Friday, 27 December 2019

Rodd and Friends

Happy almost New Year, my friends.

A couple of tracks from song-poem sensation Rodd Keith for you today, in fact, both sides of a Preview 45 from late 1967, Nobody Knows What Love Will Do (written by Lon Streator), and Friends Are Few, from Eleanora Smalls. Our friend Bob Purse did blog this disc six years ago, but those links are currently inactive so, for now, this is (I believe) the only place you can find them.

Nobody Knows What Love Will Do is easily the better of the two tracks, Rodd and his band have spent some time working on this, and the result is a pretty decent swing number. Sadly the same cannot be said of the flip side, Friends Are Few, a dull little song with ridiculous lyrics that is only just raised from the level of the mundane by Rodd’s delivery. 

The female backing singer on Friends Are Few is unnamed, but I’d guess that it’s Nita Thomas (also known as Neda Carr and Nita Craig), who Rodd worked with a fair bit around the same time as this was recorded: it doesn’t sound like Bonnie Graham, his other regular collaborator, but I could be wrong. Unfortunately Preview chose not to credit her, and it’s always hard distinguishing who is who, as so many of the musicians at Preview worked under a variety of different names while they were at the company. Rodd, for example, worked as Rodd Keith, Rood Keith, Dan Monday, Ken Roberts, Milford Perkins (although the Milford Perkins that sang Duck Egg Walk is clearly a different singer) and so on. 

I can tell you nothing about Lon Streator, as far as I am aware he did not submit any other compositions to song-poem outfits, and I can find no other copyright entry for him. However, Eleanora Smalls was a habitual miscreant, writing the words to the songs Like God We Should Try To Be and Nobody Walks Alone, which she submitted to Lew Tobin’s Sterling company in 1965. I cannot tell you if they were recorded, but both songs were copyrighted (with music by Tobin), in March of that year, and there’s a very good chance they at least made it as far as the demo/acetate stage. Eleanora had another song recorded by Rodd for Preview, Mother’s Room, issued shortly before this particular disc and probably submitted at the same time.

Anyway,  enjoy these and I’ll see you all in the New Year!

Download Nobody HERE

Download Friends HERE

Friday, 20 December 2019

Christmas Cavalcade 2019 Part Three

T’was the night before Christmas… well, the Friday before, anyway. And here, for the final time this year, is another assortment of festive foolishness for you. I’ve raided my own song-poem collection for you today, and as far as I am aware none of these tracks are currently available elsewhere on the net, so enjoy!

First up, both sides of a Chapel Recording Company 45, two songs written by Katherine Dills of East Rutherford, New Jersey. Chapel, if you didn’t already know, was an imprint of Ted Rosen’s Halmark song-poem outfit – something that becomes abundantly clear the second one hears the A-side of this ridiculous record. The music bed is exactly the same one as used for countless other Halmark releases, and the voice is clearly Mary Kimmel, Halmark’s go-to female singer.

Mary’s stentorian delivery and the ridiculously overblown backing beautifully enhance the stupidity of Ms. Dills’ daft lyrics. I’m still trying to work out who the ‘friend’ is that she’s buying My Christmas Poinsettia for. Judging by the coda, that poor plant has a rather long journey ahead. Flip side My Christmas Day Prayer is even better. A rare song bed is used this time, in fact I cannot immediately call it to mind (although I’m positive I have heard it before), but any song-poem that not only starts with a spoken intro but breaks off for a spoken-word bridge too, is a winner in my books.

Next, from the Hollywood Artists Record Co., is Stephanie Allen and Poor Little Christmas Tree. Composed by Edward E. Regina and S. Mravik, like the vast majority of song-poem discs this carries no publication or copyright date, but judging by the quality of the pressing I’d pitch it at mid-80s.

Finally for today, both sides of a 45 issued by Vanity Records in Jo Ann Lear’s (A Child’s Lament) Leave My Toys Alone and Let’s Have A Happy New Year. Vanity is an interesting label, and over the years I’ve managed to procure several of their releases for my collection. It was not a straight song-poem company, although several of their discs definitely fall into that category, and this particular one appears to be a bit of a hybrid.

Vanity Records was more a custom producer that a straight song-poem outfit, used by established songwriters to produce top-quality demos in an effort to find new takers for their material, or by people who wanted a professional-sounding product that they could then distribute in whatever way they wanted. They also had their own distribution arm, and many of their discs were advertised in the pages of Billboard. The A-side of this particular disc was co-written by pianist Jack Betzner, who wrote the tunes for a number of minor hits in the 1940s but whose career was in the doldrums by the time this particular cut was issued, which I believe was around 1958. 

He worked with lyricist Tommy Schifanella on a number of songs, including You’ll Never Hurt Me That Way in 1951, (A Child’s Lament) Leave My Toys Alone, and the pair were still collaborating as late as 1970 with I’m Wealthy (This Is Like Money In The Bank). The flip side, Let’s Have A Happy New Year, was penned by the otherwise unknown Sal Maldonato. Singer Jo Ann Lear performed for a number of small record companies, including Nicholas Gilio’s Gira (What Would I Do/Tell the World I Love You, 1953), and the rather wonderfully-monikered Startime Sound Of Beauty in 1965.

And that’s your lot. Have a fantastic Christmas, and I’ll see you soon!

Download Poinsettia HERE

Download Prayer HERE

Download Tree HERE

Download Toys HERE

Download New Year HERE

Friday, 13 December 2019

Christmas Cavalcade 2019 Part Two

 Happy Friday my friends, and welcome to the second of three Christmas collections for 2019: another four tracks of festive foolishness just for you.

First up is a brace of tracks from the brilliant William Shatner, his eccentric re-reading of the classics The Little Drummer Boy and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer from his Christmas collection Shatner Claus. 

Issued just before Christmas 2018, Shatner Claus features Bill alongside a bunch of heavy friends, including Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, Todd Rundgren, Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins and Rick Wakeman. The Little Drummer Boy features blues guitarist Joe Louis walker, and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer includes a guest appearance from Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, It’s insane and quite, quite marvellous.

What can you follow Shatner with? How about Elvis’s backing singers the Jordanaires, here with Linn and Linda (and Millie, don’t forget Millie) and the truly miserable The Christmas Orphan. My goodness, a record that makes Red Sovine sound cheerful. 

Incidentally, the Millie in question is Millie Kirkham, who also appeared with the Jordanaires on Elvis’s Blue Christmas. Composed by polka king Del Sinchak, who recorded the tune himself in 1953, this recording hails from – I believe – 1958: Sinchack only registered copyright in the lyric in December 1957.

We’ll finish today with US TV host Regis Philbin and his version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, from his 2005 collection The Regis Philbin Christmas Album. On this track Regis is joined by a friend, host of the US version of the Apprentice and soon-to be leader of the free world, Donald Trump. Needless to say, it ain’t pretty.


Download Drummer HERE

Download Shatner’s Rudolph HERE

Download Orphan HERE

Download Regis’s Rudolph HERE

Friday, 6 December 2019

Christmas Cavalcade 2019 Part One

Every year this gets a little bit harder. Every December since 2009 I’ve tried to bring you a cornucopia of Christmas-themed crapness, in an annual Christmas Cavalcade of terrible records. After a decade of dodgy discs, you would think I would have run out of new material to bring you.

But oh no… or oh ho!Ho!ho! no, if you prefer.

It just means that each year I have to trawl though my previous posts to ensure I’m not repeating myself: that’s what takes the time. For example, I had intended to post Red Sovine’s Here It Is, Christmas, but I blogged that back in 2017. Never mind: over the next few weeks I’ll be featuring a handful of Christmas clunkers I know I have not blogged before.

First up we have four tracks from Mae West, Hollywood royalty and naughty ne’er-do-well of yore, and her only Christmas album, Wild Christmas. Issued in 1966 on the tiny Dagonet label, just a few short months after Mae had released her major-label rock ‘n’ roll album Way Out West. Way Out West had been a minor hit, peaking at 116 on the Billboard album chart, so you might assume that Tower (an imprint of Capitol) only had her under contract for the one record: it makes no sense to let her go, especially in light of the success their parent company was having with Mrs Miller. Until you do a little digging that is.

Dagonet was a TV production company: their spin-off record label issued very few discs, but an act signed to the company, variously known as The Chyldren and Somebody’s Chyldren, provide the uncredited backing for Ms West on Wild Christmas. Most Dagonet releases were produced by David Mallet. Mallet also produced Way Out West, and Mae’s backing band on that album was Somebody’s Chyldren. You see, it all adds up now. My assumption is that the tracks for both albums were recorded during the same sessions, but Tower declined to issue a Christmas album because it was too soon after Way Out West (which had been issued in July) or, more likely, that there was not enough material to produce a viable album.

Wild Christmas is a weird little album, just eight tracks and clocking in at 20 minutes, although it did spawn a single, Quint Benedetti's Put The Loot In the Boot Santa, which was backed by a cover of the Beatles’ From Me To You, listed on both the album and 45 as With Love From Me To You. The album was reissued, with a rejigged track listing, as Mae In December for the anthology The Fabulous Mae West.

From Wild Christmas here’s Put The Loot In the Boot Santa, Santa Baby, Merry Christmas Baby and, as a bonus, Santa, Come Up And See Me, which I did feature on the blog back in 2012 but that link is now dead. As Ms West once said, ‘My left leg is Christmas and my right leg is New Year’s. Why don't you visit me between the holidays?’


Download Loot HERE

Download Santa HERE

Download Merry HERE

Download Come UP HERE

Friday, 29 November 2019

Dismal Diana

Today’s terrible tune comes from the pen of one Eric Paul Smith, an architect from Audenshaw, Manchester who woke up one day in 1981 and – inspired by the recent news of their engagement - decided to write a waltz to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of Charles, Prince of Wales and his fiancée, Lady Diana Spencer.

Up until this point Eric had, as far as I am aware, no previous experience in the recording industry, but that didn’t stop him. Not only did he write the song, a miserable little ditty entitled My Lady Diana, he also funded the entire operation, setting up his own EPS label to market and distribute the disc.

Eric even went as far as to send a copy to the Prince and soon-to-be Princess at Buckingham Palace, receiving a nice letter back from Charles’s office telling him that ‘his Royal Highness much appreciates your kind thought in composing and sending this gift’ and thanking him ‘most warmly’.

With vocals by club singer Lynn Bryan, due in part to Eric’s lack of experience the record sank without a trace. Sad, because according to his local newspaper, Eric had hoped that ‘it would be a hit,’ and that ‘it would be a real honour if it were played for the waltz to start off the Royal Wedding ball.’ Still, he was in good company: there is a plethora of Diana-inspired discs out there. All are terrible and (almost) all were quickly consigned to the bargain bins.

Sadly, Eric’s muse only lasted for the one song: the b-side to the single is an instrumental version of the same tune, with Ms. Bryan’s tepid vocals replaced by a nasty synth wash. Still, I had to listen to both sides, so you can too!


Download Diana HERE

Download Instrumental HERE

Friday, 22 November 2019

Hallmark Halmark

Just a short blog today, partly because I am away from home currently but also because I wanted to get another couple in before we begin our annual Christmas Cavalcade. But mostly because I am staying in a Hallmark Hotel.

Today’s disc is something a bit special, all four tracks from a mid-to-late-period EP from the Halmark song-poem studio. Well, I had assumed that, it’s impossible to tell for sure, but a little research shows that the disc was minted around 1973, so that would be right. Plus a couple of the music beds utilised on this particular release from Ted Rosen’s song-poem company are among the more rare of their regular accompaniments. I certainly cannot immediately recall having heard the tune used behind the astounding The Suffering of a Serviceman’s Wife or opening track Honeymoon On The Moon before.

Those two cuts are the standout tracks on this EP, both sung by Halmark staffer Mary Kimmell. My friend Bob Purse had previously blogged this, and as he rightly noted all four tracks are credited to Bob Storm on the disc’s label, despite two of them clearly being sung by a woman. The other two, much more pedestrian cuts – the wonderfully-titled Trench Coat, Umbrella and Boots and the eminently forgettable Unapproachable – do indeed come from Halmark’s regular male solo vocalist Bob Storm. Those last two songs were both copywrited by “arranger” Jerry Dee in 1973... the cheeky beggar: the arrangements for these and pretty much every disc ever issued by Halmark (and subsidiary labels Chapel and Grand) cam straight of an open reel of ½ inch tape. Anyway, at least it helps us date the disc.

The tune used on the final cut on the EP, The Suffering of a Serviceman’s Wife sounds like it could have been written for a third-rate James Bond rip-off, but the 60s spy flick ambience is a little at odds with the lyrics, which tell the harrowing tale of a (rather selfish, if you ask me) young woman bemoaning her lot now that hubby is back from Vietnam, somewhat the worse for wear. My mind boggles at why she would chose to call him ‘half a man’, the thoughtless trollop, but maybe he lost something fundamental to her happiness overseas.

These particular cuts come from my own copy of the EP. I’ve given it a bit of a clean up and I hope it isn’t too crackly for you!


Download side one HERE

Download side two HERE


Monday, 18 November 2019

Mad Charles

What can I tell you about Mad Charles, the world’s first karate robot, or the man behind it/him, Eugene G. Viscione?

In 1975 Eugene Viscione, under the name “UGE” (eUGEne, geddit?) released a single dedicated to the amazing Mad Charles. The incredible psychedelic fuzz guitar work can’t hide the fact that Mad Charles is a ridiculously silly record.

Viscione was a barber from New Jersey who began writing songs in 1957. He also fancied himself as an inventor, and Mad Charles was one of his many creations.

Charles himself even appeared on the disc’s label. The record was issued twice, first with Mad Charles Love Theme on the flip, which was later replaced with the oddly-titled Sophie the Polish Chicken Hen, a song Eugene had written back in 1970. Mad Charles Love Theme features the lovelorn Charles singing to his girlfriend, Charlene, and can be seen in Part Two of the video (below).

Viscione was an odd duck. Working since the early 1960s, he had made a series of recordings for the Cleopatra label, including the ridiculously overwrought Parting Kiss, before setting up his own WGW Records (which issued Mad Charles) and, in the 1980s, Viscione Records, releasing a series of singles as Eugene (often with added parentheses for dramatic effect), but also producing and/or providing songs for a roster that included The Werps, D. Spade and Co., and Keep Off the Grass as Geno Viscione. My personal favourite is a single Eugene issued in 1989 called Hubert, the Fat Elf. Eugene shot his own ‘holiday special’ to accompany that particular release, using his kids as actors and including 10 self-composed songs. The show aired on local cable channel C-Tec in 1990.

Eugene Viscione, who at one point had his own recording studio situated in the Rustic Mall in Manville, New Jersey, which shared space with his barber shop, died in September 2009, aged 75 having enjoyed a 56-year long marriage to his devoted wife, Mary. Luckily for us he left behind an amazing body of work, much of which has been collected by the Numero Group, and issued as Fresh Cuts With Eugene Viscione. Sadly, the collection does not include Viscione’s tribute to his favourite president, his 1982 composition The Reagan March.

Sadly, I do not possess a copy of either pressing of the single, although one is winging its way towards me as I type. I shall update the sound files when it arrives, but for now i am now the proud owner of a copy of this wonderful oddity, so here for your delectation are both sides of the first version of the disc, Mad Charles and Mad Charles Love Theme, along with the earlier-mentioned Parting Kiss.

If you want to see Mad Charles - and Eugene - in action, here is the instructional video: Mr Viscione is the man in the colourful shirt and football helmet. Those of a nervous or overly Politically Correct disposition should probably avoid Part Two, which features ad-hoc promotional videos for both sides of the single, but includes some horribly racist and outdated depictions of Asians (and female robots).


Download Charles HERE

Download Theme HERE

Download Kiss HERE

UPDATE: Following a lead from Bob (see below), I managed to track down the original Mad Charles press release from 1973. Here it is, warts and all:

Mad Charles ™ Helps in the following areas:
  • Self-defense
  • Recreation
  • Karate
  • Training
  • Exercise
  • Boxing

Defense enterprises, incorporated is introducing the most Advanced model of patented automated exercise, recreation and training machine. Each machine is custom built with the users safety and a product with life long durability as foremost concerns, Mad Charles ™ enables anyone from the novice karate student (or person just wanting to learn how to defend themself) up to the black-belt karate expert. Mad Charles can help develop general reaction time by speeding up the attacking limbs. Each limb can operate (chop- vertically or horizontally)  independently of one another for greater reaction development. Mad Charles ™ simulates an attacker, where the student must block the oncoming, moving limb and physically hit one of the built-in targets as hard or soft as you desire.

If you have an established course in self-defense or karate, or are thinking of starting one, Mad Charles ™ is indispensable for student exercise, recreation and training.  Mad Charles is a great addition to you're karate school.

Mad Charles ™ is a Registered Trademark. 1973

Friday, 8 November 2019

Beyond the Pale

In twelve years, and in over 540 posts (this is, in fact, blog post 543) how on earth (pun intended) have I managed to ignore writing about the Christian Astronauts, otherwise known as the Shoup family from Fremont, Ohio, and their one classic album Beyond the Blue

I did include them in a write-up on Christian music in The World’s Worst Records Volume One, but for those who have not read the book yet, let me introduce you to one of the weirdest and most wonderful records this side of Into Outer Space with Lucia Pamela.

This delightfully amateur outer space epic first appeared in 1971. Dean Shoup (referred to on the album’s liner notes and throughout their 10-year career as Captain Shoup), like Marcy Tigner, was a self-taught ventriloquist who realised that America's fascination with space travel could provide him with a platform for spreading the gospel.

Advertising himself as “one of the world’s leading ventriloquists” and as a “gospel magician” (whatever that may be), Dean and his family toured America and filmed more than 300 episodes of a cable-TV children's ministry programme, also called Beyond the Blue, which was broadcast in the Washington state area. The cast included his wife Connie (a.k.a. Sister Shoup), kids Rick and Michelle (also known as Shelly), Jerry (a shrill-voiced ventriloquist’s dummy) and his grandmother, and starred a seven-foot tall robot, Loosenut, apparently fashioned from cardboard boxes and tin foil but which came equipped with flashing eyes and moving arms and who sounded, unsurprisingly, exactly like the good captain. In 1972, after the album was released, the family would be joined by their third and last child, son Brent. sadly I have been unable to find any footage of the TV show... but I'm sure it's out there somewhere.
The brilliance of Beyond The Blue lies, in part, to the obvious lack of money spent on the project: Captain Shoup provides all of the sound effects as well as the voices for the non-human members of the ship’s crew and the album’s narrative content, while Sister Shoup’s whole raison d’etre seems to be to chirrup through a handful of hymns.

According to the sleeve notes: “Capt. Shoup is in the pilot seat and Loosenut is the co-pilot. Lt. Green is sitting at the computer giving us assistance in helping us to stay on course, using the Bible for the flight manual”. It’s childish, cheap and utterly charming: Captain Shoup’s stumbling delivery only adding to the album’s appeal.

Despite the Christian Astronauts delivering their last earthly sermon in 1981, it’s my hope that the Shoups, Jimmy, Granny and Loosenut are still out there preaching the good word in a galaxy far, far away. Originally issued by Gospel Empire Records, the album received a limited reissue, on CDR, from outsider music specialists Companion Records a few years ago, fully endorsed by Captain Shoup himself. Sadly, this has now sold out, but you can hear a couple of tracks here, My Heart Is Reserved (sung by Rick) and I’ll Never Be The Same (sung by Michelle).


Download Heart HERE

Download Never HERE

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Thirteen Minus Two

 Inspired by a recent comment on this here very blog, I have just purchased a copy of the rather splendid Eleven Plus Two by brother and sister act the Twintones. And I’m so glad that I did.

Issued by Cornish independent Summit Records in 1974, Eleven Plus Two houses the entire (as far as I am aware, anyway) recorded output of The Twintones. It’s a name oft employed by bands, but this particular act consisted of twins Kay and Gary Tucker, who hailed from the village of Nanpean, approximately 4 miles north-west of St Austell.

It’s a fun little record, and for pre-teens – the album was recorded when they were just eleven-years-old - these kids are really quite accomplished. Kay played keyboards and Gary drummed, although the duo also dabbled in other instruments, as can be heard on their recording of Remember You're A Womble, where Kay also plays trombone and Gary plays euphonium.

The album features an odd mix of family-friendly standards, from recent chart hits including Popcorn and Y Viva España (rendered “Eviva Espana” on the sleeve) to a rousing rendition of the Dambusters March and Ode To Joy. Still, you have to admit, the noise of heels clipping across the floor on These Boots Were Made for Walking (the addition of a 'g' at the end of walkin' is all-important) is inspired, and the duo almost manage to keep time to it. “This engineer, Alan, brought in a plank of wood and wore cowboy boots, and walked in the same rhythm as the piece, to embellish what we were doing,”* Kay explains.

Banana Rock, although mentioned in the sleeve notes and sandwiched on side two of the album between Ode To Joy and Melody Waltz (a tune composed by Kay herself), isn’t credited nor included in the track listing. A shame, as it’s the duos only vocal. It’s the second tip of the hat on the LP to the then-hugely popular kids’ TV show (and earlier book series) The Wombles, and to Mike Batt’s musical group of the same name. Coincidentally, the two tracks recorded by the Twintones bookended the album Remember You're A Womble, issued in the same year as Eleven Plus Two. Banana Rock provided the Wombles with their third consecutive Top ten single in June 1974.

Sadly, everything about the packaging and marketing of this is half-arsed. The cover photo appears to be a blow up of a dimly-lit Polaroid, and Gary was none too impressed with the result: “The sleeve looked very dull to me, for two youngsters. They just used a flash camera, and it was all brown around the outside. They didn't do any location shooting – it was in the studio, they took the camera. We could have gone out on the cliffs and done a lot more to make it a bit brighter – not two children stuck in this dark hole,”* he said, many years later. The endorsement on the reverse of the sleeve from “international star” Dick Emery amounts to little more than an admission that he once met the siblings, although apparently he was impressed enough to invite them on stage with him for the last night of his residency at the “Talk Of the West”, the rather grand-sounding club within the Perran View Holiday Park.

And why the nonsensical title for the album? Surely Eleven Times Two would have made more sense: the twins were both eleven at the time of recording, after all. Unless, of course, it’s a pun on the Eleven Plus exam that kids moving from juniors into secondary school sat in those days. Apparently, the title came about because, according to Kay, “We started recording the album when we were 11, but thanks to a strike somewhere in the chain it took two years for the record to come out. When we asked what we should call the record, Job Morris [co-owner of Sentinel Records] said: ‘Well, 11 plus 2’. It was a reference to the exam, and the fact we were now 13.”* It's a shame because these kids were clearly talented.

There would be no further records from the Twintones, although Kay did release a solo cassette, Kay Plays Technics which Gary recorded at home and which was issued, again by Sentinel, to sell at gigs.

The Twintones career petered out as the twins grew up, and the demand for live acts of their type diminished, although in 2013 the pair reformed for a charity show in support of Cornish cancer support charity Tanya’s Courage Trust.

Anyway, here are a couple of stand out tracks from Eleven Plus Two: These Boots Were Made for Walking and Banana Rock. Enjoy!

Download Walking HERE

Download Banana HERE

*The quotes in this from Kay and Gary come from an interview conducted by journalist and stand-up comedian Dave Waller, and first appeared on the Sentinel Records blog in 2014 

Friday, 25 October 2019

Bum Deal

Pat Campbell’s album, Just a Quiet Conversation, is everything a bad music enthusiast could hope for. Overwrought narration with folksy, clip-cloppy Country and a good dose of God-bothering on the side. Just a Quiet Conversation would spawn the classic single The Deal, which almost made the UK Top 30 and has the honour of sitting alongside Red Sovine’s Teddy Bear in the Kenny Everette-curated pantheon of bad records.

it’s Epic: an absolute masterpiece.

Pat Campbell had been a member of the '50s Irish harmony group The Four Ramblers, together with a young Val Doonican. While Doonican left for solo stardom, the group continued for a short while, releasing one 10” album, The Emerald Isle, and a couple of singles before Pat gravitated to the industry side of the music business, first as a DJ for Radio Luxembourg (he’s there, presenting his own Late, Late Show in 1959) before becoming involved in label management.

After a stint working for Decca, where he oversaw the licensing and release of many of the post-mortem Jim Reeves albums and singles (Reeves label, RCA, was a subsidiary of Decca before setting up their stand-alone UK operation), by 1968 Pat was working for Phil Solomon’s Major-Minor Records, an Irish record label based in north London that licensed a lot of its material from abroad: we’ve already featured such horrors as the Equipe 84 single Auschwitz and Freddie “Parrotface” Davies’ Cynthia Crisp. While at Major-Minor, Pat had recorded a couple of vocals for label mate Mike Mercardo, a keyboard player known as 'The Swinging Monk', for his album The Power and The Glory.

The Irish have always had a soft spot for Country & Western music, and one of the artists Major-Minor was interested in was our old friend Red Sovine. Major-Minor do not appear to have released any of Old Red’s albums here in the UK (he was licensed to London for much of this period) although they may have had a hand in promoting some concerts. Pat, it seems, became very enamoured of Red’s storytelling style… which is where the inspiration for Just a Quiet Conversation comes from.

Referencing his regular C&W slot on Radio Luxembourg, the album’s sleeve notes wax lyrically about his credentials: “Pat Campbell was born in Ireland, but it might just as well have been Nashville. He's been there many times and he's welcomed as a friend by the biggest names in the world of country music. On each visit he brings a little piece of Nashville home with him, but also leaves a little of Pat Campbell there in return.” However, Pat’s recitations are more Terry Wogan than truck driving man. Still, The Deal, the first of two singles issued from Just A Quiet Conversation managed to spend five weeks on the UK singles chart, peaking at a respectable number 31 shortly before Christmas 1969.

After his brief shot at pop chart immortality, Pat returned to spinning discs for a living, rather than making them himself, eventually working as a DJ for Radio Two, where he presented a show called Country Style. 

Sadly, Pat passed away in 2006. His family and friends remember him as a happy man who was always pulling practical jokes. Perhaps Just A Quiet Conversation was one of those. I’m sure he’d appreciate just how much fun people are still having, listening to his album half a century after it was recorded.

Here are a couple of tracks for you: Pat’s cover of Red Sovine’s Giddy Up Go and his hit single, The Deal. If you like this you can find the entire album, plus the two Swinging Monk tracks, at WFMU.


Download Giddy HERE

Download Deal HERE

Friday, 18 October 2019

Shake Me, I Prattle

Little Beverley Bunt, from the village of Indian Queens in Cornwall, was just seven years old when she recorded her first - and so far only – EP for His Master’s Voice back in 1959. 

According to the sleeve notes, even at that young age Bev was already something of a veteran, having won several singing competitions including the Junior Vocal Championship of Cornwall.

Arranged and conducted by Ron Goodwin, the four songs on this release are just lovely: The Queen’s Highway attempts to teach children how to cross the road safely, and predates the Tufty Club and the Green Cross Code Man by years. Open Up Your Heart has also been recorded, notably by Little Marcy, as Let The Sunshine In

Me And My Teddy Bear had been recorded by dozens of artists before, including a pre-Little Marcy Marcy Tigner, on her one-off EP for Angelus, which I featured on this very blog back in 2013. My Choc’late Rabbit, credited on the disc as having been written by a gentleman by the name of Pascal Marks was, in fact, co-written by American songwriters Gerald Marks, the author of All Of Me and Milton Pascal. The song had previously been recorded by Rosemary Clooney in 1950, the year before she hit the big time with Come On-a My House

Bev did not release a record under her own name again, although she did pop up in 1968 in the regional heats of a Miss Cornwall competition, and she also appears to have done some session work at Roche Studios in Cornwall in the late 1970s.

The name Indian Queens, incidentally, seems to have come from an 18th Century public house and rather than Pocahontas or Queen Victoria, the one-time Empress of India.

Here are all four tracks from this charming little release. Enjoy!

Download Teddy HERE

Download Heart HERE

Download Rabbit HERE

Download Highway HERE

Friday, 11 October 2019

It's The Jesmonds

Love Is All, the only EP release from lounge act the Jesmonds, comes from the same label that brought you the wonderful Joanne Duo, Eron.  

Issued in 1980 “to satisfy the demands of their innumerable fans” (it says here), the Jesmonds were another woeful cabaret trio made up of brothers Kevin (keyboards) and Andy Hyde (drums) who, according to the sleeve notes, “had played together for about five years and won outright at an 'Opportunity Knocks' show and later, at a Butlins talent competition.” In September 1979 they took on vocalist Roy, who the brothers at another Opportunity Knocks show (my assumption is that these were regional talent shows, rather than the TV version), where Roy and the brothers tied for first place.

Managed by the brothers’ father John Hyde, by the time they came to record their EP they were “one of the most popular acts in Kent at hotels, clubs and at dinners,” apparently. that’s something I find hard to accept, although having listened to most of the Joanne Duo’s output it’s fairly obvious what passed for entertainment in the hotels and social clubs of Kent in the late 70s and early 80s. there’s very little (read: no) information about the trio online, although according to the sleeve notes their act was full of “energy and dynamism” as well as showcasing their “excellent visual presentation and their likeable personalities.”

I’ve found a listing for the trio playing a summer season at Romney Sands Holiday Park in 1983, but that’s all I’ve got, I’m afraid. The usual shout out for anyone who may have more information about the band, but until then here are a couple of tracks from the EP: Cracklin’ Rosie and Love Is In The Air.


Download Love HERE

Download Rosie HERE

 Thanks to Conrad Zimmer for the info!

Friday, 4 October 2019

Wheely Great

Not much is known about the two young men behind the insanely rare Wheelz of Steel Volume One, brothers Raymond and Richard Markowski of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. But what follows is what I been able to glean so far.

Born in 1961 and 1962 respectively, the brothers were born with Muscular Dystrophy, an inherited genetic condition that gradually causes the muscles to weaken, leading to an increasing level of disability. Unable to get around without assistance, the boys were not going to let their situation get the better of them, and with commendable good humour and a certain irony (and a nod, no doubt to British NWOBHM band Saxon), named their band Wheelz of Steel after the wheelchairs they were confined to.

Issued in 1983, the self-funded and self-released album features the brothers swapping guitar and bass duties, with vocals handled by Richard. Throughout they are accompanied by their trusty Roland drum machine, credited on the reverse of the sleeve as “T.R”. All eight songs were co-written by the boys themselves.   

It’s a dreadful record, but you have to admire their spirit. How many of us in a similar situation would have been able to write, perform on and release our own LP? Not only that, but they even performed live, entering into a local Battle of the Bands competition and winning. Admirable stuff.

Sadly, both of the Markowski brothers are no longer with us: Raymond passed away, aged just 32, in 1993. Richard died in September 2011 aged 49 after power was lost at the Milwaukee home he shared with his mother in an overnight windstorm, cutting off the electricity supply to his ventilator. Richard’s mother, Beverly, called 911 when his ventilator started to beep, but she told emergency personnel that she had backup batteries, so they left. She called 911 again shortly afterwards because her son was struggling, and the alarm was beeping again. He later died at a hospital. According to the county medical examiner’s report, Mrs. Markowski believed that the batteries had a longer life. A sad end to a short, but accomplished, life.

Have a listen to a couple of tracks from the brilliant Wheelz of Steel Volume One here: Outerspace Man and Mad Man. If you want more, the whole thing is available on YouTube,


Download Outerspace HERE

Download Mad HERE

Thursday, 19 September 2019

A Demo

Kenneth Higney’s absurd album Attic Demonstration, issued on his own Kebrutney Records in 1976, has gained a reputation as an outsider classic over the years.

The album was originally recorded to promote the former truck driver’s work as a songwriter, with Higney roping in friends Gordon Gaines (guitars, drums), John Duva (bass guitar), and Mark Volpe (guitar, percussion) to help fill out the sound. The collection of demos was never intended for commercial release,  however when none of Higney’s songs proved sellable he had a limited run of just 500 copies pressed, “because I figured it was easier than constantly making up cassette tapes to send out,” he explained in a 2011 interview for It’s Psychedelic Baby magazine.

One of those 500 discs found its way to the editors of Trouser Press, who called Higney’s work a “cross between Lou Reed and Neil Young without the aid of melody”. That’s a pretty accurate description, and although Higney was none too flattered, he did like the idea of his work being mentioned alongside such luminaries as Reed and Young. In 1980 he released a 7”, I Wanna Be The King/Funky Kinky, a tribute to New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders backed with a hideous stab at disco. The single, limited to just 1,000 copies, again featured Gaines and Volpe, plus John Lynch on bass. It’s a delightful mess.

After years in obscurity, occasionally issuing recordings by other artists through his Kebrutney label, Higney resurfaced in 2003, reissuing Attic Demonstration (or “A Demo”) as a limited run of 3,000 CD copies and adding the two sides of the single in for good measure. He followed that six years later with a new album, American Dirt. Many of the songs on the album were written around the same time as those on Attic Demonstration, which featured musicians such as Jack Pearson, formerly of The Allman Brothers Band. Two years later he issued his third album, Ambulance Driver: a collection of newer songs but still with one – Nonsense – from the Attic Demonstration days.

You can purchase all of Kenneth’s work via his own website,

Here are a couple of the standout tracks from Attic Demonstration, Quietly Leave Me and Night Rider, Higney’s song about the Ku Klux Klan.

Download Quietly HERE

Download Night HERE

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.


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…


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.


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.


Download Love HERE

Download Sunday HERE

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