Friday, 30 November 2012

Poor Mildred

A short post this morning, partly because I’m a little short of time but also because I know very little about this particular oddity.

Released originally in the US on MGM (DJ copies also exist) and later in several other countries including Australia, Mildred, Our Choir Director by the otherwise unknown Rollo and Bolliver is one of the most peculiar records I’ve ever come across. When I first heard it I assumed it came from the mid-60’s, and would have appeared at about the same time as the slew of other campy takes on British life which America seemed so fond of, but it seems that Mildred (and it’s equally confusing B-side, the Dr Seuss-inspired The Hoobaschnob Machine) was actually issued way back in 1958, and re-issued (according to a brief review in Billboard) in November 1960, presumably to try and catch the lucrative Christmas Market.

Sayeth Billboard: ‘Mildred, poor gal, is screaming as she hangs from the cliff but the boys have little interest as they drink their tea’. There’s not a lot to add to that, other than this is one of the funniest things I’ve heard in ages. It is clearly a novelty release, which is something I normally avoid here, but does it also rate as a ' bad' record? Well, I guess that all depends on your point of view. It's certainly in bad taste.

I assume that Rollo and Bolliver are pseudonyms for the composers Marvin Moore and Bob Davis (or, more correctly it seems Bob Davie), who also wrote the classic Green Door, but I can’t be sure. I can tell you that Elvis owned a copy, but that’s about it. No doubt one of you will have some more info on this peculiar little record. A hat tip to one of my favourite record blogs Lord of the Boot Sale which featured this a couple of years back.


Friday, 23 November 2012

Tell It, Tubby

I’ve never known an artist or group (with the possible exception of the abominable Coldplay) generate as much bile and downright hatred as Meade Skelton. Google him: it won’t take you long to find people issuing death threats towards the country singer and self-proclaimed ‘good ol’ boy’, such as ‘That fat racist f***ing piece of self-absorbed inbred hillbilly redneck pigwoman dog s**t…I hope he smothers his fat f**k ass with his own bosoms in his sleep’. Phew! Mead’s music actually isn’t that bad: naïve, perhaps; mediocre certainly, but not point-blank horrible. But what makes this outsider musician so fascinating is his personality. Self-righteous and obsessed with junk food, the man who wrote an ode to a cuppa (Sweet Tea) is fanatical about protecting his image – so much so that should anyone dare to criticise his work online (at, say, Amazon or any one of a number of online forums) he will appear under the guise of one of his many alter egos to remonstrate with them. He’s also rather fond of posting four and five star reviews of his own albums to try and kid people into believing that the release they’re purchasing is in fact the work of the next Elvis.

I’m sure he’s not the only ‘artist’ doing this, but he’s been caught out time and time again and yet still does it: E P Haufe, RVACountryLover, RVACountrySinger and Elvis Fan are his favourite pseudonyms, but he’s used a number of different ones over the years.  So infamous are his attempts at self-aggrandisement that he now appears in the Urban Dictionary as an example of an internet troll.

Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, Meade Skelton has released a handful of albums over the 11 years since his debut, Songs by Meade Skelton, appeared in 2001, his self-composed songs distinguished by his florid piano style, pleasant baritone voice and odd – some might say downright weird – lyrical inspiration. Take a look at some of his song titles: They Called Me Porker, Proud to be a Square, It’s Hard to Love Yourself (When Everybody Hates You), I Love to Eat (and it Shows) and the brilliantly-titled Hipsters Ruin Everything among them.

But just who is Meade Skelton? Meade Skelton Haufe grew up in Virginia and began playing music at an early age. After his mother died (when he was just 11), Meade became a born-again Christian. He moved to Richmond when he was 18 and it was here that he became involved in music, playing with local bands, in coffee shops and at his local church. According to his website ( Meade’s ‘heartache meets humor style puts pop, country, jazz, Americana and gospel music into a blender’. As a member of the Tabernacle Baptist Church, Meade often performs as part of the The Meadow Street Band – their rather overwrought presence provides the back up on his latest release, Meade Music (re-recorded versions of 10 Meade Skelton classics) - and he plays a large part in his church’s music ministry.

He had his own Tumblr blog for a while but this appears to have been taken down – probably as a reaction to such semi-racist posts as ‘I enjoy going to Kroger’s and getting a 2 pc chicken dinner. I get baked, not fried. (I eat healthy!). So then I had macaroni and cheese, and collard greens with it, and a dinner roll. It was very good in my mouth. I just love going there. The people that work there are really nice. Except some of them have a more uppity attitude. I notice its worse with the middle aged Negroes, than the younger ones. I guess they were taught to hate white people. Oh, well. I certainly don’t hate them.’ Responding to Meade's rant about the Kroger supermarket’s African-American employees, Regional Manager Scott O'Connell informed employees that Meade would now be banned from four local Kroger locations: "Kroger is proud to be an equal opportunity employer and strongly condemns any bias based on race, creed, sexual orientation or religion," said Scott. "Our employees are proud to work for Kroger and our decision to ban a customer does not come lightly. We stand behind our employees." Although Meade later apologised for his comments he managed to force his own foot further down his throat by referring to the now non-uppity Negroes as ‘of the colored race’….oops! ***The Krogers' ban story may be a hoax; although the Fairfax Underground forum claims the Richmond Times-Dispatch as its source there is no news story currently indexed at the R T-D site which mentions the ban***

Meade has some odd opinions about gay people too: ‘I think that many lesbians are usually women that were treated poorly by men. They might have been raped or abused. They fear men, and seek solace in other women. Homosexual men are usually under something more demonic, that controls them to lust after men. Which is sinful and unnatural.’ I can see where he’s coming from here: I often find it hard to control the outrageous overflowing of lust I have for every single man on the planet.

He’s no time for the Beatles either (although that is not why I’m including him here): ‘I think Rock music is bad music, and the only Rock artist I can tolerate is Elvis Presley. But most of it is really evil. I think that the Beatles had a deal with Satan, and also you can clearly see that when people are at Rock shows they go under a trance almost and its like pandimonium for a long time - they are under some kinda witch craft. The beat in Rock music comes from African (sic). The Africans used this beat to conjure up evil spirits when they did their tribal dances. But the Illuminati is mostly to blame, because when they made Rock albums, they dedicated them to Satan.’

It’s been suggested on various message boards that Meade may be autistic, which would certainly explain such lacks of tact as this, and he’s said himself that he suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome. But as everything in Meade’s life is shrouded in mystery, confused by his multiple personalities and exacerbated by his outright lies, who knows for sure? It's a shame, because some of his material is not without it's own innocent charm. Maybe if he spent less time trying to market himself as a country star, embraced his outsider status and quit the bad-mouthing people might be a lot less inclined to hate him so much. Mind you, he detests Obama and supports the Tea Party, so maybe not.

I am indebted to an anonymous benefactor for introducing me to the rather strange Mr Skelton; now you take him! Here’s Fat No More from his latest album, Meade Music and, from his earlier release They Can’t Keep Me Down, the track They Called Me Porker


Friday, 16 November 2012

Full Service, Love!

I am indebted to a regular reader of The World’s Worst Records, who has asked to remain anonymous, for pointing me in the direction of today’s performer – Amy Beth Parravano – and her album Full Service Love.

Although Full Service Love is an album of Amy Beth’s originals she’s better known as one of the world’s very few female Elvis impersonators: she cheekily markets herself as Elvis’ Lil’ Sister although, to the best of my knowledge, Elvis’ beloved mother Gladys didn’t have an affair with anyone called Parravano. In character she's performed worldwide at Elvis fan festivals and, judging by the cover of this album, makes a pretty mean Ms Elvis.

Her biography reads like a who’s who of Nashville: she’s worked with Kris Kristofferson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Rodriquez and Joey Welz (of Bill Haley and his Comets); she has performed all across the United States and internationally, has recorded ten albums and produces and hosts her own television show "Amy Beth Presents". A fan of 50s music, especially Elvis, in the 80's she started her own record label, Peridot Records, and began releasing her original material. She claims to have had had a national chart record with her song North Hampton Line (although nothing appears on the Billboard charts), which resulted in her signing to Caprice Records where she ‘had a string of chart records on the US and overseas’ – which again I can find no evidence for. Her official biography also claims that Amy Bath was ‘inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame’: the official list of the 380 or so inductees so far fails to include her name. It appears that Amy Beth (or AmyBeth as she is credited when not doing her Elvis schtick) likes to be a bit fast and loose when it comes to the truth, or at least her Elvis’ Lil’ Sister persona does.

In her ‘real’ life AmyBeth is a married woman of 60 with two fully grown children and is currently a pianist at the Roger Williams Park Carousel in Providence, Rhode Island. You can catch her there every Saturday, from 2pm to 4pm, where she plays ragtime piano, nickelodeon style, dressed in a sequined waistcoat and top hat. She’s appeared as an extra in a number of movies, including Underdog, 27 Dresses and Hachiko, and even has her own local access cable TV show, the aforementioned “AmyBeth Presents”. She’s written a horror film, Broom Ride to Salem, which was screened as part of the Rhode Island International Horror Film Festival, and has auditioned for American’s Got Talent, dressed as one of her other characters Amy the Mime and singing the Mamas and the Papas song Dream a Little Dream of Me, although quite how a mime is supposed to sing I don't rightly know. Still, she’s certainly a busy lady and, by all accounts, quite a character.

Anyway, for your enjoyment here’s the painful Hero For the 90s, from Amy Beth’s 2008 album Full Service Love.

Friday, 9 November 2012

No Matter

Opening up my email inbox this morning I encountered a press release from ‘Britain’s favourite astrologer’ Russell Grant…some nonsense about how the stars predict success or failure for skiving MP Nadine Dorries and the rest of the Z-list celebs featured in this year’s I’m A Nonentity Get Me Out Of Here. It couldn’t have come at a better moment, for it spurred me into digging this horror out for you.

For you see, back in 1983 the man best known for predicting the future on various breakfast TV shows during the 80s and 90s released this monstrosity, a cover of the Supremes’ No Matter What Sign You Are. Bedecked in a terrible sleeve that featured the pudgy astrologer squeezed into a spandex body suit, this awful dirge actually reached the charts, peaking at number 87!

I’ve got a bit of a grudging admiration for Russell: he always seems game enough to take the piss out of himself when needed; he’s had a successful relationship with his partner Doug for 40 years, has lost a shed load of weight (something I’ve failed miserably to do) and he’s battled severe depression and come out the other side to tell the tale. Still, he did make this piece of rubbish, so it's not all good.

Although people of a certain age (that’s me included) will remember him for camping it up on the TV-am and BBC Breakfast Time sofas, over the last decade he’s forged a new career for himself, appearing on every ‘reality’ TV show imaginable: Celebrity Fit Club, Kitchen Burnout, Five Go to..., Strictly Come Dancing and so on. I thought he’d been in the Aussie outback for I’m A Celebrity but it seems not; in fact in 2011 he told The People newspaper: “It’s not about aggrandisement. I’ve turned down I’m a Celebrity about four times and Big Brother about three. I’m not someone who really cares about celebrity.” Really?

I’ve no doubt he’ll be popping up again somewhere soon, but until then – enjoy!


Friday, 2 November 2012

Two Sides from Mrs Slydes

A serious rarity for you all today from the doyenne of bad singers, Leona Anderson.

Now, I’ve written about Leona before but it’s worth a recap, especially as I’ve unearthed a few more details about this extraordinary woman, proudly proclaimed by her own publicity as ‘the World's Most Horrible Singer’.

Born in 1885, Leona Aronson was the younger sister of early cowboy movie star Broncho Billy (not his wife, as stated elsewhere) and began her showbiz career at 15. She seriously thought about a career as an operatic singer before appearing in a number of films - thankfully all silent - in the first two decades of the century. One - Mud and Sand - satirised Rudolph Valentino and starred the great Stan Laurel (as Rhubarb Vaseline, not Vaselino as I originally wrote; Leona played Filet de Sole), another (In the Park, 1915) starred Charlie Chaplin and a third (Broncho Billy's Mexican Wife) was directed by and starred her brother.

By the mid-1950s Leona had developed her unique singing style and made many cabaret appearances sending up opera singers: she once said she chose this career because “Opera singers just can't kid themselves properly; they never can let their voices go.” She recorded a single, Fish, a 78 rpm released by the small New York City label Horrible Records (motto: if it’s really a Horrible Record it’s bound to be a hit) credited as Leonna Anderson which, the label on the disc claims, was recorded in the Holland Tunnel. TV comic Ernie Kovacs heard it and invited her on his show. That appearance led to her recording a cover of the Pattie Page hit The Mama Doll Song (backed with I’m A Fool to Care) for Columbia – of which Billboard wrote ‘her cracked tones, sadly out of tune (have) the same macabre appeal as the miserable chirping of Florence Foster Jenkins’. Both sides of her second (and last) 45 for Columbia, Limburger Lover and Yo-Ho the Crow, later turned up on her RKO/Unique Records album Music to Suffer By. (UPDATE: Leona re-recorded the tracks for the album: the cuts on the 45 are markedly different.)

A short piece on Leona which appeared in the July 1957 edition of Song Hits magazine tells us a little more about how the great lady started her recording career: ‘Leona bills herself as "the world's worst singer", although there are people who have different opinions. Leona says that an artist mustn't expect complete objectivity from everyone - there will always be those who will not appreciate her act.

‘Miss Anderson was discovered by Tom Murray and Tony Burrello, who felt that since the world was apparently interested in buying terrible records, they would help meet the demand. They organized Horrible Records, signed their songs to the Miserable Music Company and released them through Terrible Distributors.

‘She was stolen from Horrible Records by Columbia, who had her satirize other record companies' artists, with sides like "I'm a Fool to Care" and "Mama Doll". Leona wanted to do a recording based on one of Columbia's big hits, but for some reason they said no. Stanley Borden, of RKO-Unique Records, knowing how effective Leona is, signed her to record for them. They have just issued her first album, "Music to Suffer By" (or "The Worst of Leona Anderson"!).’

Shortly after the release of her only album, she appeared in the Vincent Price horror film The House on Haunted Hill (as the demonic Mrs Slydes). She died, on Christmas day 1973, in a retirement home in Fremont, Alameda County, California at the age of 88, a little less than three years after her brother.

Music to Suffer By is well-known and readily available; her first recording, Fish, turns up from time to time on compilations but, to the best of my knowledge, her Columbia debut is currently unavailable. So here, in all its glory, are both sides of that first Columbia 45: The Mama Doll Song and I’m a Fool to Care. Enjoy!

UPDATE: You can read more about Leona - and her amazing career - in The World's Worst Records Volume One.

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