CHUCK B.'s IN HEAVEN
It had to happen : Charles Edward Berry stopped rocking on March 18, 2017. Unanimity is de rigueur to give him a special place among the Top 10 Rock'n'Roll Pioneers.
All his Chess LPs should be part
of any self-respecting R'n'R collection.
I will elaborate later on that topic with a special page on him, but at this moment, I'd like to tease a little bit and put things into some kind of perspective, just to show that, well... you never can tell ! Chuck has definitely created some of the most recognizable, genre-defining guitar licks in the whole R'n'R story, there's no arguing about that.
One of my favorite instros by him though, was 'Blues For Hawaiians' on his awesome third Chess album, 'Berry Is On Top'. It's a stellar lesson in Blues playing because Chuck could really play the Blues, having passed through Muddy Waters's band when he arrived in Chicago in 1955. But in this particular track, however brilliant it may be, Chuck did not invent but rather copied note for note an old number from the late 40's by Floyd Smith, called 'Floyd's Guitar Blues'. This same tune had already been redone by Gene Phillips for the Modern label in the very early 50's, under the title 'Gene's Guitar Blues'. These guys were part of the St-Louis scene at the time, so Chuck had got the tune from there - and put his name on the credits ! But, precisely to his credit, he adapted the track to the guitar, whereas Smith and Phillips had played it on lap steel. Another sign of his talent.
'TIS SWEET TO BE REMEMBERED
Rock'n'Roll is as varied an art form as any other.
We saw it emerge with its distinctive blend of Hillbilly and Blues, grow by incorporating Pop components and later evolve towards Jazz, to ultimately become Rock.
Two different - but equally important - exponents
of Rock'n'Roll passed away this year (2016) and should both be remembered for their contribution to the music.
Joe Clay, a seminal Rockabilly singer, had only 4 tracks (out of 11, including outtakes !) released by Vik - a sub of RCA Victor - in 1956
but they remain definitive classics of the genre. They were cut at two sessions, one held at Houston's Gold Star studio (with the famous Starday house band on hand), while the other was held in New-York (with Mickey Baker & the usual crew). Six decades later, they still pack an energy and display a musicianship which make early R'n'R so unique and collectable.
Bobby Vee started in 1959 right after the death of his main idol and influence,
Buddy Holly. Contrary to common (read : stupid) belief, he was a real R'n'R lover and stayed true to his roots, even putting the Crickets back on the map in 1962, cutting a superb LP with The Ventures the following year as well as a marvelous tribute album to Buddy, going on to recognize early on the quality of the new British bands and later trying his hand rather successfully at a Beach Boys song, 'Here Today'. He was a star at a time when wild R'n'R had been tamed and big orchestras were taking more and more place in the studios. But he was good and sang some of the best songs of the era, often co-written by Carole King. He surely didn't deserve to be ridiculed by The Animals in their (otherwise fantastic !) 'Story Of Bo Diddley'. More collaborations with The Crickets happened throughout his long career, a testament of his loyalty to the music we love the most.
ROSES FOR REVOLVER
And it takes 50 of'em to celebrate the release of that other groundbreaking album of 1966 ! For many, it was Paul Mc Cartney's shining hour with such beauties as 'Eleanor Rigby', 'For No One', 'Got To Get You Into My Life' and 'Here, There & Everywhere' (plus his brilliant lead guitar soli in George's 'Taxman') but John's tracks like 'I'm Only Sleeping', 'Dr Robert', 'And Your Bird Can Sing' and 'She Said, She Said' were equally influential and... yes, addictive.
Don't be fooled by the apparent simplicity of 'Good Day Sunshine' - everyone knows that this LP was drenched with illegal substances but who cares ? Once again, the Fab 4 gave us reasons to believe for decades to come. Tomorrow never knows... yet.
THE GUITAR THAT CHANGED OUR WORLD IS GONE
The music world would never have been as thrilling without the advent of Rock'n'Roll, but Rock'n'Roll would never have been the same without Scotty Moore and his incendiary and imaginative guitar breaks. Always in the shadow of his Boss, he was nevertheless just as important and remains one of the most influential axemen ever. It's fair to say that the timeless quality of tracks like 'Baby Let's Play House', 'Mystery Train' or 'Hound Dog' results as much from Elvis's assured vocal as from Scotty's creative playing. He later cut a brilliant solo LP for Epic and became heavily involved in studio work - producing and mastering.
Scotty Moore (at left) passed away on June 28, 2016.
Thank you, Scotty, for the licks that still count.
AN ERA REBORN...
THE LEGENDARY LUTE LABEL IS BACK !
Well, it's been reactivated for one full year in fact, so it was high time I mentioned it here !
Lute Records was created in 1960 by noted bandleader, Frank Kavelin, and scored its biggest hit almost immediately with 'Alley-Oop', the Hollywood Argyles evergreen novelty which would be covered by artists as diverse as The Beach Boys and George Thorogood. But among the 3 or 4 dozens of '45s that Al Kavelin released on Lute and its affiliated labels like Trans-World, Marsh and Kammy throughout the 60's, lurks a plethora of superb Doo-Wop, early Soul and Girl Group sounds.
Al's son, Frank Kavelin, himself a skilled musician and orchestrator - and, I must add, a most likeable person - is the one responsible for the re-launch of the label. Although he'd love to reissue all the stuff on CD and vinyl, he decided that he would first make it available as quality downloads (through Spotify, Amazon, iTunes). The first volume in the reissue program contains both sides of the Argyles' first two singles, the Ribbons' much celebrated 'Ain't Gonna Kiss Ya' and its original flip, a fistful of vocal group gems (e.g. 'No More' by The Uptones, 'Come To Me Darlin' by The Monorails, 'Mirror, Mirror' by The Arrogants), Emmy Lou's excellent 'I Wanna Know' (great guitar on this) and a real discovery for me in the shape of The Isonics. Their two tracks here - the latin-tinged 'Sugar' and the slower 'He Needs Her' - made up one killer double-sided Soul single when released on Kammy in '69 and have now become firm favorites of mine ! The mastering - done by Frank, mainly from master tapes - is awesome ('high sonics' indeed) ; the digital booklet which goes with the full album download is elegant and informative. A second volume should be out soon, as well as other surprises.
Of course, an in-depth look at the label will appear later on this very site. Meanwhile, you can go to www.luterecords.com for more info.
More than ever, musically speaking, the future is in the past !
[PS : Frank, can't wait to hear the Arrogants' uptempo version
of 'Canadian Sunset' again !]
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PET SOUNDS !
This landmark Beach Boys LP was released on May 16, 1966 - recommended listening for all seasons ! Let me take this opportunity to showcase some of their records & CDs which will be featured with many others on my forthcoming dedicated Beach Boys & Brian Wilson pages.
IN MEMORY OF LOU UKELSON
Lou Ukelson was a humble man, with a big heart and a profound sense of life's real values. He was also a gifted record producer who worked closely with Jimmie Skinner and set up the Vetco label with him in the 70's. He went on to cut a goodly number of country, bluegrass, gospel and rockabilly recordings by artists like Mac Wiseman, Charlie Feathers, Harley Gabbard and The Cobb Brothers.
He released vinyl and cassette-tapes but ultimately, he made one CD - The Vetco Sessions of Dave Evans & Riverbend (CD 3033/36). 21 delightful bluegrass tracks, 3 of which you'll hear by clicking the CD cover below ('Carry Me Back To The Bluegrass', 'This Train Carried My Girl From Tennessee' and 'Highway 52', in that order - all written by Dave Evans himself who sings & plays banjo).
Lou passed away in November 2013. He is much missed. He was my friend.
WHEN THE BULLETS FLEW.....
Greece has been the subject of many a debate over the past few years, and it's a shame that life deteriorated so much in that country. That's why I've decided to draw your attention to one of the best groups to emerge from there - The Bullets.
In 2005, Stage Records issued a compilation CD of 'Their Hottest Tunes' (OSRPR 001) and man, does it rock !
This trio of excellent musicians - sometimes augmented by a girl singer - knew how to mix neo-Rockabilly with surfin' sounds and other 60's influences.
Click the CD cover at left and have a ball with :
'Thank You Johnny Carroll', 'Fuzzbitten' & 'Black Out!'.
Please enjoy some
real Country Pickin' from Bud Chowning, whose story
appears exclusively on my site. This instrumental is called 'Southern
Simply click on the pic below (at left) to hear it.
Several videos showcasing Bud's artistry can be seen on YouTube.
Bud has also published a valuable guitar method on DVD.
He teaches you 60 of his favorite Country & Rockabilly licks.
Feel free to contact me if you're interested.
click on the CD at left and take a listen to the following bunch of demos.
Three superb songs from the pen of Danny E. Hinkle, a remarkably skilled
Greenville, Illinois songwriter.
These are all potential hits waiting
for the right singer !
'Bar Hoppin' is sung by a great country artist, Ramsey Kearney, whose 60's Hickory sides were excellent.
Got A New Love' is sung here by Jeff Howell.
And 'Like James Dean', one of Danny's best compositions, was ultimately recorded
& released by Canadian artist, Guy Leroux.
great discovery - this time from the UK - was singer/songwriter Kevin
Brown, who's also a lap steel player & enthusiast. His first
solo CD, 'Tin Church' (Doo-Dah DD04), was issued in 2005 and had a tremendous
feel, in true country blues style.
You gotta dig these three excerpts - namely :
'Watch Your Step', 'Love Hurts' and 'Take The High Road'.
Click the CD cover at right and enjoy !
And let's not forget Mr. Diego Garcia, a Spanish guitar player who once kindly
the following sample of his work.
It's a brilliant version of Jimmy Bryant's classic, 'Frettin' Fingers', certainly not the easiest track to master (with quotes of Danny Gatton & Wes Montgomery thrown in, if that wasn't enough !).