releases down. The Cool Tatoo disc is actually correctly credited “Fare-The-Well (Mary Jane Clowers)”, and the group’s name appears on the disc as Coal Tattoo (Escambia ES 116). There are also a couple of singles by Zyndall Wayne Raney, including Cellblock Number 3 (again composed by our Faye) backed with Tried, Lied and Lost (ES 113) and Field Hand Man/I'm On My Way (ES 114). The Zyndall Raney Band is still gigging today.

Enjoy!

Download Henry Wells HERE


 Download Children HERE

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

The World's Worst Records Radio Show

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Mr. Fab, of the oh-so-excellent obscure music blog Music For Maniacs. He wanted to know if I was interested in getting involved in a new project he was launching, via WFMU, called Sheena's Jungle Room, an internet radio station dedicated to obscure, exotic and downright odd music. I, quite naturally, said yes.

So, here's what's happening. At 7pm this evening (that's UK time, 2pm EST) The World's Worst Records Radio Show goes 'live'. 

The hope is to bring you one full hour of nonsense, including a Death Disc of the Week, a spotlight on a Singing Actor and more rubbish than you can shake a stick at. 

It's the same as you've been enjoying here for the last 11 years, but now you'll also get to hear me, in all my West Country glory. This is new, I've not tried anything like this before and I'd appreciate any feedback, good or bad. You can tune in at https://www.wfmu.org/playlists/WR


If everything runs to plan I will be online, via the WFMU message boards, to answer any questions and join in any chat during the show. Come and keep me company, and keep an eye on the Facebook page for updates as we get closer to showtime. Do remember though that this is a brand new project and there are bound to be a few teething issues!

Let me know your thoughts and, if you wish, let me know which of your preferred bad records you'd like me to play in future episodes. There will be a Christmas special full of the worst Xmas discs of all time, so why not nominate your own particular favourite.

Friday, 2 November 2018

This is Allen Scott (or is it?)

Some more song-poem madness for you today, and a handful of songs from the star of the Royal Master song-poem outfit, Allen Scott.

I love Royal Master, and it's odd that I've only previously featured one of their Christmas songs (if I recall correctly), because the company is a classic example of everything that is wrong about the song-poem industry. There's zero quality control here... they would happily take the stupidest words anyone sent them, slather on a piss-poor country backing and have one of their inept 'singers' emote over the top.

And, my friends, of the singers that they employed, Allen Scott has to be the most inept of them all.

Royal Master was owned by songwriter Alex Zanetis. Zanetis had a bone fide hit in 1964, his song As Usual was recorded by Brenda Lee and went to Number 12 on the Billboard chart. RM gave Will Gentry, a.k.a. Ramsay Kearney his first song-poem break (and encouraged Kearney to set up his own Nashco song-poem empire). A former (apparently) friend of the late Jim Reeves, Zanetis put out hundreds of compilation albums through Royal Master, most if not all having a heavily religious bias.Zanetis would later write a whole gospel country opera, The Carpenter's Son: A Musical Dramatization of the Life of Christ, a double album issued by RCA in 1973.

But who is (or was) Allen Scott?

Well, for starters, he's the same singer that appears on Nu-Sound records - yet another song-poem outfit - as Todd Andrews. Like Royal Master (or Kearney for that matter) they would issue any old garbage. Utterly mercenary. Don't forget, Kearney is the shyster who happily took his thirty pieces of silver for Blind Man's Penis.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Allen Scott does not exist, for I believe that Allen Scott/Todd Andrews is (or, again, was) a pseudonym for Alex Zanetis himself. There's no evidence of this on any of the Royal Master releases, but if you compare the voice on the Allen Scott or Todd Andrews recordings with Zanetis' own voice on his 1986 single Are You Ready For The Lord it's clearly the same person.

A caveat here is that Zanetis issued an album under his own name in 1964, Writes and Sings the Stories of the Oil Fields, and the voice there is entirely different. Perhaps something happened to Zanetis between 1964 and the mid to late 70s, when Royal Master began operating, to affect his voice? I'm sure someone out there has the answer.

To add to the confusion, in 1971 Moodisc Records issued the reggae single Guilty credited to Alex Zanetis, but that is definitely not our man. This disc was actually performed by the Jolly Brothers, and I've no idea how the release came to be miscredited.

Anyway, a few examples of the artistry of Allen Scott.

Enjoy!

Download Love Letters HERE



Download Boppin' In Flip Flops HERE



Download A Corner Of Your Heart HERE

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