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.

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.

Embed from Getty Images

*

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

*

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!

Allen Toussaint, Ernie K Doe : Mother-in-Law, Here Come The Girls

Where am I headed?

Well, walking the hills of old Duluth can get might cold.

So, time to head down to the source.

Down Highway 61.

Following the mighty Mississippi.

All the way down.

Thirteen Hundred miles and more.

All the way down.

Down to the Crescent City.

New Orleans.

Image result for new orleans 1960s images

New Orleans, where the food and the climate and the music have a flavour that you just can’t get anywhere else.

Nowhere else has that special mix of ethnicities and rhythms that make for a perfect tasting gumbo.

So, back to the Source.

The City of Louis Armstrong and Antoine Fats Domino.

The City of Professor Longhair and Irma Thomas.

The City of Allen Toussaint.

Embed from Getty Images

 

and Ernest Kador Jr – eternally to be remembered as Ernie K-Doe.

Embed from Getty Images

In April 1961 Allen Toussaint went into the J&M Studios in New Orleans with Ernie and a hand picked crew of musicians and emerged with a multi million seller which became the first Pop Number One from the Crescent City (a feat denied to Fats Domino and Little Richard).

A record that kept Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway’, Ricky Nelson’s ‘Travelin’ Man’ and Gene McDaniels’ ‘One Hundred Pounds of Clay’ off the top of Billboard.

And that record was?

Don’t tell me you don’t know, ‘Mother-in-Law’.

As Ernie said (and I ain’t about to argue) :

”There aren’t but three songs that will last for eternity,’ ”One is ‘Amazing Grace.’ Another is ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ And the third is ‘Mother-in-Law,’ because as long as there are people on this earth, there will always be mother-in-laws.”

Once you’ve listened to it fifty times or so (in the first week you come across it!) you wont be arguing with Ernie either.

I trust you’ve got your dancing shoes on ’cause you’re sure gonna need ’em!

 

Burn, K-Doe, Burn!

You just good, Ernie, that’s all!.

Now, ain’t that good for what ails you?

If skies are grey, the mailman hasn’t called for a month and your doctor won’t even tell you what it is you got I prescribe three spins of, ‘Mother-in-Law’ and I guarantee you’re going to feel a whole lot better.

Allen Toussaint brought all his skills as a songwriter, piano player, band leader, producer and arranger to Mother-in-Law.

The tempo is just right – a relaxed shuffle that demands you sway along to it.

The pitch perfect bass answering vocal comes courtesy of Benny Spellman.

Image result for benny spellman images

Later on Ernie returned the favour by singing back up on Benny’s ‘Lipstick Traces (on a Cigarette) another classic from the pen of Allen Toussaint.

The riverboat setting out sax is provided by Robert Parker (previously featured on The Jukebox with, ‘Barefootin’).

Image result for robert parker musician images

Stirring al the ingredients ’til everything was just so and providing the addictive piano throughout was Allen Toussaint himself.

And Ernie?

Well Ernie provided charm by the bucket load and sang lead with a smile so broad you can hear it in every groove.

Every groove.

And, that Ladies and Gentlemen, is how you confect an all time classic!

At this point I must issue a Formal Disclaimer.

My own Mother-in-Law, Enid (RIP), whom I miss greatly could not have been more warm and welcoming to me when I appeared as a prospective Son-in-Law.

Far from being sent from ‘Down Below’ she was clearly sent here from Above.

Ernie gloried in the success of ‘Mother-in-Law’ but though he made many fine records subsequently he was never to have another mega hit.

What he did become through the force of his personality was a bona fide New Orleans legend.

And, far away across The Atlantic, deep in the Surrey Rhythm & Blues Delta, Eric Clapton with The Yardbirds chose to record another Ernie K-Doe and Allen Toussaint song for their debut single.

Later on, the great Warren Zevon (due to feature on The Jukebox soon) brought his own lascivious lupine genius to the song.

Still and all it’s Ernie’s version that gets me on the dance floor – you just cant beat that New Orleans strut on a ‘Certain Girl’.

Tempo, Tempo, Tempo!

 

Ernie’s national and International career was cast into the doldrums by the British Invasion and the rise of Motown.

Still, Allen Toussaint remained faithful to an old friend and in 1970 brought Ernie into the Studio with New Orleans finest.The Meters, and crafted a superb album which featured a guaranteed smash hit in any sane world, ‘Here Come The Girls’.

Except, as we all know all too well, we very often live in an insane world – so Here Come The Girls came out and promptly vanished into the ether.

Just listen to the joyous funk of this track and wonder what you have to do to have a Hit!

Times were hard for Ernie from the mid 70s to the end of the 80s.

He grew far too fond of The Bottle and seemed unable to recover that winning charm.

It was the love of a good woman, Antoinette Fox, that saved him.

She convinced him to bid the booze goodbye and gave him the energy to relaunch his career as a performer and crucially for his local profile as a Radio DJ for WWOZ and WTUL.

Ernie’s outsize personality found a ready audience and he became a much loved figure once again in his Hometown.

He loved to dress up to and beyond the nines and as the host in his own, ‘Mother-in-Law’ Bar and Lounge he was entirely capable of singing ‘Mother-in-Law’  ten times in a row and having the audience roar along with every word!

Ernie died in July 2001 as a revered elder statesman of the Crescent City music scene and he was later, quite properly, inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

Oh and as The Jukebox has told you before, and will again :

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

For in 2007 some bright spark in the British advertising world had the brilliant idea that the perfect song to sell Make Up products for Boots (a chain of Pharmacies long a staple of the British High Street) was none other than Ernie K-Doe’s, ‘Here Come The Girls’!

It featured in a series of Ads that everybody from 8 to 80 loved and sang along to with gusto. Soon, ‘Here Comes The Girl’ was a genuine hit and the shade of Ernie must have laughed and said, ‘I knew, I always knew, it was a Hit!’

Burn K-Doe burn!

You just good Ernie, that’s all.

Too Good.

I’m going to wrap it up today with an Easter Extravaganza for y’all.

Here’s Ernie with Allen reliving those golden days and thrilling us all.

Burn K-Doe, Burn!

Oh, and I must admit it’s been a long, long, time since I’ve spontaneously launched into a rendition of, ‘Amazing Grace’ or ‘The Star Spangled Banner’.

But, quite often, when I’m walking in the South Downs Hills, bubbling out of my subconscious comes :

’Mother-in-Law (Mother-in-Law) ….. and the miles fly by.

Notes :

Ernie was the ninth of eleven children.

His father was a Baptist Preacher so Ernie, as so many, began his singing career in the Gospel tradition – his early hero being the stupendous Archie Brownlee from the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi.

After a few years in Chicago as a teenager he returned to New Orleans and was talent spotted by Bumps Blackwell.

However, it was only when he signed to Minit Records and came under the tutelage of Allen Toussaint that his career blossomed.

Further Tracks by Ernie that I love include :

’Hello My Lover’, ‘I Cried My Last Tear’, ‘Te-Ta-Te-Ta-Ta’ and ‘Popeye Joe’.

Ben Sandmel has written a very enjoyable appreciation of Ernie in, ‘Ernie K-Doe : The R&B Emperor Of New Orleans’.

Nina Simone, The Animals : Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

All of us want to be loved.

All of us want to be known for who we really are.

All of us want to be understood.

We want to stretch out our hand to someone who says, with feeling, ‘I know, I know, I know exactly what you mean’.

Yet, so  often, we feel, far from being truly understood, we are instead misunderstood.

Living day to day can be so hard.

We make mistakes.

We let ourselves down.

No one alive can always be an angel.

Sometimes it seems all we have to do is worry, worry, worry.

We regret those foolish words so carelessly spoken.

Oh, but at heart, in our soul, to get through another day, to live companionably, we must believe our intentions are good.

Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.

Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.

 

Nina Simone.

An artist of the first degree.

A musician, singer and performer sharing the stature of Bessie Smith, Billie Holliday and Aretha Franklin.

Not that you can compare her artistry to anyone else.

There has never been anyone like Nina Simone.

A naturally gifted pianist and a singer who made every song she ever sang her own.

She grew up in in pre War South Carolina where strict limits were imposed on the ambitions of young black girls – however talented.

Her originality, her sensitivity and her intuition which were integral to her greatness as an artist made her acutely, painfully, aware of the savage injustice she was heir to as a proud Black Woman and artist in the land of her birth.

So, when Nina Simone sang there was always wounded pain informing the beauty she created.

She brought fierce attention to a song melding the personal and the political with irresistible force.

‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ is in her reading a plea for personal and political justice and respect from a casualty of wilful misunderstanding – including her misunderstanding of herself.

Listening, you feel suspended in time, swaying in tempo, as Nina Simone with her poised piano and bruised vocal excavates layer after layer of meaning and emotion.

Listening, you hear a blues, you hear a spiritual, you hear echoes of No More Auction Block, you hear echoes of All My Trials, you hear a cry from the heart.

Listening to the way she bites into and stretches the words misunderstood, good and joy for maximum effect.

There is a gravity in her performance of this song which I find emotionally overwhelming.

Nina Simone cuts deep and listening to her is both immensely rewarding and profoundly disturbing for there can be no ignoring the dark truths about humanity and society she so often revealed.

Nina Simone paid a high price in personal terms for the truths she told.

We are all in her debt for the courage and fortitude with which she pursued her vocation and for the many treasures she bequeathed through her records.

I estimate that there are over 400 versions of, ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ in the catalogue.

I have listened to twenty or so before writing this Post.

I found merit in the versions by Joe Cocker, Julie Tippets & Brian Auger, Mary J Blige and especially in that of Meshell Ndegeocello.

But, it seemed to me there was only one version that I could, in all conscience, present in the same Post as that of Nina Simone.

The Animals.

The pride of Newcastle.

They were specialists in sourcing songs from the blues tradition and turbo charging them through the lacerating power of Eric Burdon’s vocals and intensity of the arrangements led by Alan Price’s entrancing Organ and Hilton Valentine’s down these mean streets Noir Guitar.

I have read that Bob Dylan jumped out of his car and shouted with amazed delight when he first heard The Animals take on, ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ which they had found on his debut LP.

I would not venture to guess what Nina Simone made of their version of, ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ yet we can say that it is an intensely driven, masculine, version that can never be forgotten once heard.

Certainly, Bruce Springsteen, a major Animals devotee, must have had this version in his head as he wrote, ‘Badlands’.

While no one could attempt to match the Nina Simone original The Animals version, a classic in its own right, became the essential template for almost all versions that followed.

We will always be in search of understanding.

We will always be edgy, have regrets and be filled with worry.

While wanting desperately to be understood we will misunderstand others and ourselves.

That’s what it is to be human rather than an angel.

Ah  but, if we could, if we just would pay proper attention to each other and the world around us we might in our journey come to understand that every hair is numbered like every grain of sand.

We might come to live in the land of spices.

We might hear church bells beyond the stars.

We might find something understood.

Sing it Nina.

Notes :

Nina Simone’s original version can be found on her 1964 Album, ‘Broadway, Blues, Ballads’.

The Animals version was released in January 1965 – it was a substantial world wide hit.

The writers of the song were Bennie Benjamin, Horace Ott (who arranged and conducted the Nina Simone version) and Sol Marcus.

 

Christmas Alphabet ; A for Amos Milburn & Ahmad Jamal

After the last Post’s deep dive into mysticism it’s time to relax and indulge in a little Christmas cheer.

And, who better to provide such cheer than our old Friend and carousing companion, Amos Milburn!

In our house the Christmas wreath adorns the front door.

The tree is decorated and the lights are twinkling.

Underneath the carefully chosen presents are mounting.

The invitations to family and friends have been sent.

We won’t worry about those pesky January bills.

No, we are getting good and ready (I’m practicing my charades mimes!).

We’re gonna dance in the hall and the kitchen and the living room.

We’re gonna finger pop ’til New Years Day.

Because, when all is said and done, Christmas comes but once a year.

Once a year.

Let the good times roll.

Enjoy!

 

And, there will come a moment when all the preparations are complete.

A moment when stillness is all around.

The children are, finally!, asleep.

Somewhere, from a moonlit sky, the snow is falling, hushing the world.

Let it snow.

Ahmad Jamal, a favourite of Miles Davis (and any favourite of Miles’ …), conjures up the scene with his Trio.

Let it snow.

The last Post in the Series will be on the 21st – Don’t Miss It!

Christmas Alphabet S for Santa Claus Is Back in Town : Elvis Presley

It is a moot point as to when the Christmas Season begins.

December 1st?

First Sunday of Advent?

Well, in my house, it begins the day I walk along the shelves of vinyl and with due reverence slide out, ‘Elvis’ Christmas Album’ which has been for 61 years now the best Christmas Album ever made.

If you want proof of that just cue up your stylus and play track 1 Side 1 – ‘Santa Claus Is Back in Town’ and marvel again at the sheer majestic glory that was the voice and persona of the young Elvis Presley!

The sensuous power of his singing here leaves the pretenders to his throne suffocating in dust!

Elvis don’t need no reindeer nor no sack on his back.

No, when he rolls up in his big black Cadillac – Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!

Here’s a Santa that will always be welcome back in town by every pretty baby the town can hold.

His magnetism, vocal assurance and sheer delight in his prowess shines through every bar.

There will always and forever only be one King.

 

The Alphabet Series continues on 15/17/19 and 21 December.

Don’t Miss One!

 

John Lee Hooker, George Thorogood, Amos Milburn : One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer

These days my alcohol take is very modest.

On celebratory occasions (my birthday, the birth of my Granddaughter) a decent measure of Malt Whiskey (no water, no ice).

Nothing to touch the Lagavulin 16 Year Old.

When Ireland recently magnificently beat The All Blacks at Rugby only a healthy slug of Bourbon seemed appropriate.

Given this was only the second victory over them in 111 years I felt justified in removing the racehorse stopper from my prized bottle of Blanton’s Original Single Barrel Kentucky Straight.

 

Blantons

There’s also my tradition of sipping a fine Pale Ale immediately I hit the WordPress Publish Button and launch a new Immortal Jukebox Post towards the waiting World!

Image result for bishops farewell beer images

Bishop’s Farewell always hits the spot as I wait for the Likes and Comments to flow in.

So, if you ask me what I drink these days I answer – not much but when I do : One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer.

One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer.

Now, back in the days when I was to be found at my favourite Honkytonks three or four times a week it was often the case that as I approached the bar its custodian would say, ‘A Rudy T as usual Thom?’

Image result for rudy toombs images

and I would sing out, ‘Of course, One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer’.

One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer in honour of Rudy Toombs who wrote the greatest drinking song of all time.

I don’t want no soda nor bubble gum.

You got what I want just serve me some.

One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer.

 

Now didn’t that go down smoothly!

Amos Milburn, of course, a master of the relaxed groove at the piano and a singer who invites you to lean in and listen to a story you’re gonna want to retell more than a time or two – especially when you’ve had a drink or three.

‘Please Mister Bartender, listen here … I ain’t here for trouble so have no fear.’

Embed from Getty Images

This high proof beauty came out as a 78 in August 1953 and was credited to Amos and His Aladdin Chickenshackers (must get that T Shirt made up for Christmas!).

The name of the backing band was, of course, a nod to Amos’ immortal Number One Record, ‘Chicken Shack Boogie’ from 1948.

That, ‘I ain’t drunk, I’m just real loose, real loose’ guitar comes via the magic fingers of Mickey Baker.

The public took shot after shot taking the record to Number 2 in the R&B Charts during a 14 week residency on the listings.

If you want another nip of this song, as you surely do, I think we should up the proof level considerably and make it strong, real strong.

And, as we all can surely agree, when it comes to Electric Blues no one, no one, packs more punch than The Solid Sender – Mr John Lee Hooker!

Embed from Getty Images

John Lee is your go to guy if you want to be sure to get high, be sure to get mellow, be sure to find yourself feelin’ good, be sure to emphatically, absolutely, categorically Knocked Out!

On his high octane take John Lee benefits from the support of Lafayette Leake on the rippling piano, Fred Below on the pounding drums and Eddie Burns on the slashing guitar.

John Lee gives the song drive and spirit with his patented combination of voice, guitar and foot.

John Lee bent every song he ever played to his own will and the unique metre and tempo of his profound musical imagination.

He had a personal and musical presence that was genuinely awesome.

No use in trying to play like John Lee – you had to BE John Lee to play that way.

When it comes to shaking the floor and rattling the walls John Lee reigns supreme.

Supreme.

 

 

I only got to see John Lee four or five times and I treasure the memory of every one.

But, this next take comes from someone who I’ve seen on at least a score of stages, the unforgettable, irrepressible, unstoppable, Delaware Destroyer, George Thorogood.

You’re gonna need to drink a fair few pints when you go to see George just to replace the sweat you’ll exude as he puts the pedal to the metal.

George just loves The Blues and he brings every ounce of energy at his command to bringing his beloved music to life night after night all over the world.

This is a man who did 50 gigs in 50 States in 50 days and never missed a beat!

He’s on a kick and he sure as hell ain’t ever gonna get off until they screw down the casket.

Maybe your baby’s gone and it seems everything is lost.

They been out all night.

Never came back at the break of day.

What can you do?

What can you do?

Well, I don’t like to give advice to the love-lorn but if ol’ George was in town I’d down One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer and station myself right in front of the stage and let the music work its magic.

 

That Jersey audience struck lucky to see George on such fine form with the added bonus of a special appearance by none other than Elvin Bishop.

Wow, that’s some twin carburetor guitar power!

As I said at the outset I don’t really drink now like I did in the old days.

But, I have to admit, blasting Amos, John Lee and George out time after time as I wrote this Post made me work up one hell of a thirst.

Nothing for it but to line up The Lagavulin, The Blanton’s and The Bishop’s and join the party.

One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer.

Slainte!

 

Notes :

Rudy Toombs – was a Louisiana native who became one the most able and prolific songwriters of the 1950s.

His songbook includes such classics as:

‘Teardrops from My Eyes’. ‘One Mint Julep’, ‘5-10-15 Hours’, ‘I’m Shakin” and, ‘Lonesome Whistle Blues’.

Amos Milburn – from Houston made a magnificent series of records for the Aladdin Label in the 40s and 50s.

My favourite tracks include – ‘ Down the Road a Piece’, ‘Rooming House Boogie’, ‘Let’s Make Christmas Merry, Baby’ and’Bad, Bad, Whiskey’.

Being the completest I am I have the Mosaic Label Box Set but there are many fine compilations of Amos available for those who want only the hits.