Boz Scaggs, Willy Deville (not forgetting Moon Martin) : Cadillac Walk

How hard can it be to write a hit song?

Pick up a Guitar or sit down at the Piano.

You know the notes and the chords.

You’ve listened to songs all your life.

Thousands of them playing in your head.

Find a combination of melody and rhythm and words which will have the listener turning up the radio, memorising the name of the song and opening their wallet.

But, nobody, nobody, can guarantee they know what the magic combination is.

Every songwriter, every time, has to take on the persona of a safe cracker turning the tumblers hyper alert to the tell tale click that says, ‘That’s it! This is going to be a Billboard Bullseye!’.

Melody, Rhythm, Words.

Now you will almost certainly need to add Style and Attitude and find a distinctive singer with the mysterious power to sell a song if you want the Hit you hear in your head to become a bona fide hit on the radio and on the charts.

Sometimes, as a songwriter, you realise that perhaps you’re not that singer yourself.

Holding a tune is one thing but there are singers out there who take your breath away.

Singers who win and hold your allegiance.

Your own version of this sure fire hit may become an aficionados favourite but it is not the aficionados who’ll pay the mortgage – it’s the great amorphous record buying public.

Now for subject matter.

Can’t ever seem to go wrong with Cars and Girls.

Worked pretty well for Chuck Berry!

And, the bard of New Jersey keeps rolling them out on exactly those themes.

A memorable title sure helps.

And, featuring a Girl’s name.

And, maybe there’s a dance move in there too.

Wrap it all up and what have I got?

Let’s lay down a hot rod rockabilly rhythm.

Let’s call the Girl Rita (lots of Ritas around).

Lets have a car – got to be a Cadillac (everyone wants to drive a Cadillac).

And, come to think of it that Jimmy McCracklin song ‘The Walk’ always seemed to hit the spot for me.

Cadillac Walk.

Cadillac Walk.

Let’s have flowers and tattoos and guns.

And, since my name is now Moon Martin let’s not forget to reference the Moon in the very first line!

Marinate in the Studio and here we go.

Maybe it won’t be a hit for me but I sure as hell ain’t gonna hold back.

When the moon comes up the sun goes down
Rita starts to creep around
Gets a flame in her blood fire on her breath
Fourteen names notched on her chest
She gotta rose tattooed on her thigh
Dead men raise and sigh
And it drives my young blood wild

My baby’s got the Cadillac walk

When Rita turns down her bed
Grown men plead and beg
Baby honey baby you’re the one
Carve your name right on my gun
Ain’t she something nice
Bones rattle my dice
I slobber down my side

My baby’s got the Cadillac walk

Lonely tonight honey hear my call
She said boy I won’t make you crawl
Rita pound by pound
Knows how to work it down
Weep and cry to and fro
Leave your heart she’ll steal your gold
No matter what the cost
Ooh…them duel exhaust
Make my motor sigh

Moon Martin never did have a Hit with Cadillac Walk.

But when Moon worked with legendary Priducer/Arranger Jack Nitzsche the latter realised that pair this song with a dynamite singer and a hot band and you most assuredly would have a hit.

The lead singer of Mink Deville, Willy Deville, has pipes good enough to have sung lead for The Drifters.

No style of music he can’t sing the hell out of.

You hear him sing and he wins and holds your allegiance.

Plus, the guy gets straight A’s for Style and Attitude.

Gonna make this a Noir Production.

You want a singer to drive young blood wild?

Step up to the microphone Willy Deville!

And, when a singer like Willy Deville sings a song other singers listen.

Thus an obscure song becomes a treasure.

A treasure that a connoisseur of songs and singers like Boz Scaggs will surely discover and file away for the day when it’s the right time for him to show what he can do with it.

Boz is a class act.

He purrs through the song on cruise control.

Boz gets the blues and rides with the rhythm.

Boz got nothing to prove these days – he’s a master assured of his mastery.

Let’s finish up with Jukebox Hero Willy Deville pulling out all the stops to give Cadillac Walk a blistering live rendition.

Said it before, gonna say it again – a true message always gets through sometimes it just takes a while.

Hey Moon! That’s quite some song you wrote.

Cadillac Walk.

Cadillac Walk.

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!

Rod Stewart, Carole King, Aretha Franklin : Oh No, Not My Baby

Featuring :

Rod Stewart, Carole King, Aretha Franklin, Maxine Brown & She & Him

The news is out.

All over town.

Your True love has been seen runnin’ around with someone new.

And, don’t some of your, ‘Friends’ love to tell you so!

They’ll tell you, with a theatrical sigh, that you’ve been led on.

They’ll shake their heads and say you’ve been told big, black Lies.

Even your Mama, trying to protect you, will counsel you beware – consider that there might be truth in those ugly rumours.

But. You have Faith.

Faith.

Whatever they say, whatever their motive, You Know.

You Know.

You don’t believe a single word is true.

Not a single word.

Your Love is not like the others.

Not at all.

Oh, no, not my sweet baby.

Oh, no, not my sweet baby.

My sweet baby.

From the heart and soul of Carole King and Gerry Goffin another guaranteed Pop/Soul classic from 1964.

The song was first given to The Shirelles who recorded a version with alternating lead vocals.

Scepter/Wand Reciords Exec Stan Greenberg thought that their version didn’t work because the beauty of the melody and poignancy of the song was obscured by the multiplicity of voices.

But, there was nothing wrong with the backing track so he called up Maxine Brown and told her to take away The Shirelles version and come back with a Hit!

Maxine, listened over and over and as she did she noticed that a group of young girls playing a skipping game outside her apartment had zeroed in on the hook as they skipped and sang ;

Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby
Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby

So, into the studio to overdub her tender, truthful vocal ( with Dee Dee Warwick helping out on the chorus) and Voila!

A sure fire Hit!

Seven weeks on the Billboard Top 40.

Now, the thing about Carole King melodies is that they enter your dreams.

They seem to be contain echoes of half remembered lullabies from your cradle days.

They are both fresh and familiar at first and thousandth hearing.

And, if you are a singer in want of a killer ballad (as singers always are) you inevitably turn to the Goffin/King Songbook because their songs rooted in universal emotions can never go out of style.

Never.

When it comes to singing a killer ballad The Jukebox will brook no argument that Rod Stewart in his early 70’s pomp with The Faces was absolutely as good as it got.

Ronnie Wood providing the tasty guitar licks.

Ian McLagan, Kenney Jones and above all Ronnie Lane providing the rugged but oh so right Rock ‘n’ Roll/Soul musical mash up.

Rod, of course, knew that when it came to breaking hearts there millions practiced in the art.

Yet, he brings total conviction to the lover’s cri de couer :

Not my baby, not my baby, not my baby, Oh, No, Not My Baby!

Rod, in those days had sensitivity as well as swagger.

I’m sure that the music press of those times would have described Rod as a, ‘Rock God’ along with Robert Plant and several other extravagantly maned stage strutters.

But, when it came to the Soul arena there was only ever one Queen.

Aretha Franklin.

The key word here is Faith.

Incarnating on record and in performance the attractions of the flesh and faith and giving each realm its proper due was Aretha’s special gift.

Whatever she sang she sang with a Believer’s passion.

Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby
Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby

Alongside the majestic vocal listen to the testifying of Cornell Dupree and Eddie Hinton on Guitar, Barry Beckett on Keyboards, David Hood on Bass and Roger Hawkins on Drums.

Not my baby, not my baby, not my baby, Oh, No, Not My Baby!

Now tell me you don’t Believe!

Remember the mantra, ‘A Goffin/King song never goes out of style’?

Well, from just a few years ago here’s the proof.

Music chameleon M Ward and Actor/Singer Zooey Deschanel are together ‘She & Him’.

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And together on their CD, ‘Classics’ they have recorded an utterly charming version of, ‘Oh, No, Not My Baby’.

 

Well, you might have had a last minute fling

But In am sure it didn’t mean a thing

‘Cause yesterday you gave me your ring

And I’m so glad I kept right on saying :

Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby
Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby

To conclude let’s go back to the Source.

Carole King at the piano slaying us all with a deep heart’s core take on her own masterpiece :

Wonderful the first time you hear it and wonderful as long as people can say, with Hope and Faith to all the doubters :

Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby
Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby

 

On John Lennon’s Jukebox – Bruce Channel : Hey Baby!

Featuring memories of the Summer of 1975 & an all you can eat ‘Hey Baby’ Buffet with :

Bruce Channel, Delbert McClinton,  Arthur Alexander, NRBQ, Buckwheat Zydeco, The Holmes Brothers, Juice Newton and Jimmy Vaughan. 

(As always if corporate czars block any of the clips appearing here you will be able to find them by a trawl of YouTube).

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Last week I had to visit our local civic centre to fill out some official forms.

This involved, as encounters with officialdom almost always do, a lot of waiting about in uncomfortable chairs while my details were checked and double checked before eventually my application was approved.

Normally, I would plug in my earphones and pass the time listening to a fine selection of expertly curated Immortal Jukebox tunes.

However, it turned out that I had left home without either my phone or iPad so I became a captive of the building’s playlist.

But, wouldn’t you just know it – the very first song played was, ‘Hey Baby!’ by Bruce Channel, a favourite of mine for many a decade.

Indeed, as soon as the distinctive harmonica riff (played by Delbert McClinton) announced itself I was transported back to a summer job in 1975.

My Dad was a long term employee of a civil engineering firm so he was able to secure me a job on a site not too far from home.

Through his good offices I also got a lift each morning at 6.30 from Dave, a trainee Quantity Surveyor, in his ‘Deux Chevaux’ Citroën 2CV, a car which made up for in charm what it lacked in speed and power.

Its been more than 4 decades since I travelled with Dave so I must confess that i have forgotten his surname.

But, I remember the important things.

To whit – he had ginger hair and proudly sported a, ‘Zapata’ moustache.

He was witty when commenting on world events and kind when commenting on people he knew directly.

And, most importantly for our friendship he was a self proclaimed music fanatic with particular interests in Motown and American Pop Hits of the early 1960s before the British Invasion.

Dave had made a series of cassettes showcasing his enthusiasms and we enthusiastically sang along to these on our half hour journey to work.

To establish my bona tides as a true lover of music rather than a passive listener Dave casually asked what was the common thread linking the last three songs we had harmonised to :  ‘Jimmy Mack’, ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’ and, ‘My Guy’ ?

He was quick to say I would get no points for saying they all featured the same crew of musicians; the legendary Funk Brothers.

Fair enough I said and won his approval by saying the other link was the backing vocalists:  those barely known and critically unsung heroines of Hitsville USA, ‘The Andantes’ (Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow, and Louvain Demps).

Next as he cued up the tape labelled, ‘Hits 1962’ he asked as the once heard never forgotten harmonica intro to, ‘Hey Baby’ blasted out into the West London fume filled streets – Who’s playing that harmonica?

Not only did I know that it was Delbert McClinton I said I had just bought his new Album, ‘Victim of Life’s Circumstances’ and would lend it to him to tape.

From that day on as I got into the 2CV it was always, ‘Hey Baby’ at maximum volume that greeted me.

Thus was our friendship cemented.

At the end of that Summer he moved to Scotland and I never saw him again.

But I will never forget those 2CV/Motown/Hey Baby days so wherever you are Dave this one’s for you.

I hope you still thrill to the sound of Young America and sing with all your might whenever you hear Bruce Channel’s vocal and Delbert’s harmonica light up the airwaves :

Hey, heybaby
I want to know if you’ll be my girl

Hey, heybaby
I want to know if you’ll be my girl

Now, as Major Bill Smith, who recorded, ‘Hey Baby’ was heard to remark :

’Cotton Picker, that’s sure one Cotton Pickin’ Hit!’

And he was perfectly cotton pickin’ right.

Sales of more than a million with 3 weeks atop the Billboard Chart and Number 2 in the UK.

And, permanently lodged in the memories of several generations of musicians across many genres.

Hey Baby is endlessly adaptable (as we shall see and hear) whether you are approaching it  as Rock ‘n’ Roll, Blues, Country, Cajun/Zydeco or pure Pop!

The original benefits from Bruce’s relaxed vocal set to an addictive shuffle beat provided by Jim Rogers and Ray Torres on Drums and Bass.

Bob Jones and Billy Sanders Guitars fill out the sound.

But, the undoubted signature sound of the song is provided by Delbert McClinton’s Harmonica.

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Musicians recognised this as one catchy lick!

One of those was none other than John Lennon who met Delbert in person when The Beatles supported Bruce Channel at The Tower Ballroom New Brighton on the 21st of June 1962.

John certainly remembered that lick when The Fab Four got into Abbey Road to record, ‘Love Me Do’.

And, he never forgot, ‘Hey Baby!’ as is clear from its presence on his own Jukebox.

That Jukebox also contained work by our next artist – Arthur Alexander.

John recognised that Arthur was a great singer who could add a shadowy blue tone to any song.

Sing it Arthur!

Next up an utterly charming version by the NRBQ from their dazzlingly diverse 1969 debut LP.

The NRBQ, then Terry Adams (keyboards), Steve Ferguson (guitar), Joey Spampinato (bass), Frank Gadler (vocals) and Tom Staley (drums), obviously had a riotously good time recording, ‘Hey Baby’ and that shows in every groove.

Set yourself down on your porch swing and uncork something smooth and sweet!

Mercy!

OK, time to paddle our pirogue down to Louisiana.

So, we will replace the harmonica with the accordion and make sure our boots are on properly because we are about to really fly around the floor dancing to this version from Buckwheat Zydeco!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Listing the genres Hey Baby! could be adapted to I unforgivably omitted Gospel.

It is clear that The Holmes Brothers bring something of the backwoods Country Church to  our party here.

Sherman and Wendell sure get an Amen from me!

Testify! Testify!

Righteous!

Now we turn to a much overlooked talent – Judy ‘Juice’ Newton who always brings the warmth of a summer breeze to her performances.

When you are bringing out that home made lemonade for your Summer BBQ I strongly recommend you look out some of her records.

Youll find you’ll float across the lawn (even if you haven’t laced the lemonade with something a little stronger!).

Back to Texas for our concluding take.

I feel like putting my shades on as I groove to this slinky version by Jimmy Vaughan.

Let’s not pretend we went anywhere near Lemonade as that one prowled around our minds!

No, got to be something with a powerful kick and an after burn.

I don’t know what Jimmy, Mike Flanigin and Frosty Smith go for but I’m going for the Kentucky Straight!

Having done so I’m ready to dig out my harmonica and lead you all in:

Hey, heybaby
I want to know if you’ll be my girl
Hey, hey baby
I want to know if you’ll be my girl
When I saw you walking down the street
I said that’s a kind of girl I’d like to meet
She’s so pretty, Lord, she’s fine
I’m gonna make her mine, all mine
Hey, Hey Baby!

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.

 

George Harrison, James Ray : Got My Mind Set on You

‘It’s gonna take time, a whole lot of precious time ….’ (Rudy Clark/James Ray)

‘A true message always gets through – sometimes it just takes a while’ (Immortal Jukebox)

On 7 February 1964 Pan Am Flight 101 took off from London’s Heathrow Airport bound for New York City.

Thousands of young women, barely controlled by massed ranks of British Bobbies in blue, screamed and sobbed as the plane took off.

For this was no ordinary flight.

No, for Pan Am 101 was carrying a very special group of passengers whose arrival in America that day would change the course of History.

Those passengers were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – The Beatles!

When they touched down at JFK they were greeted by scenes of pandemonium as fans and the media pushed and shoved to get their first glimpse of the Fab Four.

The ‘British Invasion’ had begun and from that day on for the rest of the decade there was no question about who the most popular and successful group in the world was and who were the most famous and instantly recognisable faces on the entire planet.

But, before an invasion there is usually a reconnaissance.

You send a scout ahead.

And, for The Beatles, the scout was George Harrison.

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For though The Beatles didn’t land on the soil of the Promised Land until February 1964 George had spent two weeks there in September 1963.

How come?

Well, George was the youngest of the three Harrison siblings.

Brother Peter was three years older than George but Sister Louise was 12 years older and long before The Beatles were even a madcap dream in the minds of John and Paul she had left the grim austerity of post War Liverpool to travel the world with her mining engineer husband.

And, in September 1963, she was living at 113 McCann Street, Benton, Illinois a coal town with a population of under 10, 000 souls.

After the release of ‘She Loves You’ in Britain in August 1963 Brain Epstein decided that in view of the immense workload they had already completed and the even more taxing plans he had for their future it was time The Beatles took a break.

John went to Paris while Paul and Ringo jetted off to Greece.

George, with brother Peter, went to Benton to visit Louise, arriving there on September 16th.

Image result for louise harrison images

His time in Benton would be for George, as Paris and Greece would be for his fellow Beatles, the last time they could ever walk the streets of any town or city without being instantly recognised and/or mobbed.

George would always remember his first, incognito, exposure to American culture and wonder at the freedom of being able to wander at will wherever he pleased.

On that trip he bought a Rickenbacker at the Fenton Music Store at 601 South 10th Street, Mt Vernon, IL for $400.

He would play this on the pioneering UK TV Show, Ready, Steady, Go’ on 4 October.

Image result for george harrison with rickenbacker 425

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Along with Louise he hitchhiked to Radio Station WFRX and presented them with a mint copy of, ‘She Loves You’.

He also hooked up with a guy called Gabe McCarty a member of a local group called the Four Vests and on 28 September George took the stage with them at The Veterans Hall in Eldorado.

The patrons that night were the first Americans to hear George rip into, ‘Johnny B Goode’, ‘Matchbox’ and ‘Roll Over Beethoven’.

George flew back to England on October 3rd.

In his luggage, along with the precious Rickenbacker, was more treasure in the form of vinyl.

George, a true fan of music as well as a musician, had haunted the record stores in Illinois and NYC looking for gems that were hard to find at home.

No one in the stores had ever heard of The Beatles but the shelves groaned with records that George had only ever read about in magazines or heard about from American musicians he had met in Hamburg.

He bought a lot of premium Blues and R&B sides by the likes of Booker T and the MGs and Bobby Bland.

His eye was particularly caught by an LP bearing the name of James Ray on the Caprice Label.

Image result for images rudy clark songwriter

He knew the name because The Beatles had been regularly featuring Ray’s hauntingly other-worldly, ‘If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody’ since Paul had found a copy at Brian Epstein’s NEMS Record Shop.

Spinning the platter back at 113 McCann he became especially fond of one track in particular – ‘I’ve Got My Mind Set On You’ and his love and admiration for the song would survive the madness of Beatlemania and the glory days of his solo career.

George could instantly recognise that there was a keening, spiritual, quality in James’ voice that gave a profound allure to everything he sang.

Sing it James!

 

The song was written by Rudy Clark who had written, ‘If You Gotta ..’ and would go on to write, ‘Good Lovin’, ‘Its in His Kiss’, and, ‘Everybody plays The Fool’ among other Hits.

The, ‘Let’s try everything we can think of’ arrangement was by Hutch Davie who had played the piano on, ‘Green Door’ and arranged Santo & Johnny’s wonderful guitar instrumental, ‘Sleepwalk’.

What lifts the track beyond a novelty of its time is James Rays’ stunning vocal.

James can really sing.

There is a yearning, as long as I’m singing this song I can make it through, quality to James’ voice which makes me hit the repeat button repeatedly every time I play any side he ever cut (and tragically there are probably less than 30).

You get the sense that there are ghosts hovering round James whispering secrets from beyond the veil and that James can’t help but hear even though he knows those voices are calling him to follow to the lands across the Styx.

We know so little about this wonderful artist.

It seems he was born James Ray Raymond in Washington D.C in 1941 and that he served some time in the Military.

He first appears on record in 1959 as, ‘Little Jimmy Ray’ (he was all of 5ft tall on tip toe) but it is not until he hooked up with Rudy Clark and Gerry Granahan at Caprice Records that he made anything that stirred the airwaves or set the nickels flowing on The Jukeboxes.

‘If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody’ has been recorded by Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, Ben E King, Lou Rawls and Bobby Gentry – superb artists all – yet not one of them has approached the spectral grace of James’ version (I plan to write a dedicated Post on the song later this year).

It seems that James had a drug problem and that when he was, ‘discovered’ by Rudy Clark he was homeless and finding such shelter as he could on apartment block rooftops.

He only recorded one LP and even the date and place of his death and where he is buried are unknown.

It seems likely that he was already dead when The Beatles landed at JFK.

In a business filled with tragic tales James’ tale is among the most tragic.

Yet, thanks to George Harrison and the other luminaries his name lives on at least for those who read sleeve notes and song writing credits.

George recorded his take on  ‘I’ve Got My Mind Set On You’ some 24 years after he first encountered it back in Benton.

His version is considerably more upbeat in tone than James’.

The song was recorded in George’s home studio within Friary Park his 120 room neo-gothic mansion.

Stellar musicians like Jim Keltner on Drums and Jim Horn on Saxophone feature on a characteristically multi layered production by Jeff Lynne who also provides creamy backing vocals.

This record is very much a 1980s record with a big sound that along with the winning video demolished all hesitation in the record buying public.

A Number One Hit!

It is not inconceivable that many seeing the song on MTV did not know this George Harrison fellow’s History!

Certainly not one in 10,000 who bought the record knew anything about James Ray.

But George did and I can’t help but think he had a thought for James as he recorded it and when he played it live.

 

 

Talking of live action here’s George giving the song the full lash in Japan backed by Eric Clapton’s ensemble.

Now, I love George’s version but it’s not the one I sometimes wake up singing.

No, it’s James Ray’s version which lingers like morning mist in my imagination.

James Ray’s voice was stilled some sad day in the mid 1960s but the eerie sound of his voice will always echo on and on.

Sing it James.

 

Notes and Call for Information!

There’s an excellent website toppermost,co.uk (Twitter @AgeingRaver) which publishes highly informative and entertaining top 10s on many artists beloved by The Jukebox.

The entry on James Ray written by the learned Dave Stephens (Twitter @DangerousDaveXX) is excellent.

The only CD I can find for James Ray is, ‘If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody – Golden Classics’ on the Gotham Label. Only 12 tracks and poorly presented but every track demands your attention.

If anyone knows anything more about James Ray’s life and death please let me know.

Also there’s surely a great documentary to be made about George’s time in Benton and about the fellow passengers on Pan Am 101 – again anyone who has any stories let me know!