Christmas Cornucopia : Third Day

Third Day featuring :

A Painting by Federico Barocci (1526 to 1612)

A Poem by John Betjeman (1906 to 1984)

Music by Bill Evans, Elvis Presley and Tish Hinojosa

 

Above all Christmas celebrates a birth.

And, there is nothing more intimate than the bond between a mother and child after a birth.

This intimacy is captured exquisitely by the Master of Urbino, Federico Barocci, in this Nativity which positively glows with the light of love.

federico-nativity

Bill Evans was the supreme lyric poet of the piano.

Listening to Bill’s unique sense of musical time and weight I find my spirit awakened, refreshed and released.

‘Blue in Green’ showcases the amazing precision and delicacy of his touch as a musician.

He is always instantly recognisable – the hallmark of true greatness.

This version of what has become a Jazz standard is from the Christmas 1959 session issued as, ‘Portrait in Jazz’.

You have to believe in telepathy when you hear Bill Evans play with Scott LaFaro (bass) and Paul Motion (drums)

This trio remains the benchmark for all piano trios.

 

 

Onward!

Onward our Sleigh proceeds cutting its way through the Christmas snow. Travel with me back in time now to Radio Recorders studios in Hollywood on September 7 1957.

A small group of men assemble to cut an album of Christmas songs. From Gadsden Tennessee the modestly brilliant guitarist Scotty Moore, from Memphis Tennessee the ever reliable bass player Bill Black and from Shreveport Louisiana the sprung-floor drummer D J Fontana.

Huddled together Gordon Stoker, Neal Matthews, Hoyt Hawkins and Hugh Jarrett – collectively the Jordanaires, a gospel quartet filled with the spirit. Today on piano sits Dudley Brooks.

Tuning up and swapping musicians banter they all look in the direction of a quietly spoken, respectful, hooded eyed, devestatingly handsome 22 year old from Tupelo Mississippi who has in the last few years recorded a series of records that seem to have shifted the axis of the planet.

In addition through his live shows and TV appearances he has set an entire generation ablaze to the marked discomfort of, ‘sensible’ folks who can’t bring themselves to approve of the shaky-legged, swivel-hipped singer who bears the ridiculous name of Elvis Aron Presley.

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As usual the group will warm up by accompanying Elvis as he runs through some of the gospel songs that have surrounded him through his youth and adolescence.

If there’s one thing Elvis believes in and knows through his own bodily experience it’s the power of music to raise, thrill and sustain the spirit.

Neither he nor anyone else could have guessed when he started out that he would possess an almost unique capacity to supercharge a song, to sing with such relaxed intensity and charisma that the listener felt lifted up and transported whether the song was secular or sacred.

Given a half decent song Elvis always sang his heart out and on many occasions the results were and remain nothing short of miraculous.

Like the Beatles and Bob Dylan the best of Elvis’ records are if anything under rated for all the millions of copies they have sold.

I really don’t have a fixed position on many of the great political and cultural issues of our times though I’m happy to debate with anyone. What I am certain of and will jump up on any table anywhere, anytime, to proclaim before any audience is that Elvis was, is, and will always remain the King!

Elvis’ Christmas album was a massive success and continues to sell today. The cut featured above, ‘Santa Claus Is Back In Town’ was written by the whip smart pairing of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller who couldn’t have write a lifeless song if they had tried.

Here they provide Elvis with an opportunity to demonstrate his charm, his rhythm and blues chops and the sheer swaggering physical presence his vocals could embody.

I love the tip of the hat to Elvis’ love of the Cadillac and the erotic promise of the whole song incarnated in the line, ‘Hang up your pretty stockings, turn off the light …. ‘.

Christmas brings many forms of celebration not least the chance for lovers to share some quality time together. And, I can think of no one better to serenade such times than Elvis.

We move now from a lover’s serenade to a mother’s lullaby. ‘A la Nanita Nana’ is a traditional song from Mexico sung here with characteristic tenderness and care by Tish Hinojosa.

Tish (short for Leticia) grew up, the thirteenth child, in a crowded household in San Antonio, Texas. Through her brothers and sisters and the crowded radio waves she absorbed and was inspired by music from her native Mexican culture and the folk, country and rock ‘n’ roll traditions which suffice the very air of Texas.

I recommend her CDs, ‘Culture Swing’ and, ‘Frontejas’ for those of you inclined to further listening.

 

The historical facts of Jesus’ birth remain shrouded in the mysteries of antiquity. However, I think we can be sure mothers nursing their new born child have always sung songs to soothe the babe just exposed to the blooming buzzing confusion of this world of ours.

The first sound we hear as we grow in our mother’s womb is the beating of her heart and hers is the first face we come to recognise in those initial hours and days of life.

Similarly, our first sense of the musicality of language comes from the sound of our mother reassuring us that we are loved and all is well. If we are lucky we will carry this message with us throughout the whole of our lives.

I have no doubt that Mary, though she had much to ponder in her heart, will have sung to her precious babe a song that could we but hear it would sound very like, ‘A la Nanita Nana’.

Today’s poem is, ‘Christmas’ by John Betjeman a poet who managed to combine popularity with real poetic achievement.

‘ And is it true? And is it true?
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass Window’s hue,
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a child on earth for me?

… No carolling in the frosty air,
Nor all the steeping-shaking bells
Can with this simple truth compare –
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.’

Christmas Cornucopia : Second Day

Second Day featuring:

A Painting by Fra Angelico (1395 to 1455)

A poem by U A Fanthorpe (1929 to 2009)

Music by Eartha Kitt, Harry Fontenot and Gustav Mahler sung by Kahleen Ferrier.

 

Today’s painting by Fra Angelico has long haunted my imagination since I first saw it in The Convent of San Marco in Florence.

It is a representation of an epochal event, The Annunciation, which holds human time and eternity in perfect balance.

fra-angelico-annuncition

When Kathleen Ferrier recorded, ‘Das Lied von der Erde’ the shadow of death was looming over her.

This is music making of the very highest order.

Here Kathleen Ferrier does not so much perform a song as become the song.

The rare emotional reach of her extraordinary voice bringing flesh and spirit to Mahler’s masterwork touches something very deep and unnameable within humanity.

 

Our sleigh moves on from yesterday sliding us forward on our Christmas journey.

Today we start with a song from an authentic show business legend – Miss Eartha Kitt and her classic, slinkily sensuous 1953 recording, ‘Santa Baby’.

Eartha performs the Springer brothers and Joan Javitt’s song in her trademark knowing style. As the song progresses Eartha makes a series of increasingly outrageous demands on Santa’s generosity.

All she wants is a sable, a convertible (light blue), a yacht, the deed to a platinum mine (gold being so common), a duplex, Tiffany jewellery and a ring (64 carat for sure).

Eartha’s vocal here supported by Henri Rene and his orchestra is a study in practiced come hither allure. The cynical lyric is caressed as she reels in our attention.

Seeing her perform the song live is to see a siren setting a song ablaze with the flames licking around the mesmerised audience.

Everything Eartha did carried a charge of the exotic – she looked, moved and spoke like no one else building on her black, Cherokee and White heritage and dance training to create a unique image that demanded the audience’s deference and worship.

Orson Welles famously called her the most exciting woman in the world and while others of her era like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor might have taken issue with that claim they too would surely have admired the sheer dramatic daring of Eartha’s regal performance of, ‘Santa Baby’.

Come on Santa – hurry down the chimney and don’t forget the sable.

Fr Josef Mohr wrote a poem in 1816 he called, ‘Stille Nacht’. Two years later on Christmas Eve 1818 with a midnight mass in prospect he decided to visit his friend Franz Gruber a choirmaster and organist to see if there was any chance of turning, ‘Stille Nacht’ from a poem into a carol to perform that night.

Mohr had to walk several kilometres to se his friend who set to work with such vigour and inspiration that an arrangement for guitar and voice of, ‘Stille Nacht’ was ready as the two set off to Fr Mohr’s church in Oberndorf.

So, in the cold of an Austrian night on Christmas Eve 1818 the carol, ‘Stille Nacht’ or, ‘Silent Night’ as it is known in the English speaking world was sung for the very first time.

Neither of the writers or the congregation could possible have known that the heartfelt simplicity of, ‘Silent Night’ contained a spiritual power and attractiveness that would go on to make it perhaps the most loved of all church based Christmas songs.

Congregations all over the world this Christmas Eve will echo the words and melody created nearly two hundred years ago and find that it’s magic never fades.

There is no counting the number of versions available of, ‘Silent Night’. The one I have chosen to showcase here is by a gorgeous Cajun version by accordionist Harry Fontenot.

I love the rustic simplicity of this version – it seems to me the kind of sound that would not have sounded out of place in a stable with animals and shepherds gathered around to witness an event that was at once entirely commonplace – the birth of a child.

And yet all present had the sense that this birth was something very special that would remake the world for all eternity.

‘Silent Night, Holy Night, All is calm, all is bright ……….

The poem providing our extract today is the short but immensely wise, ‘BC : AD’ by the much under rated U A Fanthorpe.

‘… And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect

Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.’

Christmas Cornucopia First Day

First Day featuring:

A Painting by Piero della Francesca (1415/20 to 1492)

Music by Bobby Helms, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Arvo Part

Poetry by John Clare (1793 to 1864)

For 2016 I am presenting The Christmas Cornucopia first seen in 2014 with significant added material.

Many of you who have joined the Jukebox community since 2014 will not have delved so far back into the Jukebox Archives. For you it will all be new!

For my much cherished veteran supporters I hope you will relish re reading the original text but also appreciate the new elements.

Each post now includes a favourite painting related to the Nativity Story and an additional piece of music.

I believe one of Christmas Tide’s greatest gifts is the opportunity it offers us to take a long, slow breath and still our hearts.

An opportunity to listen, to contemplate, to open ourselves up spiritually.

Each of the paintings and additional pieces of music featured this year has been chosen because they seem to me to be works of contemplative grace.

Christmas.

A time much anticipated which yet seems a surprise each time it occurs.

We wait, in hope, in full hearted anticipation for Christmas.

As Mary waited, full hearted, watchful and still for the longed for the birth of her son.

His birth was a miracle. As is every birth. For every birth changes the world absolutely.

I know of no work of art which captures that sense of awed anticipation with such tenderness as Piero della Francesca’s, ‘Madonna del Parto’.

Piero somehow manages to make present through drawing and paint both the vulnerability of Mary in all her humanity and the immanent divine.

pdf-pregnant-mad-br

To maintain the contemplative mood I turn to the contemporary Estonian Composer, Arvo Part with his luminous, liminal setting of Mary’s eternal prayer, ‘The Magnificat’.

Part has been labelled a Minimalist and a retro Medievalist.

I prefer to think of him as having the gift to make time past, time present and time future bloom before us through his music.

Christmas comes but once a year. For some of us the very best of times – a reliable pleasure that grows more intense and treasured as the years go by.

Sadly, for others – the worst of times and an ordeal to be feared as it approaches and then endured until all the tinsel has been packed away for another year.

I am firmly in the Christmas is a glorious celebration camp. I love bright stars in dark December skies with flurries of snow dusting the earth beneath my feet. I love the gathering sense of anticipation as the season advances.

I love seeing people smiling to themselves as they go about their routine business now charged with a ‘this is the last time I’ll do this before Christmas’ awareness.

I love hunting out our well packed away- some would say well hidden – Christmas decorations and wondering if the expensive new lights from last year will work or should I have bought the sets I saw at such a discount only yesterday.

I love firmly deciding that of course only a real needle shedding tree will do with a wreath for the door and a crib for the hearth as well. I love the excitement of the children’s last week at school – what shall we buy for the teacher and this terms best friend?

I love remembering Christmases past: the ones when I was a child oblivious to all the work involved in ensuring everyone and everything was thought about and properly looked after.

The ones when I was a carefree and careless student carousing through every day and every night certain of my own immortality and soon to be recognised global significance.

The courting Christmases where love bloomed and plans were whispered for the Christmases we would make so magnificent in the years and decades ahead. The just married Christmases freighted with a ‘Are we really in charge now we and can do anything we want?’ thrill.

The ‘Now there’s a baby in the house Christmas here really is Christmas’ Christmas and the ones after where we solemnly said, ‘Well, he will expect us to maintain all our family traditions again this year’.

I remember and cherish the Christmas where the star present only arrived late on Christmas Eve packed by demonic elves who ensured only a chainsaw could remove the vacuum packing.

This was the star present that came with no assembly instructions apart from a minuscule diagram and a list of 56 parts to be tortured together before dawn broke and we all agreed that Santa Claus had got it exactly right this year too.

I remember the first Christmases after my father and my mother died when their absence was an ache that filled my stomach to bursting point and when I barely spoke their names for fear of breaking down.

I remember the Christmas when suddenly I started saying, ‘Mum and Dad would really have loved this’ and realising that I would always share that Christmas and every Christmas with them – for where did I learn to love but from them?

I remember the sound of off key Carollers outside our door somehow making it all the way through, ‘Silent Night’ and the sound of our rehearsed to infinity local church choir hushing the packed congregation with their perfect rendition of the same work and thinking both versions were what we needed to hear at that precise moment.

I remember lighting Christmas candles and knowing that my prayer would be answered even if I wouldn’t be able to recognise how or when.

I remember many, many Christmas songs from many different eras in many different styles (as you might expect if you are a regular Jukebox patron) that I resolve each year to start listening to earlier and earlier to get into the Christmas spirit.

So, harvesting a selection of personal favourites I propose to share a score or so of these with you over the next fortnight until we all raise our Christmas glasses in celebration of a birth and a beginning that continues to offer a blessed eternal hope for all mankind.

Let’s set this sleigh on its way with a Christmas classic from 1957. Bobby Helms’, ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ always raises good cheer every December (come to think of it the same can be said when we listen to it, as we do, in February, May and August).

This song summons up the, ‘I like Ike’ Ozzie and Harriet days of the comfortable blue skies 1950s for me like no other Christmas song. I’m surprised Bob Dylan didn’t include it in his tender and wholly successful homage to the era, ‘Christmas In The Heart’.

1956/1957 was Bloomington born Bobby’s golden time. He had a great country and pop hit with, Fräulein’ followed up with another substantial success in, ‘My Special Angel’.

But his pop immortality was sealed with the toe tapping, smile inducing, always coming up fresh and welcome 45 issued just days before Christmas in 1957, ‘Jingle Bell Rock’.

Written by Joseph Carleton Beale and James Ross Boothe the song has become a much loved and much recorded staple of the Christmas season.

Under the,’A’s’ alone I see it has been covered by everyone from Chet Atkins to Arcade Fire to Alvin And The Chipmunks (which I think we can all agree is quite a stretch!). Yet, no one has come anywhere near matching the easy charm and relaxed swing of the original. I’m already looking forward to hearing it next year!

Next a very different tone from one of the premier singer – songwriters of the modern era, Mary Chapin Carpenter.

‘Come Darkness, Come Light’ is the Christmas meditation of a schooled professional with a sharp eye and a battered heart.

Mary recognises that the spiritual message of Christmas is that a gift has been granted not to the grand and the deserving alone but to the broken and the wounded,the fearful and the doubting (which is most of us) as well.

It is those who know the fell dark who turn most gratefully to the light. So whether you come running or walking slow towards the light know that it was made to shine on you and that the darkness no matter how deep can never extinguish this light.

Mary has the confidence and steadiness of soul to let the song speak with minimal accompaniment. This is the title song of her 12 songs of Christmas CD which comes highly recommended along with her entire cannon.

Each post during this season will also include an extract from a favourite seasonal poem. Today it is, ‘December’ by John Clare a poet who was deeply atuned to the turning of the seasons and the rhythms of rural life.

‘… And some, to view the winter weathers,
Climb up the window-seat with glee,
Likening the snow to falling feathers,
In fancy’s infant ecstacy;
Laughing with superstitious love,
O’er visions wild that youth supplies’
Of people pulling geese above,
and keeping Christmas in the skies.’

 

 

On the cover of Sergeant Pepper: Dion – Runaround Sue!

You may recall that in the recent post about Captain Beefheart I mentioned selecting The Beatles, ‘Sergeant Pepper’ LP from my vinyl shelves.

That storied record is famous not only for its treasury of superb songs but also for its endlessly intriguing cover which features a gallery of contemporary and historical cultural icons.

The Beatles, typically eclectic, choices included Carl Jung, Oliver Hardy, Sonny Liston, Mae West, Lenny Bruce, Karl Marx, Lewis Carroll, Albert Einstein and Albert Stubbins (look him up!)

Surprisingly, only two contemporary American musicians made the hallowed cover.

Inevitably, one was Bob Dylan, who was an enormously influential figure in the development of The Beatles songwriting.

The other American legend they selected, proof of their unending devotion to the primal spirit of Rock ‘n’ Roll, was none other than Dion Francis DiMucci – the King of The Bronx and one of the very greatest artists in the history of the music.

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Dion for an astonishing seven decades has shown himself to be a superlative singer with the ability to make songs come thrillingly alive.

Tracing his career you will find magnificent records displaying his empathy and mastery of virtually the entire spectrum of American roots music.

So, with The Belmonts we have the exuberant Doo-Wop of, ‘I Wonder Why’ and the delirious Pop angst of, ‘ A Teenager in Love’.

As a solo act he produced electrifying Rock ‘n’ Roll in, ‘The Wanderer’  and deep insights into the Blues with, ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ and the scarifying, ‘Daddy Rollin’ (In Your Arms’).

As a singer-songwriter he was capable of a bone chilling confessional threnody like, ‘Your Own Backyard’ and the utterly charming, ‘New York City Song’.

He was quick to spot the distinctive talents of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits as his must hear covers of, ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ and, ‘Heart of Saturday Night’ demonstrate in spades.

For insight into life on the gritty New York Streets only Lou Reed comes near Dion’s epic, ‘Midtown American Street Gang’.

You want Gospel balm? Listen up to the exquisite entreaty of Dion’s, ‘Abraham, Martin and John’.

Taken all in all Dion’s catalogue stands as the autobiography of an always questing pilgrim soul and the blazing testament of a true American Master.

And he did all this battling heroin addiction.

Notwithstanding the excellence of all the above tracks when it came to selecting a record to take its place on The Immortal Jukebox I didn’t hesitate for a micro-second.

No, it has to be, has to be, just has to be, ‘Runaround Sue’ a record I love to the point of near insanity.

Take it from Thom – no one has ever sung a Rock ‘n’ Roll song with such enthralling energy and sheer swagger as Dion does here!

Listen, people let me out you wise …

 

Great Gosh A Mighty!

Dion’s singing here leaves me exultant and breathless with joy filled admiration.

As he sings you are swept along on a magic carpet of delight almost sure there’s no mountain or skyscraper you couldn’t nonchalantly soar over as you follow Dion’s imperious vocal.

Listen, people what I’m telling you.

When it comes to Rock ‘n’ Roll singing Dion ain’t just the King of The Bronx!

No, he’s The Guy. The Guy who knows. The Guy who knows!

Where did all this mastery come from?

Why from Prospect Avenue, Belmont, The Bronx, New York City – that’s where.

As a  young boy growing up he was surrounded by a vibrant Italian/American community where the streets were alive with song – operatic arias, Tin Pan Alley crooning.

And from the stoops and the subways groups of young kids with hope in their hearts sending harmonies soaring high into the New York night sky.

As he sat on the fire escape shooting the breeze he was glued to the radio. Through the sacred ether came the transporting, life changing, life defining, sounds of Doo- Wop, Rhythm and Blues, Gospel and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Unforgettable, emotion charged voices, voices like those of Hank Williams and Sam Cooke seemed to summon his own voice.

So, as a young man, seeking to find his own identity, he found that he had been blessed with a gift. A gift which would win him the admiration of the local bloods and the local belles.

And soon, when that sensational voice was captured on tape, the admiration of the whole wide world!

Dion brings all his heritage and all gifts to Runaround Sue.

There is love and laughter and life in abundance in every syllable that Dion sings.

So, he can invest deep emotion into wordless swoops and delicately evoke the romance of the touch of her hair and the (still felt and much missed) warmth of her lost embrace.

As Dion sings the story is sad but true. Everyone has had their heart broken by someone who ran around.

You don’t want to cry. But you do. You do.

He sings, ‘Runaround Sue’ like a man creating a moral and a story to console himself as he walks home. And as he walks he finds that his downcast grimace turns into a wry smile before becoming a broad grin.

Then he begins to laugh.

Laugh, with love in his heart as he admits to himself just how how much of a fool he has been.

Perhaps the beginning of wisdom is the admission we are all fools.

Fools for Love. Fools for Love.

And long may it remain so.

Notes:

The superb backing vocals on Runaround Sue are provided by The Del-Satins.

Runaround Sue was co-written by Ernie Maresca.

It was, of course, a multi million selling Number One on the 1961 Billboard Charts.

I have made it a point of honour to own every Record Dion has ever made.

For those of you yet to share my obsession as well as all the tracks referred to above I recommend:

‘The Very Best Of Dion & The Belmonts’ on One Day Music

‘Yo Frankie’ on Arista

‘New Masters’ on Collectables

‘Bronx in Blue’ and ‘Son of Skip James’ on SPV

‘New York Is My Home’ on Blue Horizon

‘Bronx Blues’ and ‘The Road I’m On’ on Columbia.

Dion’s autobiography, ‘The Wanderer’ is a fascinating read.

However, to my mind the most revealing insight into his life can be found on an article he wrote about his return to Catholicism. See Link below

The Wanderer

And Finally!

Please don’t forget to vote for The Immortal Jukebox in The UK Blog Awards!

Voting remains open till 18 December.

Follow the link below and select Art & Culture from the drop down menu:

http://blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2017/entries/immortal-jukebox

 

Sam The Sham & The Pharoahs : Wooly Bully! Wooly Bully!

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You gotta warm up. You gotta warm up.

Before you hit the stage and face your public.

Before you pace out those morning miles on your run.

So, before you walk out onto the stage you’ll need to prepare back stage and get those vocal chords ready for those tongue twisting soliloquies.

Kick off with breath relaxation then release that tense jaw!

Next move on to a brisk series of tongue and lip trills.

Then it’s time for the two octave scales followed by the kazoo buzz and some serious humming.

A final cool down and you’re ready to face your audience.

Similarly, before you set off to on your daily run you need to do some dynamic stretches.

Come on now! Hip Flexor stretch, Leg Flexor stretch, Leg Extensor stretch followed by a Plantar Flexor stretch before we finish up with a Hip Extensor stretch.

Now you’re good to go and ready to chase down Mo Farah.

And, before I write a new post here on The Jukebox I have my own warm up routine.

Twenty minutes of calming meditation.

Then I read Chekhov’s incomparable short story, ‘The Lady with the Dog’ followed by a favourite passage from Russell Hoban’s masterpiece novel, ‘Riddley Walker’:

‘O yes youwl want to think on that you don’t want your mouf to walk you where your feet dont want to go.’

And then, then, I launch into my final warm up exercise – what I term, ‘The Head Clearer’ when I sing and chant excerpts from some of the finest songs ever recorded.

It often goes something like this:

‘Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do’

‘Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie’

‘Nah, nah nah, nah nah, nah, nah, nah nah …’

‘Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay’

Then picking up speed there are 3 exultant exclamations before I take up my seat at the keyboard.

The order is always the same:

‘Bom ba ba bom ba bom ba bom bom ba ba bom ba ba bom ba ba dang a dang dang Ba ba ding a dong ding’

‘Awop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom!’

Always last and crucial to invoking my Writing Mojo is:

‘Uno, dos, one, two, tres, quatro,
Wooly bully, wooly bully,
Wooly bully, wooly bully, wooly bully!’

‘Watch it now!’

Wow! Wooly Bully, Wooly Bully!

I should have warned you; before you listen to Sam The Sham & The Pharoahs’ slice of Tex-Mex ambrosia it is always advisable to clear an extensive dance space in your home.

Otherwise, like me, on many an occasion, you may end up with broken lamps and twisted ankles!

Wooly Bully is simply irresistible.

No wonder it sold more than three million copies and was only denied the summit of The Billboard Hot 100 by the combined might of The Beach Boys (Help me, Rhonda) and The Supremes ( Back in My Arms Again).

Still it stayed on the chart for 18 weeks and wound up being Billboard’s record of the year and permanently lodged in the brain of anyone who ever heard it!

The hypnotic, just gotta dance now, sound born in, ‘Gun and Knife’ clubs like The Congo in Leesville and The Diplomat in Memphis was brilliantly captured by Producer/Engineer Stan Kessler at the Sam C Phillips Recordings Studio at 639 Madison Avenue Memphis in late 1964 for his own, tiny, XL label. It became an enormous hit once taken up by major label MGM.

Stan was a veteran of the Sun Records scene. He played bass on many a session for Jerry Lee, The Big O and Carl Perkins as well as writing the wonderful, ‘I Forgot To Remember To Forget’ for Elvis himself.

Working with Sam’s pavlovian organ and The Pharoahs (David A Martin on bass, Jerry Patterson on drums, Ray Stinnett on guitar and Butch Gibson on sax) Stan produced a sound that was guaranteed to get dancers to their feet all over the globe whether it was a Honkytonk in Texas, a Bierkeller in Hamburg or The Cavern in Liverpool.

If you don’t cut a rug to this one you’ll have to get the T Shirt that says, ‘ Me – I’m L7, L7’. And, you don’t want that do ya!

Domingo ‘Sam’ Samudio, born in 1937, is a native Texan with Mexican heritage.

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After high school, where he was in a band with Trini Lopez, he had six years in the US Navy, a spell on the road with a Circus and several semesters at Arlington State College.

Whatever else Sam did music was always there.

Sam was much taken with the 1956 Hollywood Biblical Epic, ‘The Ten Commandments’ which led to him naming his band, ‘The Pharoahs’. The Band was to go through several line ups with Sam the only constant.

The ubiquity of Wooly Bully on the radio and its immense sales gained Sam and the boys opening act status for Big Leaguers like The Beach Boys and James Brown.

On such tours they probably traveled on a regular bus rather than their own 1952 Packard Hearse!

Sam was a fine in person performer and he must have got those crowds really warmed up before the headliners came on.

Sam had a few more hits, including the top 5, ‘L’il Red Riding Hood’ before his career dipped in the era of psychedelia and ‘progressive’music.

But, canny listeners like Ry Cooder knew that Sam really had something – which led to a role in the creation of the soundtrack for the movie, ‘The Border’.

When he’s in the mood Sam can show that, without a doubt, he’s still got it!

In conclusion my considered opinion is that you should, right now, clear a space, and get you someone really to pull the wool with you.

Then press play on the live version below and go crazy!

‘Uno, dos, one, two, tres, quatro,
Wooly bully, wooly bully,
Wooly bully, wooly bully, wooly bully!’

‘Watch it now!’

 

 

Notes:

My favoured Sam compilation is, ‘Pharoahization’ on the Rhino label.

In 1971 Sam made a very worthwhile solo record, ‘Sam, Hard and Heavy’ for Atlantic which featured a stellar band including Duane Allman and Jim Dickinson.

A tribute record on Norton charmingly called, ‘Turban Renewal’  has had more than a few spins here at Jukebox Central – especially the tracks by Ben Vaughan and Roy Loney.

Wooly Bully regularly crops up in movies wanting to establish a mid 60s atmosphere. I saw it feature just the other day in one of those Baseball movies made to make you cry, ‘The Rookie’.