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!

Butch Hancock, Joe Ely and Emmylou Harris : West Texas Waltz

In which combining my passions for Cricket and Music I get to share pints of plain with 2 of the greatest modern songwriters ( Guy Clark & Butch Hancock), dance like the dickens and find a motto for life :

‘…Now only two things are better than milkshakes and malts
And one is dancin’ like the dickens to the West Texas Waltz’.

In 1985 I bought my first property.

A flat in Kennington, South of the River Thames.

New daily coordinates.

A three minute walk to Oval Tube Station.

A 15 minute train ride to Oxford Circus for work (Times crossword finished before Green Park).

Eight minutes walk to The Oval Cricket Ground.

The Oval is the home of the Surrey County Cricket Team and a Test Match venue.

Nothing better than to leave work early citing a vital meeting (you can get away with that when you’re the Boss) and instead catch the last couple of hours play of a county match as the late afternoon sun merged into twilight.

Five minutes walk to The Cricketers Pub (now sadly defunct) where between 1985 and 1990 I regularly drank pints of Guinness as I watched a series of brilliant performers give their all to an audience that never numbered above a couple of hundred.

The Cricketers became a home from home.

I became enough of a regular to get Kenny, who ran the bar, greet me with ‘affectionate’ South London Geezer abuse as I ordered my porter.

Pint in hand I would settle down to watch lions of English Roots music like Davey Graham, Ralph McTell and Bert Jansch give master classes in intimate performance.

I seem to remember The Pogues played a week long residency just before they hit the big time.

I say seem to remember because at Pogue’s gigs it was mandatory to drink until you would have to think very carefully indeed before answering the question if anyone asked you what your name was!

THE CRICKETERS PUBLIC HOUSE, KENNINGTON OVAL

Jim, who booked the acts for The Cricketers, must have had very good taste and connections because in addition to home grown talent he also booked world class performers like Steve Earle, Nick Cave with The Birthday Party and Giant Sand.

Absolute highlights for me were the, ‘Texas Texture’ gigs where you could tune in to the Lone Star sensibility of a cult hero like Terry Allen and find that yes indeed, he was :

a panhandling, Man handlin’, Post holin’, High rollin’, Dust Bowlin’…Daddy

and metaphorically lift a can of Pearl to a Texas Treasure.

But, the gig that will always have pride of place in my memory is the one when Guy Clark and Butch Hancock brought in their being and songs the essence of the immense state of Texas to a tiny stage before a hundred folks or so in South London.

For some reason that night I was first in as the doors opened and found sitting quietly at the back sipping pints of plain none other than Guy and Butch.

It wasn’t long before I had presented them with further pints and told Guy that his Album, ‘Old No 1’ with, ‘Let Him Roll’, ‘Rita Ballou” and, ‘Desperados Waiting for a Train’ was in my Top 10 of all time.

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I flat out begged him to sing, ‘Texas 1947’  which I regarded as a good as any Train Song ever written (and dear reader I can confirm that Guy did play the song for me that night).

Turning to Butch I remember saying that it was given to very few song writers to write a truly immortal song but I had no doubt that, ‘She Never Spoke Spanish to Me’ was just such a song.

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I reeled off my favourite lines :

‘Saints and sinners all agree
Spanish is a loving tongue
But she never spoke Spanish to me
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She said, “If you’re from Texas, son
Then where’s your boots and where’s your gun?”
I smiled and said, “I got guns, no-one can see”.
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and said if he played the song that night I would buy him as many pints as he could drink! (and, yes, you’ve guessed it, Butch played it for me).

I also told Butch that his record, ‘West Texas Waltzes & Dust Blown Tractor Tunes’ was a nigh permanent resident on my turntable and that I had framed the cover with the legend, ‘Voice, Guitar and Foot’ on my living room wall.

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Again I unhesitatingly launched into some favourite lines :

‘Park your Pickups and Cadillacs, Fords and Renaults

Get up and dance like the dickens to the West Texas Waltz’

‘I count my blessings, not my faults,

I like to dance like the dickens to the West Texas Waltz’

‘…Now only two things are better than milkshakes and malts
And one is dancin’ like the dickens to the West Texas Waltz’.

‘And the other is somethin’, but really it’s nothing’ to speak of it’s something to do

If you’ve done it before, youll be doin’ it some more Just as soon as the dancin’ is through’.

Sure enough when it was Butch’s turn to take the stage his opening salvo was :

Now tell me, didn’t all your aches and pains, your worries and cares, your anxiety and arthritis seem completely cured as you danced like the dickens to the West Texas Waltz!

You can hear ‘Workshirt’ Bob Dylan there and Hank Williams and Jimmy Rogers – the true troubadours of the age.

You can hear the West Texas Wind blowing across the endless plain.

You can hear the tractor engine hummin’ as it turns over the Texas soil.

You can feel the charge in the West Texas Air.

Feel the flat land and the endless Sky.

It’s a song that’s good for dancin’ and romancin’ so grab your sweetheart and jump in your car!

And if anyone asks you why you’ve got such a sloppy grin all over your face why you tell ’em it’s because you’ve been dancin’ like the dickens to The West Texas Waltz.

Now, West Texas Waltz has become something of a Texas Anthem that any right thinkin’ performer form Texas feels honour bound to play to prove their Lone Star credentials.

When Butch was growing up in Lubbock another would be songwriter, two years younger, was growing up a couple of streets away – Joe Ely.

Butch, Joe and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, would later form, ‘The Flatlanders’ a West Texas Super Group!

Swappin’ Songs would become second nature to them.

Joe Ely has always been a natural showman who can get every last drop of juice from a song.

Listen to the sheer vitality and chutzpah he brings to West Texas Waltz.

Go on – Bind up your bunions with band-aids and gauze and …..

 

When speakin’ of dancin’ and romancin’ the thoughts of The Jukebox invariably turn in the direction of Emmylou Harris.

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And, wouldn’t you just know it, with the great Flaco Jimenez on accordion, hasn’t she recorded a deliciously dreamy version of West Texas Waltz just for me and you and every other would be love lorn West Texan.

‘…Now only two things are better than milkshakes and malts
And one is dancin’ like the dickens to the West Texas Waltz’.

Clear the floor!

I will bid you adios with the man himself .

Now your Pickup might need a tune up and who knows your tractor might be actin’ up – but count your blessings, don’t count your faults.

Get out and dance like the dickens to the West Texas Waltz!

 

We al have days when we struggle to tell a cow from a horse.

Only one thing for it – lace up your best dancin’ shoes and waltz away those blues.

‘Cause as we all know by now ;

…. only two things are better than milkshakes and malts
And one is dancin’ like the dickens to the West Texas Waltz’.

 

Steve Earle, Patty Loveless, The Proclaimers & Eddi Reader – My Old Friend The Blues

Lovers leave.

Friends will let you down.

You learn that as you fall in and out love and form friendships that flare bright before they fade away.

So, you’re left all alone with The Blues.

And, you can hug those blues close to get you through.

The Blues becomes your old and trusted friend.

But, remember, remember, sometimes you are the lover who walks away.

Remember, remember, sometimes you are the friend who’s doing the letting down.

So, don’t make The Blues your best and only friend.

We all get The Blues.

We all need The Blues to get through the lost loves and the failed friendships.

Loss and failure hurt.

But, they go with the territory.

Love and Friendship will be the treasures of your Life.

The Blues will see you through until you’re ready to face the joys and pains of Love and Friendship again.

Dont lean too long on your old friend The Blues.

Love again. Be a Friend again.

Meantime let’s have a hugely enjoyable wallow with our old friend The Blues courtesy of the young Steve Earle (this is a quintessential young man’s song).

Paradoxically it’s young hearts that feel the weariest.

Ah … a shiver of recognition and illicit pleasure in pain for all of us there!

Steve Earle, a natural songwriter, came out of San Antonio Texas fit to burst with energy and a desire to tell stories about the way the world was and the way it damn well should be.

‘Guitar Town’ from 1986 was his breakthrough record announcing him as a literate, rocking, rough, rowdy, romantic and righteous artist who was here to stay.

You could hear the influences of Folk Icon Woody Guthrie and Texas troubadours Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt

Add in a dash of on’ry ol Waylon Jennings and workshirt era Bob Dylan and you’ve got a very potent and occasionaly explosive mixture which near guaranteed a vesuvial flow of songs.

Steve Earle’s best songs have drama and impact and emotional reach.

Across the Atlantic in Scotland, ‘My Old Friend The Blues’ reached the tender heart of Eddi Reader who was surely born to sing room stilling ballads.

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Listen to her here bring the same focus and sensitivity she gives to the songs of Robert Burns to Steve Earl’s cancion Triste.

Eddi has a voice that can croon or keen.

A voice laden with ancient knowing.

A quiet voice that sounds loud in your heart.

A voice of balm for weary hearts wherever they may beat.

Staying in Scotland we now turn to twins Charlie and Craig Reid, The Proclaimers.

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Their Records are distinguished by the fierce commitment they bring to every song they sing.

Which, of course, brings even more allure to their tender moments.

The Proclaimers bring a stark echoing intensity to My Old Friend The Blues.

Patty Loveless is a blue Kentucky Girl – a State where lovelorn ballads are not exactly in short supply!

Patty made her mark at the same time as Steve Earle and like him she had done her fair share of hard traveling before she had the spotlight directed at her centre stage.

Playing small bars and clubs in nameless towns she learned a lot about lonely nights and weary hearts.

She also learned that if you have a voice shot through with plaintive grace you could offer a ray of hope to those battered hearts all around – including her own.

I’m showcasing a live version suffused with bluegrass duende.

 

Speaking of Duende, as we collect the glasses and turn out the lights let’s have one more take from Steve himself before we shut the doors.

Just when every ray of hope was gone ….

On those nights when sleep seems loath to appear and knot up ravelled care you can always turn to an old friend – The Blues.

Then, when dawn breaks, as it always miraculously does, take that weary heart of yours and go in search of love and friendship once again.

Christmas Alphabet : A for Asleep At The Wheel – Merry Christmas Y’All

I don’t know about you but the emotional intensity of the last two Posts in The Christmas Alphabet series has sent me searching for something a little lighter in tone!

So I call upon a premier party band.

Heroes of the Hoedown and the Hootenanny.

Brimful of Texas Texture.

Wild with Western Swing.

Asleep At The Wheel.

Merry Texas Christmas Y’all!

Find yourself a well sprung floor and get dancing!

Or to put it another way.

Feliz Navidad!

Merry Christmas Y’all.

Merry Christmas.

The Grateful Dead, Raul Malo, Marty Robbins & Me with El Paso – Ultimate Western Ballad

The Way Out West Series No 2

Loyal readers of The Jukebox will recall my previous post in the, ‘Way Out West’ series which was themed around an unlikely friendship formed through a mutual love of, ‘Ghost Riders In The Sky’ (go straight there as soon as you finish this if you haven’t read it already!).

Ghost Riders was voted No 1 Western Song of all time by the Western Writers of America.

My friend Carl and I didn’t know that as we sang it into the tequila fuelled small hours back in those dim and distant days.

We just knew it was a great song and that singing it never grew old.

Finishing Ghost Riders the next song that floated to the tip of our tongues was always Marty Robbins immortal classic, ‘El Paso’.

This one has everything you could ever ask for in a Western Ballad.

A West Texas location.

A Mexican maiden with flashing eyes whom a young cowboy can’t resist even at the cost of his life.

A gunfight over this fatal maiden leaving a handsome young stranger dead on the floor.

A hurried escape in the night on a fast stolen horse to the badlands of New Mexico.

The fateful return to Rosa’s Cantina even though a posse and deadly bullets surely lie in wait. For, in truth, the attraction of love really is stronger than the fear of Death.

A deathbed reconciliation sealed with a tender kiss.

What more do you want!

Well you might want this ballad to be sung with swooping authority by its author and have him backed by ringing Spanish guitar licks which echo through the song like chimes of destiny.

Take it away Marty Robbins and Grady Martin!

Now some sources will tell you that Marty wrote this song in less than 5 minutes and some say it was the work of several months. You choose.

What is sure is that it was recorded on 7 April 1959 as part of an epic session which produced what will always be greatest Western Ballad collection as long as the wild West Texas Winds blow over the plains, ‘Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs’.

There was some nervousness at Columbia Records that at four and a half minutes El Paso might be too long for audiences to take in an era when many hit songs barely made three minutes. This was to underestimate the power of story.

For, once you’ve heard the ringing guitar intro and the first line … ‘Out in the West Texas town of El Paso I fell in love with a Mexican girl’ you’re hooked and wild horses couldn’t stop you from wondering what happens next!

Released in late October, ‘El Paso’ soon became one of those rare songs that wins universal affection.

By the dawn of the new decade it was Number One on both the Country and Pop Charts and lodged deep in the consciousness of several generations.

The story of the nameless Cowboy and his love for Faleena indelibly sung by Marty with the invaluable assistance of Bobby Sykes and Jim Glaser echoes through popular culture to this day.

Now, The Grateful Dead might have been the emblematic group of the 1960s, ‘Counter Culture’ but they were also young men who had grown up watching John Wayne, James Stewart and Randolph Scott heroically ride through the Western landscape winning the love of Grace Kelly or Maureen O’Hara (even if Katy Jurado got caught in the cross fire) as they brought summary justice to those lawless frontier towns.

The 1950s were, of course, the glory days of TV Westerns.

I’ll wager that Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir spent many an hour watching, ‘Wagon Train’, ‘Gunsmoke’, ‘Rawhide’ and ‘Bonanza’ and that that out of sight of parents they considered themselves to be six shooting moody hombres not to be messed with.

Surely, this history and the lure of a long gripping ballad with room for plentiful six string stretch outs explains their devotion to, ‘El Paso’which they played many hundreds of themes over their fabled career.

Their version has a charm which never fails to engage me.

Western stories and Western lore do cast a spell like the eyes of Faleena.

There are few pleasures as reliable as settling down to watch a Western Movie or listen to a Western Ballad.

I caught the bug early.

When my Mum was out doing nursing night duty my Dad and I, entranced before the flickering 12 inch TV screen, would delight in the adventures of Rawhide’s Gil Favor and Rowdy Yates.

We agreed that Dad was perfect for the role of the mature Gil while I was a natural for the more youthful form of Rowdy.

Between us there were no situations we couldn’t handle.

I remember vividly that for my 6th Birthday my present was a wide brimmed Western hat with matching six guns, holster and spurs. Since those days I’ve been lucky enough to have been given some truly generous presents from those near and dear to me.

However, hand on heart, I have to say that no present has ever given me the sheer joy that receiving my six shooter set did!

Maybe it’s that memory that haloes the songs and the films as I watch and listen.

Maybe it’s the mythopoetic allure of The Western.

Maybe it’s because I’m one moody Hombre. One moody Hombre.

I feel inclined to emphasise the South of The Border aspect of the song now.

So, let’s swoon as the golden vocal tones of The Mavericks Raul Malo evoke those wild Texas days as the night falls all around Rosa’s Cantina.

Though we know the Cowboy’s love for Faleena is in vain, doomed, somehow as Raul glides through the verses we cling to the belief that maybe this time, this time, the two lovers will ride out into the sunset together.

Together.

And, in a Cantina, far away, Faleena’s eyes will flash as they whirl across the floor together.

And, as the music plays they will laugh as they remember those days in El Paso.

Notes :

Marty Robbins was a considerable songwriter as, ‘Big Iron’ and ‘You Gave Me A Mountain’ (a live staple for Elvis) attest. He had 17 No 1 Country Chart Hits.

Grady Martin was a magnificent Guitarist whose splendid licks feature on Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Woman’ Brenda Lee’s ‘I’m Sorry’ and Ray Price’s ‘For The Good Times’ among scores of other Hits.

El Paso was produced by Don Law who also produced the epochal Robert Johnson Blues sessions in the 1930s as well as Bob Wills’ ‘San Antonio Rose’. That’s verstIlity!

PS Michael Gray, the premier authority on Bob Dylan, points out persuasively that El Paso might be considered the penultimate Western Ballad given that it leads to Dylan’s, ‘Romance In Durango’ – the ultimate!

 

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

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You gotta warm up. You gotta warm up.

Before you hit the stage and face your public.

Before you pace out those morning miles on your run.

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

Kick off with breath relaxation then release that tense jaw!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twenty minutes of calming meditation.

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

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

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

It often goes something like this:

‘Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do’

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

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

‘Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay’

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

The order is always the same:

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

‘Awop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom!’

Always last and crucial to invoking my Writing Mojo is:

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

‘Watch it now!’

Wow! Wooly Bully, Wooly Bully!

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

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

Wooly Bully is simply irresistible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever else Sam did music was always there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Watch it now!’

 

 

Notes:

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

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

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

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