Friday, 13 September 2019

Buddy Repeats Himself


History Repeats Itself by Buddy Starcher, first issued by BES – Starcher’s own label - in 1965, is a truly mad record, a conspiracy theory put to music and issued just as the American public were waking up to the horrors of the Vietnam war. It’s brilliantly nuts, comparing the death of Abraham Lincoln with that of John F Kennedy and suggesting that more than mere mortals were involved in both assassinations. 

The disc didn't do much until it was reissued by the Boone Record Company in 1966. Shortly afterwards the far bigger Decca Records heard the potential, picked it up for distribution and took the track to Number 39 on the Billboard pop charts, and Number Two on the magazine’s Country chart. An album, also called History Repeats Itself, made the Country Albums Top 40.

Born in Ripley, West Virginia Oby Edgar “Buddy ”Starcher (16 March 1906 —2 November 2001) was an American country singer who released his first record way a full 20 years before this, his only chart hit. According to Wikipedia, History Repeats Itself  was co-written by American country comedian Minnie Pearl, who appeared at the Grand Ole Opry for more than 50 years and will be best remembered for her “How-deeeee!” catchphrase. However, all of the releases credit Starcher, who starred on his own show on WCHS-TV from 1960 to 1966 as either sole arranger or composer.

The flipside, Sniper’s Hill, is equally memorable, a country song that sounds alarmingly like a Halmark song-poem, about the last days of a GI framed as a letter from the young man to his wife, who has just given birth to his first (and, presumably, only) child. As we all know, there was a rash of such songs issued around the time of the Vietnam conflict, and this is a wonderfully maudlin pip accompanied by healthy dollops of Christian guilt and flag-waving humbuggery.

Enjoy!

Download History HERE

Download Sniper’s HERE


Friday, 6 September 2019

The Art of Falling Apart


I’ve heard some sick records in my time, but this genuinely takes the biscuit. 

Issued in October 1969 by Capitol, We Love You, Call Collect by Art Linkletter made number 42 in the Billboard charts on 22 November (it was 46 on the Cash Box chart the same week), almost six weeks to the day after the subject of the recording, Linkletter’s daughter Diane, committed suicide. In an even uglier twist, the flip side of the disc, Dear Mom and Dad is credited to Art Linkletter and his Daughter, Diane and features the ghost of Diane narrating her reply interpolated with portions of the plug side. Mindblowing.

Linkletter, real name Arthur Gordon Kelly, will be an obscure name to most outside of the US, but the Canadian-born radio and TV personality was the host of House Party, which ran on CBS radio and television for 25 years, and People Are Funny which aired on NBC radio and television for 19 years. The most popular feature of House Party was Kids Say the Darndest Things, where Linkletter would interview youngsters and the audience would howl at their naïveté. A series of books followed which contained the humorous comments made on-air by the kids, and serial sex abuser Bill Cosby would steal the idea for his own TV series in the late 1990s. In Britain troubled TV personality Michael Barrymore would do the same thing at the same time with Kids Say the Funniest Things. There’s a lesson in this: don’t host TV programmes about kids unless you want to screw up your career.

Diane Linkletter was a troubled soul, a wannabe actress forever in the shadow of her far more famous father. After dabbling with LSD (well, it was the 60s) and suffering from depression over her lack of career, she jumped to her death from her sixth-floor apartment. Linkletter senior blamed the drugs, however police reports confirm that the acid was not to blame, and friends confirmed that she had become increasingly depressed in recent weeks.

We Love You, Call Collect was first issued, earlier that same year, by Christian record label Word, and – in a deeply cynical move - picked up for distribution by Capitol after Diane’s death. Her untimely passing would also inspire fledgling movie director John Waters, who assembled his cast of Dreamlanders - Divine, David Lochary, and Mary Vivian Pierce – the day following her death to produce a mostly improvised short film based on the tragedy. The film features clips from both sides of the disc, used without permission. Waters himself called The Diane Linkletter Story “the worst taste thing I ever did.”

In the summer of 1971 Linkletter and Word issued a full length album We Love You, Call Collect Plus Interviews With Young Drug Users. In the sleeve notes, penned by Linkletter himself, Art hopes that “this album could be the jumping-off point in a family rap session which might then serve as the beginning of a communication bridge between the young and the old.” Given the circumstances, you have to admit that was an unfortunate turn of phrase…

Enjoy!

Download Call HERE


Download Mom HERE

Friday, 30 August 2019

The Joanne Duo Revisited

Way back in the mists of time, well, last November to be exact I first introduced you to cabaret lounge act The Joanne Duo, and bemoaned the fact that, although I knew of at least four releases by them, I had only been able to track down a copy of one, the Feelings EP. Well now, thanks to my friend Conrad Zimmer, I am able to bring you a couple of select cuts from their album, Together.

Issued on the Kent-based Eron label in 1977, Together is one of the most despondent records you will ever hear. And there’s the rub. The Joanne Duo worked - a lot. How could an act that maintained a successful career for around two decades and kept themselves busy working cabaret clubs, cruise ships and the like have made such an appallingly bad record?

Recorded “in the summer of 1977 when the duo were playing their second successful season at Maddieson’s Chalet Hotel, St. Margaret’s Bay, Kent”, some of the blame has to lie with the producer. Sure, Eron was a small outfit and had tight budgets, but surely they could have afforded a few extra hours in the studio to fix the numerous fluffs and mistakes? And why does everything sound so unmitigatedly miserable? Where’s the spark? How can a couple who wore sequins for a living sound like they’ve just od-d on Mogadon? It doesn’t make any sense. They must have kept audiences happy with their live act, but my God you’d be disappointed if you queued up after a performance to buy a copy of this album from the boot of their car. Try to imagine the horror as you slapped this on your record deck and heard Tom’s appalling Louis Armstrong impersonation. Ghastly.

The album’s sleeve notes give us some idea: “The album was recorded without the doubtful benefit of double-tracking and there are no added instruments or session men. Thus the sound listeners hear on this record is a fair reproduction of the duo’s normal playing - bearing in mind, of course, that the record cannot reflect the duo’s professionalism in their visual performance, which is an important part of their act.” Joanne, as I previously revealed, was also a drummer (as can be seen from the EP sleeve here: the same photo was used for the front cover of the album), but she’s not playing drums here: all the ‘rhythm’ comes from her organ’s inbuilt drum machine. It all makes for a rather funereal feel.

Anyway, thanks to Conrad – and to label owner/producer/Joanne Duo manager Ron Milner’s copious sleeve notes - I can now bring you a bit more information about the couple that I had last year.

At 16, Joanne was playing accordion with small dance bands in her native Yorkshire and taking part in amateur musical productions. She later emigrated to Australia and during the crossing entertained the passengers with her musical prowess. On her return to Britain, she worked for a while at a Pontin’s holiday camp, and as a resident solo accordionist in a hotel in Wetherby, where she met Tom. According to the notes on their first EP, Joanne “ was equally successful as a fashion model and appeared briefly in the film Holiday on the Buses.” She’s not credited at IMDB, so my assumption here is that she appeared as one of the many uncredited extras.

Tom began playing the flugelhorn in a brass band at the age of seven, and by 21 had mastered most brass instruments. He played with the Yorkshire Copper Works Band, the Leeds Musical Society Symphony Orchestra, and played semi-professionally on the local pub circuit. Meeting Joanne at the Alpine Inn in Wetherby (destroyed in a fire in 2006) they decided to form a duo, both musically and in life, marrying shortly afterwards.

Joanne went on to master the electric organ (as you’ll hear on the tracks below) and Tom generally played tuba, trumpet, ukulele, and harmonica. They toured extensively and were a particularly popular draw at US forces bases in Europe. The duo issued their first EP, again via Eron, in 1976, having moved south and settled in Kingsdown, Kent, in a bungalow overlooking the Channel.  

You can learn more about Eron and its roster at Conrad’s site HERE 

I hope that both Joanne and Tom are still with us and that they're both happy. They clearly adored each other and I'd feel a lot less mean knowing that they were still at home in their bungalow overlooking the Channel, reflecting on a long and successful career and not caring tow figs what I might think of their recorded output. For now, here are the standout tracks from Together: Until It’s Time For You To Go and By the Time I Get To Phoenix. Enjoy!

Download Until HERE





Download Phoenix HERE


Friday, 23 August 2019

Norris In Waiting


I realise that writing about Christmas records as the August bank Holiday approaches is a little unseasonal, but I realised that I had not yet featured this disc on the blog and, as I included the A-side on this week’s World’s Worst Records Radio Show it seemed apposite to share it with you now.

The Ping Pongs’ Pinky Tail/The Things I’d Like For Christmas was unearthed by fellow obscure music blogger Bob Purse, and first shared by him, via WFMU, back in December 2014. It’s a howl: the lyrics are inane but the performance is a riot, wonderfully discordant and almost wilfully awkward, with a stilting, arrhythmic piano, dreadful drums and reedy, weedy vocals. It’s ace.

What attracted me to the disc is that the group credited with the performance, the Ping Pongs, are clearly the same act credited as the Seaboard Coastliners on several tracks on the Norris the Troubadour collection Our Centennial Album, including (appropriately enough) Christmas Time Philosophy, Singing Sied the Showboy, I Am Back From Vietnam, Grits and Gravy and But The Rock Rolls On. Bob thought at the time that the group may have been employed by the Globe song poem studio, and this would certainly make sense, as Norridge Mayhems, aka Norris the Troubadour, did put a load of work their way: several earlier Norris the Troubadour recordings (also collected on Our Centennial Album) feature Globe’s go-to male vocalist Sammy Marshall.

Both songs on this particular 45 were written by Adolph Salvatori. He had at least three more of his compositions recorded: around 1956 (which I would think is the best part of two decades before Pinky Tail was issued) he received a co-composer credit on the 45 When I Found You, issued by the Kansas City label Continental. Recorded by Bobbie Clark with Herb Six and his Orchestra, his co-author that time was Paul Salvatori, his brother. He also penned two songs released in 1960 by song-poem label Star-Light: Promise Me and Somewhere In This World turned up on a four-track EP credited to Mickey Shore with The Versatones.

The Salvatori brothers had big plans in the world of show business: in 1931 Adolph penned the three-act drama Julie le Ferrier, and Paul also saw himself as an author of hit shows. Back in 1936 both men (and their financial backers) invested thousands of dollars in their stage musical From Out Of the Darkness. Sadly the show, due to play in Chicago, never got off the ground, but Adolph and Paul insited that their investors would get back every cent they had spent on the project. Paul found himself a job as a song-plugger, working out of Chicago, and the pair continued in the business, working together as well as individually. The year after their flop, Adolph got bitten by the foxtrot bug and seized by inspiration wrote the songs This Is Heaven, Won’t You Please Get In the Mood, I Was Just Pretending, Why Can’t We Be Friends and My Heart Went Astray In Havana. This appears to have been Adolph’s busiest period, although the pair would continue to write throughout the decade and into the 40s.

In 1947 Tommy Dorsey recorded one of Paul’s songs, My Love For You. Spurred on by this success, the following year the brothers set up their own publishing company, Salvatori Music, publishing several songbooks containing works by both of them. Adolph also saw himself as a bit of a journalist, penning (and copyrighting) articles including 1974’s Welcome to Our Home (In Forest Park, Il.), and What Makes A Person Great (In Forest Park, Il.)? Did I mention that Adolph lived most of his life in Forest Park, Illinois?

It’s odd then that someone who had been involved in the business for so many years would resort to using song-poem outfits to get his songs recorded. However exactly the same thing happened with Norridge B. mayhems, of course: after a little early success he too was forced to employ companies like Globe to have his songs recorded. You have to wonder if Norridge and Adolph (or Paul) ever met. I’d like to think that they would have been friends – or at least friendly rivals.

Enjoy!

Download Pinky HERE


Download Christmas HERE



My thanks to Bob Purse for first blogging this wonderful record!


Friday, 16 August 2019

The Joy Of Lex


The album I’m featuring today comes courtesy of Dave Frankel, owner of Inner Groove Records of Collingswood, NJ. Dave is also a follower of this here blog, and was kind enough to send me a rip of this album when it turned up in his store recently.

And, oh my, what a record it is. Joy and Love From Lex James is an absolute pip! Through a mix of standards and his own compositions, pianist Lex lets us into his wonderful world.

Hailing from Big Spring, Texas, as the sleeve notes declare: “Lex James has been in the spotlight musically since his ‘stage debut’ at the age of six in his home town.” By the mid-1950s he had left home: in 1956 we find him working with a second pianist, Art Darcy, at the cameo Room in Palm Springs; three years later he’s earning a living in Pasadena, living in a custom-built, mobile trailer along with Art, his partner, and their two grand pianos. By the middle of the following year, James was vice president of the Los Angeles Pianists Club, an organisation made up mainly of cocktail bar pianists, with Darcy a member of the same organisation’s grandly-named Executive Council. Peachy.

But after a year of playing at separate venues, Lex and Art wanted to try something different. Playing piano nightly in in the town’s Old Virginia restaurant was not enough for the ambitious Mr. James: he wanted to bring two-piano music to one-horse towns, as he told Pasadena’s Independent newspaper. “The thing that got us started on this trailer idea was the problem of finding matching pianos. Even In large cities, it’s hard to find two available grand pianos of the same kind - not to mention matching the tone quality and touch. In small towns, where we want to play, it’s almost impossible”

Lex left the Old Virginia in June 1960, planning to put their $25,000 two-piano mobile studio on the road, dragging the contraption behind a three-quarter-ton cab. James and Darcy took turns driving the truck that pulled their piano parlour. “We had to hunt for a long time before we found a trailer company willing to build it,” he admitted. “They all tried to discourage us.” The two pianos were strapped and clamped into a standard large house-trailer, 35 feet long and eight feet wide. One side of the trailer had been adapted to open down to form a piano unloading ramp. “We use a hydraulic jack,” said James, “and put special oversize ball-bearing casters on the piano feet. Sometimes we have to take off the legs and pull the two pianos on dollies, on their edges, like harps.” The whole rigamarole was worth all the trouble, he insisted, because the joy of playing two perfectly-matched pianos was superior to the joy of making any other kind of music. “We try to make it sound like one gigantic instrument. In most teams you can tell who has the melody and who is playing support. But we try to toss the melody back and forth between us so fast that nobody can tell who is doing what.”

Obviously at some point between setting out on the road in the summer of ’60 and his solo album debut (issued around 1972 would be my guess, as most of the covers on the album originally appeared around 1969/1970) Lex and Art abandoned their plans to bring two-piano music to the masses, and our Lex found his way back to California. In 1966 he was playing piano nightly at Lydia and Leonard Stahl’s Town House, in Arcadia

This Liberace in lace (check out those shirts!) continued playing in restaurants: in 1973 he could be found, bringing his own special brand of keyboard magic to the new Medallion Room in San Gabriel five nights a week. Lex even had his own fan club, run from a tiny office in Pasadena. I’ve found evidence that Lex and Art continued to tour, although one would assume without the trailer, appearing together in Tucson in 1976.

Then something else happened: Lex found God, and became the Reverend Lex James, still playing the piano but this time to the glory of the almighty. As late as 2001 Lex and Art were still touring together, playing for mostly religious audiences. Sadly he passed away in 2009 at the age of 77. He was survived by Art, happily in these more liberated times able to announce himself as having been Lex’s life partner, after something like a half-century together.

Here are a couple of tracks from this magnificent album, Where Do I Begin (Love Story) and Sunday. Thanks Dave! I owe you one.

Enjoy!

Download Love HERE



Download Sunday HERE


Saturday, 10 August 2019

Let's Go To The Beach


Over the last few weeks I’ve been treating listeners of The World’s Worst Records Radio Show to the selected cuts from the delightful CD album by Fernando Y Francisco. Realising that not everyone who reads this here blog listens or has access to the radio show, I thought I’d treat you to it too.

Issued in 2003, Vamos a la Playa (Let’s Go to the Beach) is the only album (to date, anyway) from Venezuela’s Francisco y Fernando, two semi-naked backpacking chums who self-funded the recording and release of the ten tracks (in other, less reputable corners of the net you’ll find Sacven credited as the label that issued ValP: Sacven isn’t a label, it’s a copyright society, similar to BMI or ASCAP, the Sociedad de Autores y Compositores de Venezuela).

With our boys vocalising (you can’t really call this singing) over pre-recorded backing tracks, bad midi programmes and the like, unsurprisingly the CD disappeared without a trace, selling probably no more than a handful of copies to family and friends. In fact, it would have been forgotten forever if Francisco had not appeared on a local TV talent show, TV Libre, a year or so after the release of their magnum opus, performing an a cappella version of the title song. His appalling performance quickly became something of a viral hit in his home country, igniting interest in the album.

And, my goodness, what an album it is! Highlights include the wonderful Rigi – sample lyric “Rigi, rigi-rigi-rigi, rigi-rigi-rigi, rigi-rigi-rigi”, the title track Vamos a la Playa and the incredible Con La “P” – a song that pretty much consists of an endless list of things that begin With A “P”. It may make some sense in the boys’ native tongue but does not travel well at all: from what I can make out “Podemo decir pana, pana, panaderia/Ponte, ponte, ponte, las pilas” translates as “I can say bread, bread, bakery/Put on, put on, put in the batteries”. Shamelessly, Con La “P” uses the same backing track as Vamos a la Playa.

I love the way that the boys take every opportunity to remind listeners who is performing, shouting out “Francisco Y Fernando” at every opportunity, like there’s some old school rapper in da house, yo, yo yo! Luckily they refrain from doing so during the woefully out of tune ballad Mariluisa and the Ricky Martin-esque Yo Quiero. Francisco is still making a racket today, performing in tourist bars under the name Francisco el Playero. Fernando has kept a respectful silence for more than a decade.

You can find most of the album on YouTube if you wish to, but for now here are what for me are the two standout tracks, the aforementioned Rigi and the title track, Vamos a la Playa.

Enjoy

Download Vamos HERE



Download Rigi HERE

Friday, 2 August 2019

Pot Holing For Fun and Profit



You’ll recall – for it was only a couple of week ago – that I recently introduced you to Chuck Holden’s weird and wonderful 45 The Cave, issued by Joe Leahy’s Unique Records in 1956. Well, apparently that’s not the only peculiar record about damp and dark crevasses.  

Gary “Spider” Webb’s The Cave (Parts one and two) was originally issued by the tiny Bamboo label in 1961. It’s just as nuts as the Chuck Holden track, but this time with an added sense of suspense that gives it a more Timothy-esque twist. Oh, hang on: that makes three crazy cave records.

I’ve not been able to discover much about Webb, apart from his being a former serviceman, stationed at the Naval Air Station Alameda in California in 1959. He was also an impressive drummer, winning an all-Navy talent contest and appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show. Webb’s parents owned an apartment complex in Hollywood, called The Hollywood Argyle, and he would go on to play on sessions for our old friend Gary Paxton. Paxton formed a studio band called The Hollywood Argyles (presumably named after the apartment complex) for a one-off single by his friend Kim Fowley, Alley-Oop. When that song became a hit – eventually selling over a million copies in the US alone - Paxton formed a touring band, and Webb became their drummer. He did not perform on the record.

Being a drummer kind of complicates things, because there’s another Spider Webb who was also a drummer, and details about the two different men have been conflated across the Internet.

We can be reasonably sure that the 45 issued on Donna records in March 1960 and credited to Spider Webb, Drum City  (again in two parts), was by our Gaz for several reasons. First of all, the other Spider Webb, born Kenneth Ronald Rice, was only 15 at the time of the recording. Also, a year before a band called Spider Webb And The Insects had been signed to Donna’s parent company, Del-Fi. SW&TI are notable because a former member was Tom Fogarty, brother of John who would go on to become the rhythm guitarist for Creedence Clearwater Revival.

When Tom was still in the band SW&TI recorded an unissued session for Del-Fi, but after the tracks recorded were rejected the band broke up; Tom went on to find fame and fortune and a solo Spider recorded his one-off single for Del-Fi’s sister label. That’s what you call research!

Two years after The Cave our Spider Webb issued a further 45, this time credited to his previous band Spider Webb And The Insects. Maggie/Big Noise From Winnetka was issued in 1963 by the tiny Lugar label, but it does not appear to feature any CCR alumni.

The other Spider Webb, an American jazz drummer and session musician, recorded with United Artists and Holland-Dozier-Holland in his early teens, before joining forces with King Curtis around 1967. He would go on to record for Fantasy in the 1970s, and was once married to the legendary Carol Kaye. As of three years ago, our Gaz was still living in California.

Enjoy!

Download Part One HERE


Download Part Two HERE

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