Friday, 24 June 2022

Mr B. A. Tweten Sings

Mr. Bat Sings is one of those odd albums that regularly features on those ‘worst album art’ lists but – I would assume – few people have actually listened to. With the scary clown on the cover, why would anyone bother to venture inside, especially when that clown appears to have had a butchery implement airbrushed from his cold left hand? It’s just horrendous.

 

Sadly the musical offering hidden behind this nightmare image bears little or no relation to the horrors you would expect, as the album consists of Mr. Bat – aka Bruce Arthur Tweten – crooning his way through 14 gospel standards, accompanied by Mrs. L.E. Tweten (his mother) on rather subdued organ.

 

From Kensal, North Dakota, Bruce was born in March 1936. The son of Lamoyne Everett Tweten and Alma Gabrielson, Bruce sang as a soloist at St John’s Catholic Church in Kensal, and over the years also sang – either as a soloist or as a member of a choir – at a number of churches around the region. A 1964 press report has him performing as part of the ‘WSAF chorus’, but I can find no record of this choir. Could it be a misprint, and the paper meant the USAF Chorus, the choir of the United States Air Force? Members of Bruce’s extended family served in the Air Force, so I believe that to be likely.

 

But what on earth is going on with that cover? Did Bruce perform as a clown at kid’s parties in North Dakota? I can find no evidence to suggest that he did, so what’s it all about? It bears zero relation to the sacred songs Bruce performs on the disc, so I really am at a loss to explain it.

 

A lifelong Republican, Bruce spent his last days in Jamestown, North Dakota. He died on 26 October 2001, aged 65. From the information I have been able to glean from his obituary, he appears to have been married at least twice; his second wife, Ada Mae, predeceased him by two years. Mother Alma died in 2006, at the grand old age of 92.

 

If you can bear it, the entire album is available on YouTube, but for the less masochistic among you, here are a couple of cuts from the super-odd Mr. Bat Sings Ten Thousand Angels and the album’s closing track, Would You Feel Lost In Bethlehem. Enjoy!

 

Download Angles HERE

Download Bethlehem HERE

Friday, 10 June 2022

The True Story of the Brothers Butch

Two years ago, for Pride Month, I introduced you to the Brothers Butch (or the Butch Brothers, at the time no one knew for sure which version of the name to use), and speculated about who exactly was behind the wonderful camp classic, Kay, Why? Just before Christmas 2021, I was contacted by one of the people involved in the disc and for the last few months I have been researching this incredible story. 

 

Back in February, I wrote a piece for The Guardian that told some of the history behind the record. More of the tale appeared in this month's issue of Record Collector magazine, but the whole story has not been told until now. It's a long read, but if you're interested in the truth behind the incredible Kay,Why? then grab yourself a cuppa and read on. 

 

For LGBT people, and especially for gay men, the summer of 1967 offered much promise. The new Sexual Offences Act (which introduced some of the recommendations of the decade-old Wolfenden Report) had just been passed, meaning that homosexuality – well, homosexual acts between two consenting adult males aged over 21, in the privacy of their own home at least – was no longer a criminal offence, and the atmosphere was filled with a palpable sense of change for the good. Hippies in kaftans with flowers in their hair walked the streets of London barefoot, and around the world people were protesting for equal rights and an end to war. Love was indeed in the air: the Beatles told a global television audience that it was all we needed, and it felt like the world believed them.

 

As the summer of love turned first into autumn and then winter, a strange little record issued by a tiny, London-based independent label appeared. Very few copies were sold, but it has gone on to become one of the most sought after, and highly cherished, examples of typically British camp humour. Its origins have been debated in books, online and in academic papers, but for more than half a century no one has known the true identities of the musicians behind this disc, with their Beatle-y ‘ooohs’ and camp archness.



Credited on the picture sleeve (correctly) to The Brothers Butch, but on the disc to The Butch Brothers, the innuendo-laden Kay, Why? (titled, if you did not already know, after the leading brand of water-based lubricant, K-Y Jelly) was apparently penned by one Eileen Dover, a wonderfully silly pseudonym that would befit many a drag queen. All double entendres and limp wrists, Kay, Why? was not the first queer pop record, but it was one of the earliest – and most blatant - to be issued here in the UK. It appeared just a few months after maverick producer Joe Meek and his band The Tornados issued their final single, Is That a Ship I Hear, which featured, as its B-side, a tune with a spoken middle eight entitled Do You Come Here Often. With its wink-wink reference to trolling the ‘dilly, Do You Come Here Often was the first British pop song to include polari, gay slang used to such great comic effect by Hugh Paddick and Kenneth Williams as Julian and Sandy in the hugely popular BBC radio show Round the Horne.

 

There is a fairly good chance that the men behind Kay, Why? had heard of California’s Camp Records, a label that issued a dozen ribald, under-the-counter singles and two albums between 1964-65. Claiming to employ the talents of ‘Hollywood TV and screen personalities’, they also used silly pseudonyms to hide the identity of writers and performers – Byrd E. Bath, the Gay Blades, Sandy Beech, Rodney Dangerfield (no, not that Rodney Dangerfield) – and the titles of their releases, including Homer the Happy Little Homo and Florence of Arabia leave little to the imagination. But Kay, Why?’, and the flip, I’m Not Going Camping This Winter, owe more to the British school of campery than its US cousin.

 

 
‘Oh George, isn’t it nice having a group backing us?’
‘You always were greedy, Clo!’
‘Oh, I can’t say the right thing, can I?’
‘So why don’t you shut your face until you’re supposed to sing?’


Who were the real people hiding behind the name the Brothers Butch, or for that matter who was Eileen Dover? For more than half a century there has been no trace of information on them anywhere. Despite one or both sides of the disc turning up on various collections over the years, including the Jon Savage-compiled Queer Noises 1961-1978: From The Closet To The Charts, no one seems to have been able to uncover any of the people involved. Until now.

 

The disc was the only release from Thrust Records (fnarr fnarr), based at 494 Harrow Road, London. Now a flat above a fast food takeaway, at that time it was also the address of Eyemark Records, a tiny independent record label that had previously issued I Got You by Sheil and Mal, a Sonny and Cher parody from actors Sheila Hancock and Malcolm Taylor, and the album Recitals are a Drag by legendary drag ball organiser Mr. Jean Fredericks. To add to this eclectic roster, in December 1966 the company announced plans to launch Railwayana Productions, a series of field recordings of train sounds, an odd and potentially suicidal move considering that the Beeching cuts were in full swing and steam was being replaced by diesel.

 

Eyemark (or Eye Mark as it occasionally appeared) was set up by Mark Edwards, a former BBC cameraman who was moving into music video production, and Malcolm Taylor, an actor, stage director and acting coach. Taylor also ran, with his actress mother Margaret Taylor, an employment agency, Domestics Unlimited, providing work for ‘resting’ actors and musicians, and one of the musicians he was finding work for was Eric Francis, singer with a four-piece psychedelic rock group from Fulham, the Purple Barrier. ‘It was a good way to earn a little money when we didn’t have any gigs,’ says Francis. It was through Taylor that Francis met Edwards and introduced him to the rest of the group (Francis and Purple Barrier drummer Alan Brooks had previously been in The Wanted, with David Bowie’s future guitar maestro Mick Ronson), and Edwards quickly became the band’s booking agent and de facto manager.

 

The Purple Barrier recorded one (unreleased) single for Eyemark before, in 1968, changing their name to the Barrier, to avoid any confusion with Deep Purple, friends from the same part of London, who had just issued their debut 45, Hush!. In the spring of 1968, the Barrier issued their first single, Georgie Brown, co-written by Mike Redway, who the previous year had sung the closing theme for the James Bond spoof Casino RoyaleHave No Fear, James Bond is HereGeorgie Brown was backed with a song that has gone on to become a psychedelic classic, Dawn Breaks Through, composed by Francis and bandmate Del Dwyer. ‘”Georgie Brown” was absolutely horrendous,’ says Francis. ‘We didn’t want to do it and it didn’t represent what we sounded like. It did nothing over here, thank goodness, but it proved popular in some other countries, which meant that we had to go and do TV shows to promote it in places like Belgium and Germany. We absolutely hated it!’ Booked to appear on a TV show in Belgium, the band were horrified to find brass instruments laid out for them to play. ‘It had an oompah-band backing,’ Francis explains. ‘There were tubas and trumpets and god knows what in the middle of the floor of the studio, and they expected us to play them. We were just a four-piece pop band! We were on the show with the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and they were so talented, they picked these instruments up and they were away. We ended up miming to the record, and they played alongside us.’

 

With his connections Edwards was also able to get the Barrier included on a pilot for a new BBC pop show, featuring Julie Felix, and had them slated to perform the title song for a film starring Terry-Thomas and Phyllis Diller, The Pubs of London, which was never made. Georgie Brown did well enough for Philips to sign the band, with Eyemark and Mark Edwards staying on as producer.

 

Could Mark Edwards be Eileen Dover, or perhaps one of the two singers featured on the disc? Edwards was a man fizzing with ideas, many of which would involve his own small circle of gay friends. As well as running his record label, he was also working on a music video project for TV broadcast around the world, filming acts associated with songwriters Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, including Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, and The Herd. The giant Philips corporation offered financial backing for the project, and Edwards produced clips for several Philips acts, including Dusty Springfield, Manfred Mann and Esther and Abi Ofarim. When not on tour, Francis would often get involved in the filming, and he and Edwards worked on a number of projects together, including the Bee Gees’ television film Cucumber Castle. ‘At one point, we were probably doing 60 or 70 percent of this country’s pop promotion films,’ Francis states. ‘The kind of thing they would show on Top of the Pops when the band were not available.’

 

With companies in Japan working on a viable home video system, Edwards and his backers were discussing how they could make these half-hour music compilations available to home consumers, almost a decade before domestic video players became available. When Philips withdrew their backing, Howard and Blaikley stepped in, forming a new company, Video Supplement, with Edwards. Their first project together – announced in February 1971 - was to be a half-hour special entitled the Festival of Light. That does not appear to have been successful, however they did produce one programme, Europop, in early 1972 that featured The Electric Light Orchestra, John Kongos Lindisfarne, Mott The Hoople, and Slade.

 

As well as participating in Edwards’ video project, Howard and Blaikley were also involved with Eyemark Records, writing Uh!, the A-side of the Barrier’s second single, and debut for Philips, as well as the follow-up, Tide is Turning. Their distinguished, decades-long careers include two UK number ones, Have I the Right? for The Honeycombs (produced by Joe Meek) and The Legend of Xanadu for Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich (for which Edwards and Francis shot the promotional film), as well as more outré material with a decidedly queer theme. They even wrote for Elvis. I contacted Ken and Alan to ask if they knew anything about Kay, Why?’, but they informed me that neither of them was involved.

 

That might have been the end of it, but, just a few days before Christmas 2021, I was contacted by Eric Francis, lead singer, occasional fire eater, and one of the principle songwriters for the Barrier. Eric told me that it was they who provided the instrumental backing for Kay, Why?. ‘At the time of recording we had no idea what it was for other than the fact it was for a comedy record,’ he recalls. ‘Mark Edwards was responsible for the production and distribution, but he had nothing to do with writing or performing on it. Howard and Blaikley, although they were connected with us as a band, had nothing to do with it either.’

 

Kay, Why? was recorded in early November 1967 at Olympic Studios, Barnes, where just a few months before the Beatles had put down the backing track to the anthemic All You Need is Love, and its B-side Baby, You’re a Rich Man. Other acts including Led Zeppelin, Queen, the Rolling Stones and David Bowie would also use the studios before they closed their doors in December 2009. The Purple Barrier performed on the instrumental track for Kay, Why?, but were not involved with the vocal. After finishing the session, they were off to Europe on tour. ‘We were told it was for a comedy record,’ says Francis. ‘There was no fee involved, we just did it as we were all mates, and we were missing by the time they came in to do the vocals.’

 

So who wrote the songs and performed vocal duties on the disc? ‘It was written and performed by Roy Cowan and Iain Kerr,’ says Francis. ‘They were a talented duo who, in the late 60s and early 70s, performed as “Goldberg and Solomon”, a comedy Jewish version of Gilbert and Sullivan. Iain also played piano on “Georgie Brown”, and he’s on “Shapes and Sounds” and the Howard and Blaikley song “Uh!”. He was just a nice chap who was always around. Iain and Roy were at the session, but they didn’t record their vocals at the time. No one was more surprised than we were when we finally got to hear it!’

 

Now in his late 80s, and a decade into his fight with Parkinson’s, Iain Kerr has never spoken about his involvement in Kay, Why? before.

 
Iain Kerr was born in Edinburgh, although he was brought up in New Zealand, and he gave his debut performance there, billed as the Wonder Boy Pianist, at the age of four. After building a reputation for himself on the local musical and opera scene, in 1961 he returned to the UK with his cabaret partner Daphne Barker. The duo were an instant hit on the London cabaret circuit, and released an album of risqué songs, Banned!, in 1962 which was itself banned by the BBC.

 

Not long afterwards, while Barker and Kerr was performing at a London night club – ‘The kind where you pay five shillings for a glass of water and extra for the glass’, he later recalled – they were introduced to Roy Cowan. Cowan, born in Hampstead, London of Russian parents, had trained to be a rabbi but discovered his knack for writing parodies of hit songs while serving in the army. The budding song satirist, who had previously written lyrics for Charles Aznavour among others, impressed Kerr with an on-the-spot parody of Moon River, entitled Chopped Liver, and an immediate, and lasting, partnership was formed. As well as working with Cowan, Kerr continued to perform in clubs and hotels in London, becoming friendly with visiting US stars including Bob Hope and Sammy Davis Jr., and was regularly featured on the popular BBC radio programme Music While You Work.

 

The pair wrote songs for Kerr’s nightclub act as well as for other artists, including both sides of the 1966 45 issued by septuagenarian cabaret singer Miss Ruby Miller, Daphne Barker’s aunt. They also wrote My Poem For You, the B-side to Mike Redway’s James Bond single, and Cowan wrote the lyrics for the huge international hit A Walk in the Black Forest. Perhaps the most bizarre commission came from tractor manufacturer Massey Ferguson, who had the pair compose a full opera for the company, that was staged in a corn field in Greece in front of sales delegates from around the world.

 

‘We met Mark Edwards and Malcolm Taylor at a recording session for Philips,’ Kerr explains. ‘They liked what we were doing and asked if we had anything else. I said, “well, we’ve got this song called “Kay, Why?”, but we need a backing group. That’s how we got the Purple Barrier. They were very good, but the Brothers Butch were terrible! The band were very good, very professional, and Mark and Malcolm both liked “Kay, Why?” so we let them get on with it and didn’t ask questions. We had a very friendly relationship with the boys, and thought that they were trying their best.’ With no promotion, sales of ‘Kay, Why?’ were tiny, but it was for their unique take on Victorian light operetta, Gilbert and Sullivan Go Kosher, that Cowan and Kerr would achieve international fame.

 

As Goldberg and Solomon, the pair recorded their first album, for Edwards and Eyemark, the same year as the Butch Brothers tracks were laid down. The Tailors of Poznance (subtitled the Best of Goldberg and Solomon, Volume Two) featured actress Miriam Karlin, star of the hit TV show the Rag Trade, who Kerr had coached for her role in the hit stage musical Fiddler on the Roof. Karlin also recorded a pair of Howard and Blaikley numbers that year for Eyemark, which were licensed to Columbia. Various sources have suggested that the pair had intended to issue a prequel – The Chandeliers: the Best of Goldberg and Solomon, Volume One – but Kerr denies this. ‘There never was a Volume One,’ he laughs. ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’s first opera failed [the music for Thespis is now lost]; they didn’t have a “number one”, and we decided that we would not have a “number one” either.’

 

Kerr was also involved in another Eyemark release around the same time: QPR – The Greatest, performed by Queens Park Rangers footballer Mark Lazarus. ‘I did it because I was asked!’, he says. The flip side features what is probably the most peculiar, psychedelic football anthem ever recorded, a song called Supporters - Support Us, credited to the Q.P.R. Supporters, of which, says Francis, ‘I have heard it suggested many times that it may be something to do with us, but not guilty!’ A third Barrier single, again produced by Eyemark for Philips, was issued when the company demanded a follow up to Uh!. Howard and Blaikley produced The Tide Is Turning, a track from the latest Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich album, and Edwards provided the B-side, A Place in Your Heart, but although the Barrier recorded the vocals, none of the band actually played on the disc: ‘The tracks were laid down while we were on tour in Germany,’ Francis explains. ‘We came back and we were told “this is your next single”!’

 

Very little – if anything – was done to promote Kay, Why?, and by December 1967 Cowan and Kerr were in Johannesburg, with their show An Evening With Goldberg and Solomon. Kerr recalls the trip well. ‘Roy and I went out to South Africa on the ship the Windsor Castle,’ he adds. ‘Halfway through the journey were invited to drinks at the Pig and Whistle, the crew’s bar. They had decorated the bar out for us, and as we went in there were two fellows miming to our “Kay, Why?” record!’

 

By 1970 Eyemark was no more, but by that time, Edwards had already moved on. ‘For a while I took over the office,’ says Francis. ‘I was running an entertainment agency, Amberlee Artists, with a guy called Ray Perrin.’ Francis had left the Barrier, who would continue on for another couple of years with a different vocalist. ‘It was all very amicable,’ he explains. ‘In fact, I was at the audition to replace me. They found a guy called Ian Bellamy… He was a very good singer. Better than I was!’ Francis made one more single with Howard, Blaikley and Edwards, the bubblegum novelty Alcock And Brown, credited to The Balloon Busters, but by now Edwards had signed a five year production contract with MCA records for a husband-and-wife team he managed, John and Anne Ryder, and the pair scored a hit in several overseas territories with the Marty Wilde/Ronnie Scott-penned I Still Believe in Tomorrow. The Eyemark back catalogue was taken over by a new company, Amberlee Records Limited, headed by Eyemark’s former sales manager John Peters (initially based at the same address: in 1973 they would move across the road from the former Eyemark offices), who would continue the railwayana series and expand into organ recitals. sadly the company chose not to reissue Kay, Why?

 

Edwards’ hit his peak as a producer in 1970, with Curved Air’s debut album Air Conditioning; that same year Eric Francis managed to score a number one hit in Japan, with the band Capricorn, and another song from the team of Wilde and Scott, Liverpool Hello, but apart from the occasional session (including one for soul singer Doris Troy, then signed to the Beatles’ Apple label) that would be his last shot at stardom. ‘By 1971 I had a small baby, and I decided to get out. I had been a professional musician for about ten years,’ he says, ‘But I would have been better off financially stacking shelves in Morrisons. I did some driving for a car hire company; one of my customers was Greg Lake, the bass player with Emerson, Lake and Palmer, which was a bit embarrassing because he was a mate!’ Edwards would later manage (well, mismanage would be more accurate) gay singer-songwriter Steve Swindells, who in turn would go on to work with Hawkwind and Roger Daltrey among others. ‘Mark Edwards was beginning to drink too much by the time we split from him,’ says Eric Francis. ‘He died quite a few years ago after throwing away what could have been a good career.’

 

Five years after Kay, Why? was recorded, an advert appeared in Gay News. ‘Have a Thrust for Christmas’ it announced, before promoting the record, albeit with its sides flipped, making the more seasonal I’m Not Going Camping This Winter the plug track. No one knows why the company decided to give the disc another push, it could have been that someone in the office merely unearthed a box of 45s while getting ready for their move to new premises, but the world of 1972 was a very different one to that of 1967. By the time the advertisement appeared, the Gay Liberation had been established for two years, Britain’s first pride march had taken place and pop stars including David Bowie had helped make androgyny big business.

 

A few years ago a peculiar digital release turned up on Amazon and iTunes, coupling both sides of Kay, Why?’ along with the very similar sounding The Girls In the Band and Bald, a pastiche of Age of Aquarius, the hit song from the free love musical Hair. This MP3 EP also included three other songs, one of which was Waltzing with Hylda, from Cowan and Kerr’s mid-70s revue Slightly Jewish and Madly Gay. Credited to the daisy Chain Duo, Kerr now admits that the performers are Cowan and himself. ‘Roy and I went to see the Boys in the Band [it opened at Wyndham’s Theatre, Leicester Square, in February 1969], and I had coached Oliver Tobias for his role in Hair.’ The plan had been for a second Brothers Butch single, but this did not materialise. ‘Roy and I were extraordinarily busy at the time,’ he recalls.

 

Indeed they were. During the decade following the recording of ‘Kay, Why?’, Goldberg and Solomon recorded three further albums and toured the world, playing several return seasons in Australia and South Africa and appearing in front of more than 1,000,000 people in more than 200 venues. The curtain fell on their highly successful act when Cowan died of a heart attack, aged 54, in Sydney in June 1978; at that time the two men had been working on a musical based on the life of Ruby Miller, alongside her niece Daphne Barker. That same year Malcolm Taylor - the actor who co-founded Eyemark Records and later teamed up with Howard and Blaikley to write a novelty single for actor Wilfred Bramble - gave up acting and songwriting for a seat in the director’s chair. He would go on to direct many episodes of TV serials, including Coronation StreetCrossroads and EastEnders. Taylor died in January 2012. The Barrier’s drummer Alan Brooks is no longer with us, neither is guitar player Del Dwyer (Brooks and Dwyer would both later become members of cult r’n’b band the Downliners Sect) who sadly passed away at the end of December. Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley continued to have a massively successful, if somewhat eclectic, career and are both still around today, and records by the Barrier have become some of the most sought-after from the British psychedelic era: a copy of Georgie Brown in its ultra-rare picture sleeve sold in 2020 for over $1,500.

 

Kay, Why? appeared at a time when LGBT people in Britain were beginning to find their voice. It may not have changed the world, but despite its commercial failure, it is an important footnote in the history of LGBT music. ‘We were aware,’ says Kerr, ‘That we were sticking our oars out and making a few ripples.’ Those ripples would soon become waves.


‘Kay, why don’t you bring out the best in me?
‘Why did you have to make a mess of me?
‘Why did you slip through my fingers?’

 

Friday, 27 May 2022

Two More from Lillay Deay

I thought today we would drop in on our old friend Lillay Daniels, aka Lila F. Daniels, aka Lillay Deay, singer, songwriter and owner of the wonderful Timely record label. Although I have written about her before, I have managed to uncover more details of her fascinating career – so an update feels TIMELY

 

When I first posted about Lillay, back in April 2018, I was only aware of one single issued on Timely, the remarkable I May Look Too Old/He’s a Devil. Since then, several other discs have surfaced, and the Timely catalogue now stretches to five 45s.

 

Born in 1896, Lila and her husband William hailed from Houston, Texas and had two sons, Robert and Dan (who would perform on the debut release from his Mom’s company). Lila/Lillay began her songwriting career in 1959 with The Christmas Star (a song that would not appear on record for another decade at least), written around the same time that she and her husband retired to Tujunga, in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, the town where she would set up her record label.

 

For a reasonably complete list of Lillay’s other compositions, check out the post HERE 

 

My most recent purchase, Our Beautiful Lady backed with Appreciation, seems to have been the first disc issued by Timely. Although none of the Timely 45s I’ve seen so far has any dates on either the labels or the sleeves (although my copy of I May Look Too Old has a rubber-stamped date on the label, from a local radio station), this more than likely appeared around 1967 judging by the matrix number, and the fact that Lillay registered copyright in Appreciation in April of that year. Performed by Lillay’s son Danny Daniels, Our Beautiful Lady is a song dedicated to the Statue of Liberty, a source of inspiration Lillay would return to. Appreciation is a perfectly decent country-pop song, with nothing particularly remarkable about it, but the A-side is the pip, with a wonderful spoken word interlude from Danny and a great military snare drum beat throughout.

 

Lila is second from the right in this press photo from 1973 
This was followed by the classic of outsider oddness, Lillay singing her own compositions I May Look Too Old/He’s a Devil (incorrectly listed on the accompanying picture sleeve as You’re A Devil), which you can find HERE

 

The third 45 on the label, Lady of Liberty (Timely 1002), a song Lillay wrote in 1966, was sung by Harrison ‘Harry’ Clewley, from Tujunga, the same town that Lillay and Timely were based in. Clewley had been performing on the local circuit since at least 1958 when, as a 15-year-old he was known as ‘everybody’s boy’. A former member of the Mitchell Boys Choir, he spent some years working for the US post office before, in the 1980s, he joined former 50s hitmakers The Lettermen. Although I have found a 1960 newspaper article that claims Clewley acted in films including Giant, Black Beauty and Lassie, he is unlisted at IMDB. Lady of Liberty is once again inspired by Lillay’s favourite watery icon, the Statue of Liberty, yet despite stealing its title from the opening line of Our Beautiful Lady is an entirely different song. The other side, Los Angeles was copyrighted in 1967, at the same time as Appreciation, however the legend on the single’s picture sleeve ‘a song for the 70s’ would suggest that it was not issued until at least 1969.

 

Lila was 70 by now, a God-fearing woman who believed that pasteurised milk caused arthritis, but was entering into her most productive period. Soon came another 45, again credited to Lillay Deay: Our Beautiful Flag is Crying (written in 1968) backed with Angels of Mercy (from late 1969) issued as Timely 1003. Again, you can hear that HERE

 

The final release from Timely (well, the final one discovered so far) was a Christmas novelty from Lillay’s pen, Dancing Prancing Reindeer coupled with Christmas Star (Timely 1041) and credited to the Daniel Singers. This would not be Lillay’s final venture into vinyl though: In 1969 she penned Is Santa the Man in the Moon, and in 1973 wrote another Christmas-themed song, Santa Clause Sweetheart. These were recorded in the mid-70s by Dick Kent for song-poem supremos MSR Records. Outside of Lillay’s composing the music for the songs Have a Happy Birthday and The Happy Birthday Clown, to words written by Daisy Blackwood (both dated 1974), that MSR release appears to be the last record that Lila F Daniels was involved with. Later that decade she moved to Rainier, Oregon and gave up songwriting and performing for good.

 

Here are both sides of the first Timely 45, Our Beautiful Lady and Appreciation. Enjoy

 

Download Lady HERE

Download Appreciation HERE

Friday, 6 May 2022

Beware, the Kirchner Boys

Advertised as ‘the biggest little band in the land, with a sound three times their size’, the Bantams were three pre-teens from Venice, California who, in 1966, achieved a modicum of fame locally and scored a national record deal thanks to their garage band pop stylings.

 

12-year-old Mike, Jeff (10) and Fritz Kirchner (the baby of the bunch at just nine years-old), were just three of the eight children of Mr and Mrs Earl Brown, all of whom lived cheek-by-jowl in a little house near the Venice Post Office. Seven-year-old sister Brenda also harboured dreams of pop stardom, but she was considered too young to join the act. With Mike on guitar, Jeff on bongos, and Fritz on bass, the boys were inspired – like so many Americans – to form a group after seeing and hearing the Beatles in 1964. That was the same year that the family moved from their previous home in Milwaukee to sunny California.

 

The move was a fortuitous one. They were spotted by a talent scout, either playing for nickels on Ocean Park Pier (as the official publicity would have it) or, more reasonably, after winning a trophy in a local band contest held at pacific Ocean Park. Whichever, before 1965 was out they had made their first film of a four-picture deal, the 1965 Mamie Van Doren vehicle Methuselah Jones. That movie – which would prove to be their sole big-screen outing - was eventually released to US cinemas in 1967 under the title You've Got to Be Smart, with the boys credited as Mike, Jeff, and Fritz Bantam. They would also be seen on the small screen, on TV shows including Hullaballoo, Hollywood A-Go-Go, and Where The Action Is.

 

In January of 1966 the band signed a five-year contract with Warner Brothers, who promoted the act as ‘the youngest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world’. The Bantams released two 45s and an album, Beware: the Bantams in the States, and one highly-collectable EP in France, which compiled four of the most Beatle-y tracks from their album... which was pretty much all Beatles covers or covers of songs the Beatles had already covered themselves. the album was, according to Cash Box, recorded in just four hours. The tracks are huge fun, and the band Warners put together to back the boys is smoking hot, but despite Billboard claiming that the ‘brothers with talent have smash hit possibilities… Could go all the way,’ none of these releases made the US charts, and Warners soon dropped them.

 

In 1967 the boys played for wounded army veterans in San Francisco, along with ventriloquist Jimmy Gunther and his doll Maxie. But with both their film and recording careers stillborn, they soon seemed to have turned their back on music, to continue with their schooling, playing on their skateboards and being kids. Jeff was seen, in 2011, playing drums with local cover band Fluid Drive, but apart from that all three of the bantams seem to have carved out perfectly nice lives for themselves outside of showbiz.

 

Here are a couple of tracks from the magnificently off Beware: the Bantams, their covers of the Beatles classics From Me To You, and Ticket to Ride.

 

Enjoy!

 

Download From HERE 

Download Ticket HERE

Friday, 29 April 2022

The Singing Inventor

The disc I’m sharing with you today is a recent purchase (in fact, it only arrived at WWR Towers yesterday) but one I have been aware of for a while, and one I have played on the World’s Worst Records Radio Show in the past.

 

I’ll Walk With God, backed with a stunning rendition of the Sound of Music showstopper Climb Ev’ry Moutain was issued in 1969 on the tiny Palaske Records label of Portland, Oregon, by singer Tony Villa, credited both on the sleeve and disc as ‘Tony Villa From Manila’.

 

Christened Antonio-Euclid C. Villa-Real, Villa was born in Manila, capital of the Philippines, in March 1935. ‘A versatile young man from the Orient blessed with a golden voice, whose great love for music and wide berth of inventive brilliance make him a truly unique personality’, according to the sleeve notes of one of his albums, The Sensational Tony Villa: the Singing Inventor, our man was also ‘a promising composer, dance originator, and an up-and-coming novelist and script-writer, whose talents never spoil his sincere and friendly radiance.’ The gushing praise came courtesy of Ed and Retta Palaske, owners and operators of Palaske Records.

 

Ed Palaske was also the proprietor of Portland’s Hillvilla Restaurant, which opened in 1954 and, later, Palaske’s, which opened in November 1982, when Ed was 69, but only operated for four months before it closed without warning. A handwritten note sellotaped to the front door simply announced, ‘Closed for one month: illness.’

 

The album notes continue to elevate out crooner to new, outlandish heights. ‘Critics believe he has the makings for a meteoric rise to singing stardom. A sensational singer of a variety of songs ranging from semi-classical numbers, Broadway musical tune, popular, religious, folk, country and western to his new creation called Spacetronic Rock.’

 

Apparently our boy was ‘once sponsored by Mario Lanza's mother, the late Mrs. Maria Lanza Cocozza,’ and ‘thrilled thousands of listeners when his recording in memory of the great Lanza was aired over radio WJMJ-AM in Philadelphia.’ Ed also reckoned that he had ‘recently been a guest singer in Hawaii on the "DON HO SHOW" at the Polynesian Palace, and on the "KIT SAMSON SHOW" at the Kahala Hilton,’ and that the former singer with the Morgan Baer Orchestra of Washington, D.C., was ‘currently preparing for his first international concert tour.’ Perhaps unsurprisingly, I can find little to no evidence to back up any of these claims, although a photograph of Tony and Don shaking hands backstage was included on the liner to his album.

 

What I can tell you is, at the time of recording The Sensational Tony Villa, Tony was working as a technologist in the haematology department of a Baltimore hospital. He was also hard at work perfecting his latest invention, a plastic, drip-preventing ice cream cone holder, and working on several novels. How he and his wife Lydia, who he met at university, found the time to have three children – Maria-Lourdes Stewart (after Our Lady of Lourdes), Apollo-Euclid G. Villa-Real (after the Apollo moon shot), and Antoinette-Euclideana Mora - I do not know, but they did, and they remained married for 57 years. I’ll bet they had a fun life.


In 1976 Tony issued a second album, Mountain of Love which also included Satellite Mouse as well as several other space-themed tracks, including Moon Cat and Spiral City In a Martian Moon. He resurfaced around a decade ago as Antony Starluck, with his own YouTube channel. 

 

The single I’m featuring today was issued in June 1968, ‘in memory of Three Great American Martyrs’, drawn for the 7” sleeve by Tony himself. In case you’re not quite clear on who he’s referring to, the men are, from left to right, Bobby Kennedy, John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. The back of the sleeve features another rambling, self-aggrandising message, this time from the pen of Mr Villa himself, in which he hopes that ‘with Divine Guidance, may our creative capabilities, courage and spiritual convictions perpetuate the eternal seed of goodwill’, and he declares that he ‘humbly offer[s] this inspired recording as a tribute to these Three Great American Martyrs of Our Time’ (his capitals, not mine).

 

JFK would remain an influence (of sorts) on his life for a number of years. In 1974 the brazen hussy had the temerity to send a copy of his album, along with a letter begging for financial backing, to shipping magnate - and then-husband of the former First Lady - Aristotle Onassis.

 

As an extra, I’m also including a track from The Sensational Tony Villa: the Singing Inventor, Tony’s own composition Satellite Mouse, which Ed Palaske described as having ‘the beat and the pulse of electrifying rhythm spearheading a new dance craze ― his own SPACE MOUSE DANCE that will soon be rockin' the nations.’ It’s bonkers and brilliant, and you will love it.

 

Tony died in June 2020, aged 85. He may not have made an international hit of his Space Mouse Dance, but he left behind an incredible legacy powered by his boundless hopes and dreams.

 

Enjoy!

 

Download Walk HERE

Download Climb HERE

Download Mouse HERE

Friday, 22 April 2022

Mon Petit Isabelle

A short post today, which seems apt given the physical stature of the singer involved, although that is primarily because there is absolutely zero information about her out there on the old internets.


Isabelle seems to have come from Belgium - at least that where this particular 45, Magicien backed with Mon Petit Begin, originated. Issued on the tiny Baby Records label, the company put out several other 45s and EPs, and although none of their releases are dated, you can tell from the sound of the instrumentation - as well as the way Isabelle has been styled for the cover shot - that it must have been issued sometime around the early to mid-1980s.


The plug track, Magicien, is a perfectly acceptable slice of kiddy-synthpop, a bouncy little ditty that the slightly flat singer handles reasonably well. But the flip side, which I featured on the World's Worst Records Radio Show this week, is another matter altogether. It's exactly what you would want from a precocious pre-teen trying to sing pop. The poor little mite is completely out of her depth, and although she makes a decent fist of it in the chorus, her voice just doesn't have the range necessary to carry off the verses of the song with any authority. I believe the title was recorded as a tribute to the recently ousted Israeli Prime Minister... 


The lyrics to both songs were penned by Christelle Bascour, who wrote songs for a number of Belgian kiddy stars, including baby Chouchou. The music was composed by Vincent Algeri, who worked with dozens of artists through the 70s and 80s, and again was involved in the baby Chouchou project.


Isabelle issued at least one further 45, the Sylvester Stallone-inspired Rocky (backed with Petit Arlequin), but her history is confused by the fact that several different Isabelles have issued records in Belgium over the years... her Discogs entry includes another 45 which is clearly by a different singer: you only have to look at the photo of the weeny pop moppet on the cover to realise that.  


If anyone out there has any more information on our Isabelle, I would love to hear from you.


Enjoy!


Download Magicien HERE

Download Begin HERE

Friday, 15 April 2022

Easter Theatre

Described in the Tampa Bay Times as a ‘recording artist, country music showman, flea market huckster, roller-rink operator and newspaper publisher’, today’s post seems timely, both because of the season and because of the performer’s heritage.

 

Born Boris Max Pastuch to Ukrainian parents in Largo, Florida but raised in New Jersey, Buddy Max, the name behind today’s 45 release, ‘learned country and bluegrass from Ukrainian records’ played by his father, before ‘I bought a guitar and a book for 35 cents, called Sing Like Your Favorite Cowboy Stars.

 

He began his recording career in New York in 1949. Over the next couple of years he appeared on stage with various country greats, including ‘singing cowboy’ Gene Autry, and then moved to Hollywood in the hope of becoming a star. It was there that young Boris Pastuch became Buddy Max, but by 1955 he found himself back in Florida, where – apart from summer trips back to the east coast - he spent the rest of his life.

 

He made his second recording, in Tampa, Florida, in 1955 and landed a job performing live on a local radio station. Around that same time he met Freda, an accordion player who, in 1957, would become his wife: the couple would stay together for the rest of Freda’s life. The pair, who had a son, John, became goat farmers, setting up home in Lecanto in Florida’s Citrus County. They ran a highly successful flea market twice a week from the farm, the same market that gave Buddy, who sadly died in 2008, the nickname ‘America’s Singing Flea Market Cowboy. he built his own roller skate rink on the farm and, when another (better equipped) rink opened up nearby, he built an amphitheatre on his land where he and Freda (and, on occasion, son John) would act out religious plays.

 

Buddy liked a conspiracy (the Government was run by the Mafia, and they wanted to take his land from him), and he was also open to being scammed. He spent a fortune on having his music published by song-sharks, and proudly boasted of having won a gold award from the International Biographical Centre, an organisation that creates ‘awards’ and offers them to anyone gullible enough to cough up the readies, hundreds of dollars for a Commemorative Medal or a laminated certificate... and Buddy had both.

 

During his career, Buddy issued ten albums in various formats and a whole bunch of singles on his own Cowboy Junction label, most of which he sold - or gave away - at the flea market. The only other artist I have found that signed to Cowboy Junction was Buddy Pastuck, ‘the Roller Skating Cowboy’, which appears to have been nothing more than an alias for our own Buddy Max.

 

Here’s Buddy, with both sides of his 1986 Easter-themed release, Easter Bunny – Buddy Max, and the rather fabulous Easter Day.

 

Enjoy!

 

Download Bunny HERE

Download Day HERE

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