Charlie Watts & The Jukebox agree : Earl Bostic is Boss – Flamingo!

 

A 7 year old gets introduced to Jazz (and is never the same again).

’Before I wanted to play the drums I wanted to play the Alto Sax. Earl Bostic’s Flamingo was the record that turned me on to Jazz’ (Charlie Watts)

 

Up until the age of 7 I lived in Church Street, Paddington, just over a mile from Marble Arch the landmark that stands as the official centre of London.

Also a mile or so away was Abbey Road Studios where just before my 7th Birthday The Beatles began their epochal recording career.

Nearby was St Johns Wood Library.

Less than half a mile away from home was my parish church and the school where I began my academic studies.

Such were the coordinates of my early life.

Right at the centre, of course, was the home I shared with my parents and my younger brother.

Three rooms above a Betting Shop –  a bedroom partitioned in two, a small living room and a tiny kitchen.

Outside torrents of sound from Church Street Market where you could buy anything from a hair piece to a hula hoop to a handsaw (and I dare say if you knew the right man to ask you could buy a Hawk too).

Photo:Church Street Market

Now, I can’t swear the boy in the picture below is me (though his look and aura matches mine) but I do remember standing in some awe listening to the Salvation Army Sisters preach and sing uplifting hymns with the aim of saving souls.

Photo:A Gathering

Remember what those clever Jesuits said :

Give me a child for his first 7 years and I will give you the man.’ 

In my case almost certainly true.

The 7 year old Tom was;  an obsessive reader, a hundred mile an hour talker and questioner and someone who always wanted to know the who, what, when, where and why about every topic that flashed across the mind.

Both my parents worked long hours in demanding jobs – looking back I must have exhausted them with my relentless enquiries yet they rarely showed any impatience with their effervescent son.

One, nigh infallible, way to staunch my chatter was to play music on the radio or even better to let me cue up a 45 on our Ferguson Radiogram (the pride of our Living Room).

You’ll know some of these as I’ve written about them here :

Runaround Sue’ by Dion,

Walking Back to Happiness’ by Helen Shapiro, 

‘Right Said Fred’ by Bernard Cribbins and, 

’Stranger on The Shore’ by Acker Bilk.

Where did we buy our records?

Why, where else but from a stall just yards from our door – in Church Street Market.

Listening to the stall holders was my introduction to spiel and patter and the art of the dramatic soliloquy :

Now, listen here, gather round, I’ve got juicy tomatoes and melons as big as Sophia Loren’s’

’If you want your whites whiter than white you’ve got no right to go anywhere but John White’s right here!’

’I got cockles and I’ve got mussels, I’ve got eels all the way from the Sargasso Sea – have these every day and your brain will grow as big as Einstein’s’

And, my favourite clarion call :

’If its in the top 10 I’ve got it. If Elvis sang it, I’ve got it.

If its been on the bloomin’ BBC or Luxembourg I’ve got it.

If you can’t remember the name but you can hum it I’ll bet i’ve got it!’

That last peroration from Sid (Symphony Sid of course) who became my favourite stall holder and my most important teacher.

I took to hanging around Sid’s stall when he was closing up for the evening (don’t bother me when I’ve got customers queueing up boy!).

When he was packing up the vinyl treasure it was my chance to ask questions :

‘ I love Twisting The Night Away – tell me about Sam Cooke?

’well boy there ain’t no one alive or dead who sings as naturally as Sam. ‘Course you oughta know that his very best singing, his very best ain’t any of the pop stuff. No! If you want that you’ve got to listen to his gospel stuff with The Soul Stirrers – those records would make a believer out of the deepest atheist I’m telling you!’

’Some people say Elvis is no good since he went in the army but I think, ‘His Latest Flame’ is fantastic – how about you?

’Now Boy, you don’t want to be giving the time of day to those kind of people. I’m telling you 50 years from now the people who really know (and you might be one of ‘em) will tell you that (Marie’s the name) His Latest Flame backed with Little Sister might just be the greatest 45 that anyone, anyone, ever recorded!’

Weeks later he would test me to see if I’d been listening (if you don’t listen close Boy you ain’t ever gonna learn nothin’) :

’What was the gospel group Sam Cooke started out with?’

‘That would be The Soul Stirrers Sid!’

’Good Boy – Look I’ve got a copy here of Del Shannon’s Runaway with just a tiny scratch, fantastic sound that’ll put a your head in a swirl .. take that home now and let me pack up the van in peace.’

’Boy, what was on the other side of ‘His Latest Flame’?

’Easy, Sid, easy that would be Little Sister’.

’Spot on Boy – now I’ve got something special for you here been untouched on the back of this stall for many a year now but I’m telling you this one will outlast all your pop palaver … Earl Bostic playing the Alto Sax on ‘Flamingo’ .. got this off the Jukebox in an American Base .. listen to this Boy, it’ll put hairs on your chest and give you a whole new kind of dreams!’

And, that was how at 7 I got introduced to Jazz, the Alto Saxophone, Earl Bostic and Flamingo!

Now, it took another 7 years before those hairs sprouted on my chest but he was absolutely right about the dreams.

From the moment I first heard Earl’s fruity tone on the Alto Sax I was gone, solid gone.

I had never heard music with such blood and guts life force.

And, dig those Vibes!

Listening to Flamingo I was transported to a shadowy, black and white world where knives flashed and dames smiled dangerously from the doorways of clubs no one like me should ever be allowed to imagine let alone enter.

But that’s the great thing about imagination – once it’s released it’s released and there ain’t t no going back.

Earl became my idol and I drove Sid three quarters mad asking him to find me more Bostic.

Over the next few months along more Bostic beauties : ‘Temptation’, ‘Cherokee’, ‘You Go to My Head’, ‘Sleep’ and, ‘UpThere in Orbit’.

Each new disc became a sacred object for me.

Compared to the full bodied vigour of Earl Bostic most everything else seemed parched and anaemic.

But, like they say, you never forget your first and Flamingo was my first foray into Jazz.

Since then of course I’ve found out that Earl was a legendary saxophone technician with complete mastery of his horn.

I discovered that stellar Jazzers like Benny Carter, Teddy Edwards, Tony Scott, Stanley Turrentine and the blessed John Coltrane himself all played with and were influenced by Earl.

I learned that Earl believed Jazz should never lose sight of The Blues.

Blues had a character that got under the skin and a canny musician could extemporise around that character and have people smile and dance and spend their hard earned money freely.

Earl was very successful because you knew an Earl Bostic Record was going to be an unalloyed pleasure and that you would never, ever, grow tired of listening to Earl’s imperious sound.

Many years later, he became even more of a favourite when I came across a record called, ‘Brooklyn Boogie’ featuring the great Louis Prima and members of my favourite Baseball outfit The Brooklyn Dodgers and reading the credits realised it was written by none other than Earl Bostic!

There’s a legendary figure on the British Jazz scene called Victor Schonfield and I take my hat off to him for this summation of Earl Bostic’s career :

’.. his greatest gift was the way he communicated through his horn a triumphant joy in playing and being, much like Louis Armstrong and only a few others have done’

Bravo Victor and Bravo Bostic!

I’ll leave you with a little more personal history.

One of the many discoveries of our series of house moves over the last few years was a clutch of faded yellow exercise books from my primary school days.

Digging out the book from Spring Term 1962 I see that in very careful script I had answered a series of questions posed by the saintly Sister Mildred as follows :

Favourite Colour – Purple

Favourite Food – Fish and Chips

Favourite Football Team – Spurs

Favourite Book – Treasure Island

Favourite Music – Earl Bostic Flamingo!

Fifty Seven years have rolled around since then but I have to say I’m not minded to change  a single answer.

Take it away Earl.

Blow, Mr Bostic, Blow!

Notes :

I unreservedly recommend, ‘The Earl Bostic Story’ on the Proper Label.

Four CDs, 106 tracks of sheer joy.

Dwight Yoakam, Buck Owens : The Streets of Bakersfield

‘I came here looking for something I couldn’t find anywhere else’.

Note – The YouTube clips below all play in the UK. If corporate powers block them where you are i am sure you can find alternative clips for the songs.

Where you headed?

The answer is sometimes geographical, sometimes metaphorical and sometimes aspirational.

Down the road a piece.

Over the hills and far away.

Off these corkscrew hillbilly highways to the broad Freeway.

I might need two pair of shoes but I’m walking to New Orleans.

Kansas City – they got some pretty little women there and I’m gonna get me one.

High over Albuquerque on a jet to the Promised Land.

New York, New York – if I can make it there I can make it anywhere!

Sometimes you move for the most basic of reasons – to find a job that pays well.

Especially if you’ve grown up somewhere where the jobs are few and everyone treats you like a nobody.

Get yourself a good job that pays real folding green and you get a chance to be yourself.

Write your own story.

So, pack your grip (who did you ever know who had a trunk) and head off for the desert heat and the oilfields of the San Joaquin Valley.

Head out for the Streets of Bakersfield!

Image result for bakersfield images 1960s

Bakersfield.

Now, if you’ve got a broad back and two strong arms and plenty of nerve there’s work a plenty in the Oil Fields.

Work a plenty.

Guys here from Oklahoma, Arkansas and The Appalachians.

Guess it’s a new migration.

And, when your days work is done, with a bulging wallet, you can take those sore muscles down to a Bar or Roadhouse where the beer flows freely and dive into that Whisky River any time you feel like it.

Image result for bakersfield images 1960s

Now, you’ve come to drink and dance and it won’t be you who starts a fight .. but if it starts you ain’t gonna be hugging the wall.

Mister, I don’t care if you don’t like me.

Yea, I’ve spent a night or two in the can and I ain’t proud of everything I’ve done.

But, better not think that you can judge me – not unless you’ve walked these streets of Bakersfield.

No, turn the music up good and loud and let’s have ourselves a real fine time!

Drop a coin into The Jukebox and clear the floor.

Don’t want any of that weepy, air conditioned Nashville Sound.

No, something that’s got drive and bite.

Telecasters and Drums, Fiddle and Steel, enough to really shake a hard wood floor.

Songs that move and tell a story you know is true.

Don’t worry about tomorrow’s hangover – it’ll be worth it for the time we’ve had.

The Bakersfield Sound and no one is more Bakersfield than Buck Owens.

Buck and The Buckeroos – now that’s a blazin’ Band!

 

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Hell, you could fill a Jukebox just with Buck Hits and dance without stoppin’ until the Sun comes up again.

‘Act Naturally’, ‘My Heart Skips a Beat’, ‘Tiger by the Tail’, ‘Together Again’, ‘Buckaroo’, ‘Waitin’ in the Welfare Line’, ‘Love’s Gonna Live Here’ and ‘Who’s Gonna Mow Your Grass’.

Jimmy, the Bar Keep, who knows everything about Buck says he’s racked up 20 Number One Country Hits and he ain’t done yet.

Funny enough the Buck song that I punched more than any other on The Jukebox barely made it to the Charts under his own name.

Maybe by ’73 the caravan had passed Buck by.

Still, if I’ve got to pick one Buck song it’s always gonna be, ‘The Streets Of Bakersfield’.

That’s a true Workin’ Man’s Song!

I’ve spent a thousand miles a-thumbin’

I’ve worn blisters on my heels

Trying to find me something better on the streets of Bakersfield

You don’t know me but you don’t like me – you care less how I feel

But how many of you who sit and judge me ever walked the streets of Bakersfield?

The Streets of Bakersfield?

Sing it Buck.

Sing it good and loud!

Now, there’s quite a story about how the song came to be recorded.

It was written by Homer Joy in November 1972 when he came to Buck’s Bakersfield Studio hoping to record some of the songs he had written after he had churned out a Hank Williams tribute disc.

Image result for homer joy songwriter images

Except, after the Hank record was done he found that the Studio was blocked booked by Buck himself rehearsing for a tour.

Though Homer turned up every day at 8am ready to record he was told, day after day, ”Come back tomorrow’ and there was nothing for it but to grow even more blisters walking the streets of Bakersfield!

Eventually Homer’s patience snapped and the taken aback Studio Manager said:

‘OK, OK, play me one of these songs you think are so great and I’ll see what I can do’.

Fired up, Homer launched into a new song, written in sheer frustration at his current situation, ‘The Streets of Bakersfield’.

Now, some songs just hit you right between the eyes and this was one.

That very night Homer played the song to Buck and before you know it Buck had recorded it – featuring it on his 1973 Album, ‘Is Not It Amazing Gracie’.

But, though everyone recognised this was one damn fine song it didn’t make the wide world stand up and applaud.

So, it seemed Homer wouldn’t get the fat payday every struggling songwriter hopes is just around the corner if only a big star would record one of your songs.

Yet, as The Jukebox will never tire of saying:

 ‘A true message always gets through – sometime it just takes a while’.

And, this message, got through some 15 years later through the intervention of Jukebox favourite, Dwight Yoakam.

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Dwight, as a proper classicist, had always been a big fan of Buck’s music and had derived much inspiration from the straight to the heart and gut twang of the Bakersfield Sound.

He was therefore immensely pleased to learn that Buck approved of his sound and was keeping a watchful eye on his fledgling career.

Buck, by the late 80’s was seemingly more or less retired never having fully recovered from the tragic death of his right hand man, Don Rich.

The lightning and thunder that they had created together was gone.

But, talking with Dwight and listening to his sound convinced Buck that maybe, just maybe, there might be one more rumble and bolt yet.

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So, get in the Studio, crank up the voltage, have Pete Anderson pick that Tele fast and sweet,  have those drums really kickin’, add some norteno accordion (no one better than Flaco Jimenez), swop charismatic vocals and I do believe we got ourselves a monster Hit!

That’ll be the 21st Number One for Buck and the very first for Dwight!

Alright Dwight! Thank You Buck!

Jukebox devotees will know I love my Boots and I gotta say my Dan Post Okeechobee Westerns got to do some serious stompin’ there!

Image result for Dan Post 13 okeechobee boots images

The respect and admiration Dwight and Buck had for each other was real and enduring giving a fillip to both their careers.

Looking at the live clip below you can’t not be swept away by the sheer joy of music making.

Both of them being themselves and having a real fine time.

I came here looking for something …..

In memory of Buck Owens 1929-2006 and Homer Joy 1945-2012.

Buck Owens :

Buck was a great singles artist so I always have the 3 Volumes of his Capitol Singles covering the period 1957 to 1975 close at hand.

Satisfaction absolutely guaranteed!

Thank You Buck – always.

Note :

Check out Youtube for a fabulous live version featuring Dwight and Ry Cooder.

 

Bobby Darin : Tragedy, Trauma & Triumph – Dream Lover

It’s a one time shot, this life, and you don’t get any second chances’ 

‘Boy, I’m pressing my luck – but I’m going to double up!’

‘I’ll go to sleep and dream again, that’s the only thing to do, Till all my lover’s dreams come true’.

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Tragedy :

How long have you got before the grim reaper swings his sharp scythe?

A lot longer, we all hope, whatever age we are now.

Not so for Bobby Darin who lived from childhood with the consciousness that because of heart problems it was no good planning for the long term.

Because, at any time, probably soon, his heart would give up the battle and beat no more.

This in the bones knowledge gave him a ferocious, ‘don’t tell me what I can or can’t do’, determination to extract the last full measure from his prodigious talents and have a hell of a time while doing so!

In the end all Bobby got was 450 months.

A little over 37 years before Death came a calling.

I think we might all agree there is a tragic element to such a life.

Trauma

In addition to spending a great deal of his childhood with the pain of rheumatic fever and the dread that death might creep up on him at any moment Bobby Darin discovered just after his marriage to Sandra Dee had ended that the bedrock of his life – his relationships with his Mother and Sister had been based on an elaborate lie.

Bobby had thought his Father was Saverio Antonio “Big Sam Curly” Cassotto, who had died in prison before his birth.

But, Big Sam was not Darin’s Father.

In fact Bobby would go to his grave never knowing the identity of his real Father.

He would die knowing the identity of his Mother and Grandmother but he would have to come to terms with the knowledge that the beloved Sister of his youth was in fact his Mother and the adored Mother who had brought him up was in fact his Grandmother!

I think we can properly say those were traumatic circumstances which would leave a deep brand on the psyche.

Triumph

450 Months.

37 Years.

How much can you achieve in the time?

Well, the statisticians will tell you that he had 22 Billboard Top 40 Hits with 2 of those hitting the Number One spot and three further discs lodging in the top 5 – success which was replicated all around the record buying world.

Rock ‘n’ Roll novelties like, ‘Splish, Splash’ and, ‘Queen of the Hop’ which immediately took up residence in your brain and had you singing your own karaoke version as you travelled to school.

Swingin’ Big Band belters like, ‘Mack The Knife’ (Sinatra, not given to extravagant compliments dubbed Bobby’s version definitive) and, ‘Beyond The Sea’ which won him kudos from professional musicians and several generations of fans senior to him.

Blues drenched workouts like his version of Ray Charles’ ‘What’d I Say’.

Folk Rock tender tones like his version of Tim Hardin’s, ‘If I Were a Carpenter’ and his own, ‘Simple Song of Freedom’.

Oh, and he acted in more than a dozen movies writing two full scores and five title songs.

And, he broke the house attendance records in a string of Las Vegas’ clubs outdrawing legends of show business with decades more experience and exposure.

He seemed to be permanently in the studio when he wasn’t on the road or on the TV or Film Set.

Top selling Album followed Album in every imaginable style – Pop, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, Broadway Shows, Folk and Singer-Songwriter and storming finger clickin’, jive talkin’, audience rousin’ live shows.

Bobby Darin never limited his ambition and worked obsessively to meet and surpass those ambitions.

Researching this post I was taken aback at the depth and breadth of his talent and resolved that there will have to be many more Posts here about him if I am to do justice to the scale of his achievements.

Yet, when I think of Bobby Darin I always come back to one song – Dream Lover.

Dream Lover, written by Bobby, was the song that turned him from a here today/forgotten tomorrow teen sensation into a songwriter and performer for the ages.

If you can write a song which calls out to every yearning innocent heart (and we all once had and remember our innocent heart) you are certain of immortality.

Every night I hope and pray a dream lover will come my way.

I want a dream lover so I don’t have to dream alone.

Dream lover where are you?

Some day, I don’t know how.

And the hand that I can hold to feel you near as I grow old.

Until then I’ll go to sleep and dream again.

Till all my lover’s dreams come true.

Till all my lover’s dreams come true.

There’s nobody alive or dead who hasn’t hoped and prayed a dream lover would come their way.

Bobby Darin’s song writing career properly started out of a tiny office (more accurately a broom cupboard) he shared with Nick Venet in New York’s legendary Brill Building.

Riding in the lift or seated at the lunch counter you might find yourself next to Carole King, Burt Bacharach or Leiber & Stoller (love those Latin rhythms they use!).

Songs, Hits about to Hit, filed the corridors, who’s that pudgy kid on the piano – Neil Sedaka you say – OK let’s remember him if we ever get to make a record.

So, Bobby began to dream of a song, a yearning song. with a Latin rhythm, which incorporated the sweetness of Doo-Wop and the drive of Rock ‘n Roll.

That’s when he made the wonderful Demo below featuring the guitar of Fred Neil.

There’s a tender magic about this version which I find immensely affecting.

Bobby’s singing his heart out here.

Dream lover where are you?

 

This Demo convinced the powers that be at Atlantic Records (Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler) that there was a huge Hit here.

So ace Engineer Tom Dowd was at the board as Neil Sedaka played the piano and Bobby sang for all his worth.

Number 2 in the US. Number 1 for 4 weeks in the UK.

And, a song that’s had hundreds of covers though none can match Bobby (that said look out for Rick nelson’s take).

Dream Lover is one of those songs that’s always hovering somewhere in your heart.

As soon as it emerges from the ether you’ll find yourself, with a wry smile on your face, remembering that innocent heart, singing :

Every night I hope and pray a dream lover will come my way …….

 

 

In memory of Walden Robert Cassotto (Bobby Darin) May 1936 to December 1973.

Sleep well Bobby, sleep well.

 

Celebrating Charlie Watts : Certainty in an uncertain world – Get off my Cloud!

All around it seems like anything can happen including so many things we thought could never happen.

Ice caps melting.

Tornadoes and typhoons out of nowhere.

Forest fire raging, raging, raging.

High water everywhere.

Is there nothing you can absolutely rely on?

Well, a glance at today’s calendar reminded me that the great Charlie Watts was born on June 2nd 1941 and is thus now 78 years old.

And, while, who knows, the Pyramids may tumble tomorrow there can be no doubt that when The Rolling Stones Hit the stage in Chicago in June they and everyone in the audience can be sure of one thing – the majesty of The Stones Sound will be founded on the utter reliability of Charlie Watt’s glorious drumming.

So, I am reblogging my tribute from the very earliest days of The Jukebox (with a birthday bonus track).

Happy Birthday Charlie!

Charlie Watts, gentleman, scholar and drummer at large was 73 this year. Here’s a short tribute.

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Famously, at the live show captured on Get Your Ya Yas Out Mick Jagger informs the patrons that,’Charlie’s good tonight ain’t he!’. Well yes Mick he certainly was and then some.

Charlie Watts has been the heartbeat of the Rolling Stones for half a century and more providing calm craft in the midst of all the hoopla and madness.

While he has surely seen about everything a man can see he has remained steadfastly and stoically himself.

A wry, unimpressable observer who loves to listen to his beloved jazz and play the drums with the scratchy rhythm and blues band who somewhat to his amazement transformed themselves into the greatest rock and roll band the planet has ever produced.

Charlie’s role in the band is crucial to the DNA of the band’s unique sound.

Keith is released to sway and swagger to his heart’s content because Charlie is always there behind him urging him on and on while being ready to catch him if like an over ambitious trapeze flyer it looks like he might fall.

Whatever else has changed that partnership has endured and thrived through the years ensuring the distinctive leery vitality of the band remains in rude good health

One of the many glories of the Stones is the majestic way in which they build and hold tension in their rockers – say Tumbling Dice or Brown Sugar.

You’ll notice how groups covering the Stones almost always rush and ruin the songs because they can’t match the rhythmic control marshalled by Charlie.

While he is the engineer driving the awesome power of the Stones streamliner in full flight he is also the brakeman making sure they make it round the sharp turns safely and arrive on time at their destination.

The listening audience are taken up, held and thrilled as the band, anchored by Charlie, progress through their set taking care to pace themselves – allowing ballad breaks before the celebrated avalanche ending sends everybody home exhausted and elated.

Charlie Watts is the zen master of rock drumming.

His inherent restraint, informed by the jazz heritage he so treasures, allows him to play what needs to be played and nothing more.

He is at the service of the music, the sound and the dynamic shape of the individual song. No band has been better served by its drummer than the Rolling Stones.

So, as the Rolling Stones embark on one more last hurrah Charlie will endure the travelling, the media and the endless waiting for the wonderful pleasures of those few hours on stage when he can just play the music along with his faithful companions of so many years.

Charlie was fabulous in the 1960s, fantastic in the 1970s,  fervour filled in the 1980s and 1990s and  unflashily fluent in the new milenium.

Things will be no different in 2019.

So, if you’re in the audience make sure that you really put your hands together for the drummer!