Johnny Cash, Debbie Harry & Gene Autry : Ghost Riders In The Sky!

Here’s a Post that means a lot to me.

For the Song and the Singers featured and for the warm memories it evokes.

Nothing like music to open the gates of memory!

Music hath charms. Music hath charms.

And, among those charms is its uncanny ability to forge bonds of fellow feeling and friendship between people born in wildly different times, places and cultures.

Take me and Carl.

Carl came from the spice Island of Grenada in the Caribbean.

When we met he was seventy years old and I was a callow twenty two.

I had just emerged, blinking, from the ivory tower of Cambridge University awaiting my inevitable discovery as a great novelist.

Carl had spent decades in the fierce factories of Detroit and the searing cane fields of Florida.

We met in Hospital.

I was working there as a porter dramatically rushing the resuscitation trolley to people on the point of death and more prosaically ferrying patients to the X-Ray department and to the operating theatre for surgery.

Carl, having suffered a heart attack, came into Accident & Emergency by ambulance at 3am when I was on night shift.

I watched with a mixture of horror and fascination the team of doctors and nurses, with whom moments before I had been sharing idle banter,  urgently bring all their professional skills to the struggle to to save Carl’s life.

Happily they succeeded and before I left that morning I wheeled Carl to the ward where he would recover.

Normally that would have been the last time I saw him but as I was about to leave Carl said, ‘Will you come and see later?’.

A request I could hardly refuse.

So, that night I made the first of many visits to Carl’s bedside in the three weeks he spent in the hospital.

Walking into the ward I wondered what two such disparate individuals might find to talk about.

Almost without thinking I asked him, having learned of the time he had spent in America, what kind of music he had listened to there.

Given his age, and reading on his chart  that he was a Baptist by religion, I anticipated that he might answer Big Band Jazz or Gospel Music.

I was a little taken aback therefore when he answered by singing in a mellow baritone:

An old cowpoke went riding out one dark and windy day,

Upon a ridge he rested as he  went along his way,

When all at once a mighty herd of red-eyed cows he saw

Riding through the ragged skies and up a clouded draw …’

Now, my education, at University, might have been airily academic but luckily on those few occasions when I was not bent over some medieval text I could be found, a huge tub of popcorn by my side, obsessively watching every ‘A’, ‘B’ or series Western that ever came to town.

So, without missing a beat, I joined in as we sang:

Their brands were still on fire and their hooves were made of steel,

 Their horns were black and shiny and their hot breath he could feel,

 A bolt of fear went through him as they thundered through the sky,

For he saw the riders coming hard and he heard their mournful cry ..’

And then, to the incredulity of the rest of the ward, we lifted our voices up and sang together lustily:

Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Ghost Riders In The Sky’

Then we laughed and laughed until we nearly cried.

And, we sang that song, among many other Western favourites, every time we met until Carl died some two years later.

‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ was Carl’s favourite song and the version he preferred, ‘Because he don’t mess about with the song’ was the one by Gene Autry from 1949.

This one’s for you Carl:

According to the Western Writers of America, ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ is the greatest of all Western songs and I whole heartedly agree with that august body.

The song was written in 1948 by Stan Jones and first recorded by him and his marvelously named, ‘Death Valley Rangers’ that same year.

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Stan, then a Park Ranger in Death Valley, is reputed to have written the song on his 34th birthday as he recalled a legend told to him when he was 12 by an old cowboy.

Now, all stories told by Stan Jones need to be taken with a fistful of salt as he was a noted fabulist who often valued the effect of a tale above its veracity (as frequently do I!).

The tale of the spectral herd in the skies and the curse of, ‘Stampede Mesa’ probably traces its origins to mythical cautionary stories told around the cowboy campfire in nineteenth century Texas.

Whatever its cultural lineage Stan crafted a certifiable classic which is shot through with haunting images which never leave the mind once heard.

Burning in the mental firelight of my imagination as the song proceeds I feel the hot breath of those red-eyed cows and shudder with fear as their black and shiny horns and steely hooves thunder by.

In my dreams I’m there with the gaunt faced cowboys their shirts soaked with sweat as they endlessly pursue the cursed herd they never, ever, will catch.

Surely that’s my name I hear them calling in the wind at the dead of night!

‘Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Ghost Riders In The Sky’

Stan wrote many more fine Western ballads notably those featuring in the films of the greatest of all Western Film Directors – John Ford.

But, neither he, nor anyone else, ever wrote a better one than, ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’.

The brilliance and mother lode Americana quality of the song has, for seven decades now, attracted hundreds and hundreds of artists to take a shot of rye, strap on their spurs and saddle up with the Ghost Riders to see if that herd can finally be corralled.

And, if anyone, by force of will and character could carry out that miracle it would surely be none other than Johnny Cash – no mean mythic figure himself.

 

Johnny sings the song with the oracular power an old testament prophet issuing a grave warning to his tribe to prevent them from sleepwalking to doom.

You want fire-snorting horses brought to life?

You want those ghostly riders coming hard right at you?

You want to feel those mournful cries in the pit of your stomach and the marrow of your bones?

Call for The Man in Black!

Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Ghost Riders In The Sky’

Stan Jones’ evocative melody has always attracted guitarists and instrumental groups who like to tell an atmospheric story using six resonant strings instead of the vocal chords.

Today I’ve chosen to feature a top 30 Billboard Chart hit from 1961 (and top 10 in the UK) by The Ramrods  – who had clearly listened closely to Duane Eddy.

 

The Ramrods were out of Connecticut and had brother and sister Claire and Rich Litke on drums and sax respectively.

Vinny Lee took the lead guitar role with Gene Moore in support.

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They were essentially one hit wonders though I greatly enjoyed listening to their follow up, ‘Loch Lomond Rock’ which, probably uniquely, mashes up twangtastic guitar with a bagpipe solo!

And, now as they say, for something completely, completely different.

I have to say that when I started researching this post I never expected to feature a trance version by Debbie Harry!

‘Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh, Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh’ Indeed!

 Debbie’s version comes from Alex Cox’s 1998 film, ‘Three Businessmen’ and in my view is the best thing about it.

The production is by Dan Wool who had worked frequently with Stan Jones’ son who is a music editor – so legal clearances to use the song were easily arranged.

There’s definitely something sexily hypnotic about Debbie’s vocal adding an unexpected dimension to an established standard.

I’m going to conclude with another version out of left field or should I say the firmament.

And, versions of Ghost Riders don’t get more left field than the hipster version by Scatman Crothers!

‘Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Ghost Riders In The Sky’

Everyone has heard Scatman’s distinctive tones through his voice over work for TV and film. That’s Scatman as Hong Kong Phooey and as the hep Jazz playing feline in, ‘The Aristocats’.

Some may remember his appearances on TV in the show, ‘Chico and the Man’ or on film as Dick Halloran in Kubrick’s, ‘The Shining’ (one of four films he shared billing with Jack Nicholson).

Scatman was always a hep cat as evidenced by his drumming with Slim Gaillard. He brings all his vouty hipster presence to this version of Ghost Riders which has me cheering him on while doubled up with laughter.

There will be many more fine versions of Ghost Riders because we all love a good story.

Especially one that’s so incredible it just has to be true.

Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Yippie I aye, Yippie I ooh,

 Ghost Riders In The Sky’

 

Notes:

There’s a fine biography of Stan Jones by Michal K Ward published by Rio Neuvo.

The major hit version was by Vaughn Monroe

Basso profundo versions by Lorne Green, Marty Robins, Burl Ives, Frankie Laine

Western versions by Sons of the Pioneers, Riders in the Sky, Chris Ledoux, Jimmy Wakeley, Mary McCaslin

Instrumental versions by The Ventures, The Shadows, The Spotniks, Glen Campbell/Roy Clark, Dick Dale

‘Other’ versions by Spike Jones, Blues Brothers, Brothers Four, Judy Collins, Christopher Lee

Billy Stewart : Summertime (The Last Hurrah)

Late September.

Autumn is icumen in.

Observe the daily circle of the Sun and the revolving Moon.

Now there is a softer quality to the light and the day is bounded by chilly air and mist.

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Soon the leaves will shiver and fall.

But, last week, miraculously, Summer held on for one last hurrah!

Long days of streaming warm light and air.

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So, as I walked and drove the lanes one song returned over and over to my mind.

A song written in 1934 by George Gershwin and Dubose Heyward for the landmark show, ‘Porgy and Bess’ which debuted the following year.

Stephen Sondheim, who might be admitted to being something of an authority on musical theatre, believes Summertime to have the best lyrics in the history of the genre.

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush, little baby, don’t you cry
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One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But till that morning, there ain’t nothin’ can harm you
With daddy and mammy standin’ by

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush, little baby, don’t you cry

Now that is Folk Poetry speaking deep to the heart.

A lullaby that makes dandling babes and hopeful parents of us all.

Jump Fish!

Stretch high up to the sky Cotton!

Easy living.

Summertime.

Summertime.

Returning year after year after year as our years proceed.

Oh, one of these days.

One of these days we are gonna rise up singing.

One of these days we will take to the sky.

But, until that blessed day we will believe in the healing warmth of the Sun and Summer’s faithful return.

Hush … don’t you cry.

Don’t you cry.

Summertime is among the most recorded songs in history.

It seems I had some 25, 000 versions to choose from.

Yet, I didn’t hesitate for a second.

The version that played in my head as the fish jumped and the cotton grew high was recorded in 1966 by Billy Stewart for Chess Records.

Image result for billy stewart images

Billy’s bravura performance of Summertime has the fish jumping out of sheer joy and the cotton splitting the cloudless sky.

Oh Yes!

We are rising up singing.

Oh Yes!

We are gonna spread our wings and soar right up to the roof of the sky.

Nothing’s gonna hurt us.

Summertime.

Summertime.

And the living is easy.

The living is easy.

Hush.

Hush.

We won’t cry.

We won’t cry.

Summertime.

Image result for images of late summer evening in hampshire

Summertime.

Summertime.

Notes :

Billy Stewart (March 24, 1937 – January 17, 1970) was as you will know from the above an extraordinary singer and performer.

Track down a collection of his recordings and you will be highly rewarded.

I will return to Billy’s career here on The Jukebox later.

Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac : Albatross

Sometimes it’s all too much.

Too much.

Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and let the busy, busy, busyness of the world fall away.

Away.

Joni wanted to skate away on a frozen river.

Huck Finn wanted to light out for the Territory.

George Mallory climbed up and up until he vanished.

Captain Scott entered and never left the great white wastes.

T E Lawrence and Charles de Foucault sought out the Desert.

Emilia Earhart flew away into the deep blue beyond.

And me?

Well, I would seek out the heart of the deepest ocean.

So far from land that land could not be remembered anymore and scarcely even imagined.

Darkness on the face of the deep.

Adrift with Whale song and moonlight.

Above in the silence the Albatross.

What music could sound such depths?

 

 

Oceanic sway.

Stratospheric circumpolar soaring.

Peter Green.

Stratocaster.

‘The Touch’

Balm for the weary labourer.

Never matched.

Listen on a loop for an hour and it won’t be too long.

Linda Ronstadt, Mike Nesmith, P P Arnold : Different Drum

It seems like music has always been in the air around you and in your head.

Folk Music, Country Music, Rock ‘n’ Roll.

And, you write poems, lyrics if you will, that maybe could be songs.

Along comes the Guitar and those poems really do sound like songs.

There’s something about the sound of the 12 string especially that frees up the spirit.

Listened to a lot of music in Texas growing up and in the Service the radio was always a lifeline.

Now you’re back in civilian life it’s time to see if any of these songs have a life outside your head.

Head West Young Man!

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Los Angeles has quite a scene.

There’s a club, The Troubadour, in West Hollywood that has a Monday night Hootenanny where all kinds of songs get played by folks desperate to get their songs sung and heard.

Some of these singers are really building a following and some have even got record deals.

Now if I could just get someone like that to sing and record one of my songs I’d be launched as a songwriter and maybe people would take the time to listen to me singing my other songs.

Might even make a few bucks!

There’s this guy, John Herald, heads up a bluegrass outfit, The Greenbriar Boys, and we get along fine – play each other our songs.

He thinks, ‘Different Drum’ has got that something a song has to have so that it sticks in people’s minds and has them singing along before they even realise they are doing it.

Well, praise be!, John only went and recorded, ‘Different Drum’ and put it out on their album, ‘Better Late than Never!’

Now I have an official song writing credit!

But, I wont be needing a truck to haul away my royalties!

John and the Boys slowed the song down and their version sounds a little worthy to me; a hit for the Hoot crowd but nowhere else.

But, all songwriters will tell you, once a song is out there on record and on the radio, its like a message in a bottle and there’s no knowing whose feet it will wash up at.

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Turns out there’s this group called The Stone Poneys and that the girl in the group, Linda Ronstadt, heard the Greenbriar Boys take on, ‘Different Drum’ and thought here, finally, was a song that would suit her.

I got to say that anyone who has ever seen The Stone Poneys knows that while Kenny Edwards and Bobby Kimmel love their music they are very low watt bulbs in comparison to the brilliance that surrounds Linda.

She’s hotter than Mojave and she has a true voice that pierces the heart.

So, one day, I turn on the radio and Hallelujah!

Different Drum blasting out and no doubt about it a sure fire hit.

Got to say Linda has given the song a sweetness and sensuality that even surprises me.

Amazing how good a song can sound when its sung by a singer like Linda supported by musicians who can really play directed by a Producer who can make a song fly off those vinyl grooves.

I did some research and it seems Linda was the only Stone Poney on the record.

Nick Venet, the Producer, twigged that the song shouldn’t be one more of the thousands of pretty acoustic ballads out there.

Give it a stylish arrangement, add in the chops of first rate musicians to match Linda’s shining vocals and you’ve got a record that will have people turning up their radio’s and saying, ‘Who is that?’ and hot footing it to their nearest record store.

So, Jimmy Bond plays the hell out of the Bass – he’s got all that Jazz training and he knows the studio – how else did he get to be part of the Wrecking Crew!

Al Viola and Bernie Leadon played those sweet guitar parts.

Jim Gordon, the Jim Gordon, made the song swing from the Drum stool.

Add in a little magic from Sid Sharp’s strings and Don Randi’s Harpsichord and I defy anyone not to sing along with gusto!

This time the royalties really did flow in!

Now, some of you might know, that for a few years in the late 60s, I became something of a celebrity, heard someone call the group I was in, ‘The Monkees’ a Pop phenomenon indeed!

Of course, all the while the TV Show and the recording and  tours were in full spate I never lost track of the fact that at heart I was a singer songwriter and that when all this frenzy finished (as it always must sooner or later) I would pick up the 12 String and find a new audience.

You know, ‘Different Drum’ has been pretty good to me so I figured let’s see how it sounds with Red Rhodes on the pedal steel and me taking a mellow meander through the song.

Now songwriters love all their songs and I ain’t no different but Different Drum is close to my heart and it seems to keep finding new singers who want to put their own stamp on it.

Listen here to Susanna Hoffs (wasn’t she in a group that was something of a modest pop phenomenon in the 80s?).

Don’t she and Matthew Sweet charm us all!

That’s my kind of Hootennany right there.

One of the greatest gifts a songwriter can ever get is to hear one of their songs completely reimagined so that it comes up anew shining bright and dazzling a new audience.

That happened to me when I heard P P Arnold take on Different Drum with a bunch of English musicians.

Most everybody knows her as a backing singer or for cutting the original of Cat Stevens’ ‘First Cut is the Deepest’ but the more you investigate her career you realise she’s a magnificent soul singer and that any writer ought to be real proud to have her cover one of their songs.

Once heard you won’t forget this.

She can flat out sing!

Compared to Linda and Susanna and P P Arnold I can’t sing at all.

But, Over the years I have learned how to tell a story and make co-conspirators of an audience.

Different Drum is an old friend now and I like to make sure I don’t rush through it pretending I was still in my 20s.

A story needs to be properly framed and told for maximum impact.

So now it goes something like this :

Long as I can make it up on stage I’m going to be singing that song.

Time to close out with a tribute to the person who sent this song soaring into so many hearts.

Linda’s health doesn’t let her sing anymore but a voice like she had will always be lifting spirits and touching souls.

Van Morrison & Mark Knopfler : Last Laugh (Happy Birthday Van!)

You’ve either got it or you haven’t.

Presence.

Some things you just can’t buy.

Presence.

Coaches and Gurus and Snake Oil salesmen will portentously promise to reveal the secret to you.

Better save your money and your time and learn the things that can be taught – vocal exercises, relaxation, the whole assembly of skills that adds up to Technique.

But Presence?

No way.

You’ve either got it or you haven’t.

The gods or muses dispose as they will.

Hard to define but easy to recognise.

Greta Garbo.

Marlon Brando.

Rudolph Nureyev.

Maria Callas.

Miles Davis.

Muhammad Ali.

Van Morrison.

Intensity.

Impact.

Cultural, emotional and spiritual impact.

You’ll recognise it when you confront it.

Mark Knopfler is a gifted songwriter and as a guitar player has undoubted Presence.

He is also canny enough to know that some songs require an extra ingredient that he does not possess.

A voice with Presence.

So, for his Song, ‘The Last Laugh’ he called up Van Morrison.

There must have been a moment in the studio as they listened back when Mark exhaled and smiled deeply as the sound of Van’s voice at the beginning of the second verse lifted the work to a wholly new level.

Presence.

Emotional and Spiritual impact.

Van Morrison.

Sing it Van!

Games you thought you’d learned
You neither lost nor won
Dreams have crashed and burned
But you’re still going on
Out on the highway with the road gang working
Up on the mountain with the cold wind blowing
Out on the highway with the road gang working
But the last laugh, baby is yours
And don’t you love the sound
Of the last laugh going down

Very few singers merit the Bold and the Italics.

Van Morrison always has and always will.

Don’t you love the Sound!

Presence.

Cultural, Emotional and Spiritual Impact.

Demonstrated time after time in studios and on stages from Belfast to Buffalo.

Hey Girl! Baby Blue. Brown Eyed Girl. Sweet Thing. Moondance..

Linden Arden.

Listen to The Lion.

The Healing has begun.

No Guru. No Method. No Teacher.

Just Van and that Voice.

It ain’t why, why, why, it just IS.

A voice capable of transcendence as only the rarest voices are.

A voice that reaches up to the Moon.

Don’t you love the Sound!

Van is 74 this week.

So, Happy Birthday Van!

A heartfelt thanks for all the Songs and all the Singing.

 

May your Song always be Sung.

if this is your visit to The Immortal Jukebox you are very welcome!

Sign up for email alerts or follow me on Twitter @thomhickey55 and you’ll never miss a post!

There are more Posts about Van than any other artist here on The Jukebox so, in case you missed one or would like to be reminded of an old favourite here’s the Van Compendium for your delectation and delight!

Brown Eyed Girl’.

An introduction telling the tale of my headlong plunge into obsession following my first hearing of Van’s best known song.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-2L

Don’t Look Back’.

A meditation on Time featuring 2 astounding versions of John Lee Hooker’s tender Blues Ballad. One a reaching for the stars take of a teenager the second the work of a fully realised master musician.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-3k

Carrickfergus‘.

A meditation on family, friendship and loss. How the shadows lengthen! Sung with infinite tenderness and bardic authority.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-7J

In The Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll’.

A miraculous meditation on the persistence of memory, the power of the radio and the post war world as seen by a young Irish mystic.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-bi

Tupelo Honey’.

A rhapsodic meditation on the nurturing, redemptive power of Love. A Hallelujah!

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-fr

All in the Game‘.

A meditation on the carousel we all ride. It’s been sung by many singers but never like this!

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-jY

Domino’ .

A Founding Father joyously celebrated by a Master from the next generation.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-pH

Sometimes We Cry‘.

Bringing it all back home to singing on the street corner Days. The sweetness of Doo-Wop seasoned with wry maturity.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-sf

I Cover the Waterfront’.

Van and John Lee Hooker, Blues Brothers and Soul Friends, conjure up ancient tides.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-tq

Buona Sera Signorina‘.

Van puts his party hat on and romps through the Louis Prima classic.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-Xg

Hey Girl’.

Van takes a stroll along the strand and suspends Time.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-1cA

Gloria! Gloria!’

Once, Now and Ever.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-1dh

Coney Island 

A Pilgrim’s glimpses of Eternity in the everyday.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-1OQ

Brand New Day

Born again each Day with The Dawn.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-1kL

And It Stoned Me

A mystic dweller on the threshold shows us the wonder ever present everywhere.

Happy Birthday Van!

Jerry Lee Lewis, Richard Thompson &The Move (never forgetting Cowboy Jack Clement) : It’ll Be Me!

In the mid 1950s Rock ‘n’ Roll smashed apart the ice bound cultural climate of America and Britain.

A new generation born in the 1940s had epiphanies in the 50s listening to the icebreakers in chief : Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.

In Minnesota, Bob Dylan.

In Liverpool, John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

And, their ecstatic immersion into a new world was repeated in hamlets and villages and towns and cities all over the world.

Later, when those Baby Boomers became artists and legends in their own right they always carried within treasured memories of the sparks that had lit their own flames.

That’s why, time after time, when it comes to encores you’ll find the titans of the 60s and 70s returning to the original source to pay homage and rock out for all they are worth!

Now, if you want a mentor, an exemplar, for barn burning, earth shattering, Rock ‘n’ Roll you can’t possibly beat The Killer – Ferriday Louisiana’s very own Jerry Lee Lewis!

Image result for jerry lee lewis images 1950s

If there was ever a man/myth you might chance upon a-peeping from a crawdad hole or grinnin’ down on you from the top of a telephone pole it would have to be Jerry Lee!

In February 1957 Jerry was in Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios for his second session as a recording artist with Cowboy Jack Clement at the desk.

Everyone with a pulse from Mercury to Pluto knows the second track they recorded that day, ‘Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On’ as it became one of the defining records of the Rock ‘n’ Roll era (which is of course still extant).

But, today The Jukebox is celebrating the B Side of that epochal 45, ‘It’ll Be Me’ a masterpiece in its own right and, as we shall see, an inspiration for decades to come.

Well, you can climb to the top of Everest or descend in a diving bell to the deepest darkest depths of the oceans but you still wouldn’t be able to find a truer Rock ‘n’ Roller than Jerry Lee.

I love the leer that’s always in his voice tempered by a sly wink to the audience :

Come on you’ve got to admit it you just can’t get enough of Jerry Lee can you’.

And, there’s always that slippin’ and a slidin’ perpetually pumpin’ Piano to keep your heart rate up and out a broad smile on your face.

‘It’ll Be Me’ was written by a popular music renaissance man – Cowboy Jack Clement.

Image result for cowboy jack clement images

Among the roles Jack assumed were : songwriter, singer, producer, studio owner, talent spotter and world class raconteur!

Of course, as The Jukebox never tires of saying you only have to make one great record to be sure of immortality and with, ‘It’ll Be Me’ Jack most assuredly did that.

Janis Martin was a contemporary of Jerry Lee’s and a rip roaring rocker.

She took a long spell away from the music business yet when lured back by the estimable Rosie Flores for the album, ‘The Blanco Sessions’ in 1995 she showed that she could still set those sparks flying upward.

The Move were one of the least classifiable outfits in the firmament of British Beat Groups of the 1960s.

They were Rock ‘n’ Roll, they were Pop, they were Psychedelic, they were progressive and Retro all at the same time.

In Roy Wood they had a songwriter/performer who overflowed with talent turbo charging the efforts of Bev Bevan (Drums), Carl Wayne (Vocals & Guitar), Trevor Burton (Guitar & Vocals) and Ace Kefford (Bass & Vocals).

Live, they brewed up quite a storm.

Here they are giving, ‘It’ll Be Me’ a no holds barred, eyeballs out, performance for the good old BBC.

Now we turn to a regular on The Jukebox, Richard Thompson, here performing live with his then wife Linda.

Richard Thompson, in contrast to almost all the stellar guitarists of his time, was not a devotee of B. B King, Elmore James or Chuck Berry.

Rather he had a unique set of influences which included traditional Pipers and Fiddle Players alongside Guitarists like Django Reinhardt, Charlie Christian and Les Paul.

Which is why he sounds only ever like himself.

And, he can play in almost any emotional register.

He can play with the still tenderness of a mother singing a lullaby to her sick child in the dead of night.

He can play with the ferocity of William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops as they slashed and burned their was from Atlanta to Savannah.

You want someone who can make the line :

‘If you see a rocket ship on its way to Mars’ come alive well look no further than Richard Thompson when he’s in the mood!

Better fasten your seat belt real tight! – you’ll be pulling some serious Gs!

Remember what I said about Encores?

Well, here’s a short, sharp and satisfying one from a Group, Lindisfarne, whom I often saw in their 70s heyday.

Lindisfarne, as their name suggests, were from England’s North East.

Their take on ‘It’ll Be Me’ suggests they may have been tuned in to Chuck Berry rather more closely than they were to Bede!

Pretty sure Bede never played the Harmonica like that!

Look who’s knocking on our door now!

None other than Tom Jones, happily never recovered from his first ecstatic exposure to Jerry Lee.

Sometimes you want music to be pure Fun and that’s exactly what Tom serves up here aided and ably abetted by Jools Holland.

What’s that line about funny faces and comic books?

Let’s conclude with Cowboy Jack himself bringing it all back home.

Well, if you see a new face on your totem pole or if you find a new lump in your sugar bowl, Baby, I have to tell you It’ll Be Me …….

 

Manu Chao, Mongo Santamaria & Bongo Joe : Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

A Bongo Bonanza featuring :

Preston Epps, Manu Chao, Mongo Santamaria, Jack Constanzo & Bongo Joe with a bonus of a Disney bear who’s not Ballou and 2 Nobel Prize Winners (and a tip of the hat to a third for my really savvy readers).

Sometimes you just feel unsettled.

Windows shakin’ all night in your dreams.

You can feel like you are a prisoner in a world of mystery.

No one can push that ticking clock back.

You start from here.

Maybe time to take a walk and clear the cobwebs from your head.

Far from the Towns in the rolling South Downs.

The hounds are out for their morning exercise.

The air’s so fresh you feel your heart expand.

Twang of the arrow and the snap of the bow.

What’s the thing that will snap you out of lethargy?

Maybe a trip to Tibet?

Maybe a full-length leather coat?

Or, Or, maybe those tunes rattlin’ the windows these last few nights weren’t dark forces tryin’ to get in but drums, Bongos indeed!

Bongos telling you to get up and dance.

Dance, dance, dance!

Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

Now you think of it there’s a particular tune that always starts the windows shakin’.

What was the guy’s name?

Sharp dressed dude with a hat.

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Preston Epps – how could I forget a name like that!

And, how could I ever forget, ‘Bongo Rock’!

Take it away Preston.

Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

That’ll flat get it!

Preston, who died in May this year, appeared on many fine records as a side man but his immortality as a musician was guaranteed once he recorded Bongo Rock in 1959.

Some things you can get tired of but Bongo Rock – Never!

OK, as Ballou the Bear from The Jungle Book would say :

‘I’m gone man, solid gone!’

So, we are going to keep those Bongos going.

Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

Now your mama might not have been queen of the mambo and your papa may not have been monarch of the Congo but as soon as Manu Chao hits his stride here you and your monkey will most assuredly know that you are the King of Bongo, baby!

The King of Bongo.

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Bongo, Bongo! Bongo!

Manu Chao.

He gets Rhythm.

He gets the Bongos.

And, his style crosses all linguistic and stylistic boundaries.

Don’t matter where you come from or where you’re goin’ everybody is partial to the Bongos.

C’mon let’s all bang on the Bongos.

Let’s go crazy bangin’ on the Bongos.

And, who better to blast us straight into outer and inner space than supreme Bongo master – Mongo Santamaria.

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Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

Jazz classic Afro Blue given a magisterial reading on a Bongotastic night at New York’s Village in 1967.

Hubert Laws on Flute, Trumpet and Alto Sax by Ray Maldinado and Bobby Porcelli.

10 minutes of Bongo Heaven which never lets up.

Once Mongo gets his groove we are all gone, solid Gone!

Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

Our next Bongo King, Jack Costanzo was dubbed, ‘Mr Bongo’ by the esteemed Jazz critic Leonard Feather.

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Jack played with almost everyone in the Who’s Who of 20th century Jazz and Showbiz – from Frank Sinatra to Charlie Parker to The Supremes!

Have Bongos – ready to Party was Jack’s mantra.

Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

There must be something in those Bongos because Jack almost made it to 99 before he went to play Bongos in the afterlife.

Going to finish up here with Bongo Joe.

Now, strictly speaking he doesn’t play the Bongos per se.

He actually plays the 55 Gallon Oil Drum.

But, I have to say there was no way I was going to write a post titled Bongo! Bongo! Bongo! and leave out my man Bongo Joe.

Joe started out as a ‘regular’ musician even playing piano for Sammy Davis Jr but he found his true calling when he found the sounds he could conjure from 55 gallon Oil Drums.

His birth name was George Coleman but he became and will always be remembered as Bongo Joe.

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As Bongo Joe he became a legendary figure on the streets of Galveston and San Antonio over three decades.

In 1968 the ever perspicacious Chris Strachwitz at Arhoolie Records captured Joe in scorching form on his only recording, ‘George Coleman : Bongo Joe’.

Just before I moved down to the South Downs nearly three years ago I gave almost all my Vinyl to Oxfam but I kept my copy of Bongo Joe – some things are too precious to give away!

Now tell me that didn’t dispel any residual cobwebs!

Dig that whistling!

Ain’t nothin’ like the Bongos to cheer a body up.

I am just about to apply for a new Passport.

I was going to put ‘Writer’ for my Occupation but maybe in some countries that may not grant you so warm a welcome.

So, I am now resolved to write, ‘Bongocero’.

Everybody, everywhere, when you get right down to it loves the Bongos.

Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!

More Bongo Lore :

My favourite Disney character is Bongo the Bear from the excellent, ‘Fun and Fancy Free’ from 1947.

I never tire of Dinah Shore telling the story of how escaped circus bear Bongo wins the heart of Lulubelle and defeats the dangerous wild bear Lockjaw.

The story comes from Sinclair Lewis ‘book, ‘Little Bear Bongo’.

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Sinclair Lewis was a Nobel Prize winner as was a very enthusiastic Bongo Player – Maverick Physicist Richard Fenyman.

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Maybe getting his Bongo groove on agitated the grey cells and released those genius insights!

In 1959 then teen heartthrob Cliff Richard appeared as a character called Bongo Herbert in a, ‘Satire’ called, ‘Expresso Bongo’.

I was never a fan of Cliff’s and when I see him on TV I usually mutter  – oh look there’s Bongo Herbert!

Look out for Bongo Blues on the soundtrack performed by Hank Marvin and The Shadows.

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Bongoland in Tanzania means a place where people have to be smart and savvy to get ahead.

There are two fine films called Bongoland and Bongo is apparently a generic term for the Tanzanian film industry.

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A favourite childhood memory of mine is watching Magicians on TV.

My particular favourite was Ali Bongo who was something of a magician’s magician twice being granted the accolade of the presidency of The Magic Circle.

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Bongo! Bongo! Bongo!