Showing posts with label 1950s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1950s. Show all posts

Thursday, April 09, 2020

The records that made me (some of 'em): The compilations


Back when you were a broke-ass college student and you liked music (when albums were a thing and music piracy meant taping songs off the radio), you hit the bargain bins a lot and waited to be intrigued, surprised . . . or both.

Sometimes, you achieved "Holy shit!" You usually came to this point only after unwrapping the LP and putting it on the turntable. That point only could be reached after you got intrigued standing over the bargain bin.

Only after the record had spun, your speakers had thumped and "Holy shit!' had been reached could you then achieve "educated" and "impassioned."

These two bargain-bin compilation finds -- a combined No. 8 in my series of 10 influential albums -- checked all the boxes for me back in the day. The first was "The Soul Years," a 25th anniversary overview of Atlantic Records' soul and R&B history first released in 1973.

I was hooked with the first cut of the double album -- "Stick" McGhee and His Buddies' early Atlantic single from 1949, "Drinkin' Wine' Spo-Dee-O-Dee." This was not the kind of oldie you would have heard on Baton Rouge radio back then.

I think this is the kind of thing the young version of my parents would have liked -- before my old parents hated it.


ME, I WAS all in. That was even before I got to Joe Turner's original 1954 recording of "Shake, Rattle and Roll," which was not cleaned-up and white-i-cized like Bill Haley and His Comets' version, which wasn't even recorded until Turner's had hit No. 1 on the Billboard  R&B chart.

Unsurprisingly, this verse from "Big" Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll" was changed when Bill Haley recorded the song:

Way you wear those dresses, the sun comes shinin' through
Way you wear those dresses, the sun comes shinin' through
I can't believe my eyes, all that mess belongs to you
And this verse ain't there at all in Haley's cover:
I get over the hill and way down underneath
I get over the hill and way down underneath
You make me roll my eyes, even make me grit my teeth
It is good to find a compilation LP that's just as educational as a "Big Joe" Turner record.

And don't even get me started on how superior The Chords' "Sh-Boom" is to the Crew-Cuts' cover version.

WE FIND that "WCBS FM101 History of Rock -- The 50's" is a much more conventional album -- that is, "mostly stuff played on white radio stations" -- but it makes my "influential" list because it intimately acquainted me with what now are two of my favorite songs of all time.

Those would be (drum roll, please) . . . the Five Satins' "In the Still of the Night" and the Skyliners' "Since I Don't Have You."


And it was the Five Satins who gave us the term "doo-wop" -- them or The Turbans' with their slightly earlier "When You Dance." 

On NCIS: New Orleans, Scott Bakula always tells his TV special agents to "go learn things." When you're talking about music, that's always so much damn fun.


Thursday, April 02, 2020

The records that made me (some of 'em):
The contradiction of Mama and Daddy's 78s


The album-cover challenge continues, Part 4. The thing is, this ain't an album. It's a few 78s, ones that I've been playing since I was old enough to work a record player, which was age 4-ish.

First, behold this influential record of my youth -- Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up," on glorious shellac.

In many cases, high fidelity spun into 1950s homes, and into popular culture, at 78 rpm.

And so did the king of rock 'n' roll.

Now I have brought much of my analog musical formation into the digital present, I guess, preserved on not-so-glorious hard drives these days. (Don't worry; I still have the records.)

"All Shook Up." I couldn't tell you how many times I played this record -- this very 78 that's four years older than I am -- as a kid. The rough estimate: lots.

In 1957, "All Shook Up" was magic. As it still was when I first got a hold of it around 1964 or 1965. As it still is today.

Me (age not quite 3) and the Silvertone . . . and the records
THAT GOES as well for another of my little stash of Elvis on 78 . . . "Too Much." That's it sitting on a 1952 Webcor record changer here at Anachronism "R" Us.

And you know what? After half a century and more, the Elvis records still sound pretty much like new. Hell, I have many compact discs that sound a lot worse. I mean, some of these old 78s sound great.

RCA Victor's "'New Orthophonic' High Fidelity" was, indeed, all that. All that and a pair of blue suede shoes.

Now let's turn to a couple more 78s that more fully became touchstones when I hit my 50s -- Walter Brown's "Fine Brown Baby" / "My Baby's Boogie Woogie" and The Delmore Brothers' "Blues Stay Away From Me."

In 1946, when my parents were still newlyweds, they were buying "race" records and hillbilly blues records from their favorite Baton Rouge music emporiums.


LOW-DOWN BLUES. R&B. Along with pop, jump and country twangfests like the Delmore Brothers.

"She's got what it takes, make a preacher lay his Bible down," sangeth Mr. Brown. You should hear the flip side.

If you want to know the music of my soul, my folks' old 78s will get you close.

If you want to know what was it that made me the musical creature that I am -- if you want to hear the records I was playing when I was but a lad, just old enough to get into my folks records and operate a record changer -- here you go. This and Fats Domino . . . and Ivory Joe Hunter . . . and Fats Domino . . . and Hank Williams . . . and Louis Jordan.

This is about as personal as it gets.

This is who I am. The music of my parents' young adulthood (and my record-geek childhood) sounded like the world -- the Deep South -- I was born into damn near six decades ago.

It was eclectic, the Louisiana . . . the South of my youth. It was seemingly at odds with itself if you didn't look any further than the surface of things. It was also rich beyond measure.

Take Brown, the blues shouter who once sang with Jay McShann's orchestra. In the particular culture I entered into during the spring of 1961, black shouters like him could sit next to white twangers like Ernest Tubb in the record cabinet in the bottom of the old Silvertone console -- even if they couldn't sit next to each other at the Woolworth's lunch counter.

AND NO ONE thought twice about either peculiarity.

This explains my parents' music-buying habits of the 1940s and '50s, long before I came along and, a few years later, started raiding their music collection. It also explains the complex and contradictory inner lives of these people -- formed by the Southern society that brought us Williams, Louis Armstrong and Jim Crow -- who could in 1946 buy racy records by blues shouters, then in 1971 yell at me about my expletive-deleted "n***er music."

People who thought Dick Clark was a communist, probably because of the fatal combination of "beatnik music" and race mixing on "American Bandstand."

Those George Wallace and David Duke voters.

A couple more of the blackest white people on earth -- as Southern Caucasians surely are -- who may have found it just cause for homicide if you had told them that back in the day.

Go figure.

The South: It's a mystery, wrapped in a riddle, tucked away in an enigma and fueled by contradiction. These records give you a peek under its hood a little bit . . . its and mine.

You might not completely understand either of us, me and the South, but it will be a start.


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Somewhere in Hastings, Nebraska in 1958

Courtesy of eBay
"Good news, Emil!"

"What's up, Verl?"

"I found the money in the budget for a half-page ad in the TV Guide!"


"That's fine, Verl."

"There's a rub, though, Emil."

"And. . . ."


"Well, there's not enough money to get anything printed up at Hasenpfeffer's Print Shop."

"Jesus, Verl, that's not good."

"No, Emil, but dollars don't grow on trees, y'know."

"That's my line, Verl."

"Sorry, Emil. I got carried away with frugality."


"There's hope for ya yet, son. So, what do you propose we do for this TV Guide advertisement, then?

"Well, we still got the picture for Fran's cooking show that we put on the poster in the Hinky Dinky produce aisle that time."


"And. . . ."

"Well, Emil, I been goin' with that gal, Willa -- you know, the new art teacher at the high school."
Courtesy of eBay
"I think I know where you're goin' with this, Verl. Not a bad solution."

"I think it'll work out. But I think all she has would be pens and those new itsy-bitsy kinds of Marks-a-Lots."
"That'll be just fine, son. It'll look just as good as those ads for KETV in Omaha."

"Oh . . . Emil?"

"What now, Verl?"


"Did I mention that Willa has a little bit of palsy?"

Friday, April 05, 2019

Destination . . . suffocate, bake or freeze as your blood boils

If 1950s album-cover artists had been in charge of the Space Race (not to mention science education in the Space Age) . . . things would not have ended well.

At all.

This Ames Brothers LP would have driven Dr. Sheldon Cooper mad.

On the other hand, this being a post-factual world, we can say with Trumpian confidence that Ed Ames is the only surviving Ames brother because the sound of lunar windmills gave all his siblings cancer, and they died upon their return to earth.
Bazinga.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

3 Chords & the Truth: Plumb out of clever


This is your head.

This is your head when it's plumb out of clever.

This is your head when you embrace the void, and just play some s*** and call it . . . good, actually.

That's where we are today on this, the latest episode of 3 Chords & the Truth. We're absolutely, positively out of cutesy, clever or anything vaguely resembling thematic.

You know what, though? That's OK. As it turns out, the Big Show doesn't particularly need cutesy, clever or thematic. What it needs is good music, and that we got plenty of.

OH . . . we also got this nifty picture of a vacuum tube from a 1928 RCA Radiola 18. That's a radio -- remember those?

After 91 years, it still works fine. I seriously doubt your big-screen TV, your laptop, your smartphone . . . or your government will still be functional in nine decades.

Hell, your government isn't functional now. But I digress.

The show. Music. Good. Getting by without big theme or cleverness. Check.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there.  Aloha.



Monday, January 07, 2019

One speaker + 10 watts = HOLY CRAP!

OK, so I have this 1957 Realistic tuner and amplifier. Vacuum-tube city, don't you know?

There's also a 1952 Webcor record changer, a Bluetooth receiver, a little utility mixer . . . and a Gough speaker enclosure built from plans sold by Welsh speaker-designer Jabez Gough in 1961. I've been highly impressed at the sound this cabinet gets out of a single 8-inch driver. Now I'm doubly impressed now that I've replaced the Electro-Voice Wolverine LT-8 triaxial speaker with an older (and heavier) E-V SP8B coaxial driver.

YOU'D THINK a two-way driver would be a bit of a drop-off from the three-way. In this case, you'd be wrong. The difference was marked, and for the better. That SP8B sings in that Gough enclosure -- good high end, great midrange presence and deep bass that's just the right amount of low end.

All this from one 8-inch two-way speaker that was a "starter driver" for your average late-1950s "hi-fi nut" building his own speaker system. Go figure.

For me, though, it just sounds like my childhood . . . only in mono and probably a bit better than the 1962 Magnavox Stereo Theatre that defined "good sound" for a budding Baby Boomer audio geek.

I am sure a smartphone and earbuds serve a purpose. Actually, one good purpose my iPhone often serves is feeding Internet radio to the mid-century audio extravaganza.

I likewise am sure earbuds or "smart speakers" serve a purpose, whatever the hell that might be. Really, I'm sure they're just fine.

But, by God, they ain't this.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

3 Chords & the Truth: The Then Sound?


We may do more than speak anachronism around here.

This week on the Big Show, the closest we actually come to "the NOW sound" is a new record from someone who's been in the music biz as long as I've been alive. Note: That's a looooooonng time.

Otherwise, we have some 78s, some old LPs and some 45s that go back to the genesis of the format. Which was at least a couple of generations removed from how folks get their music now.

At least.

WE SPEAK anachronism -- hell, we live anachronism around here -- because apart from liking it, there seems to be less and less percentage in the present. And sometimes you just need a reprieve from it.

OK, 3 Chords & the Truth needs frequent reprieves from the present . . . the eternal NOW. Give us some good, old-fashioned Then now and again. And again. And again.

Anachronism, c'est nous.

Embrace anachronism. It's good.

AND, while I'm thinking of it, the tasty Christmas tunes continues apace this week on the program as we try to make the season bright. And hot chocolate, pepperminty, candy cane-y.

So it's ho-ho-ho . . . and on with the show.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.




Thursday, December 14, 2017

How sweet it is, the holiday of the disembodied head












Oh, holiday of the
disembodied head, how we love thy floating '50s splendor!

Thy strings are lush   . . . and so are we, for the Christmas parties are upon us.

How we adore thy understated album covers -- oh, how mine soul is made warm by the crackles of the record which spinneth upon phonograph platter!
Thy martini, thy orchestra, they comfort me! And, lo! Thy floating head on the back of thy LP cover, it doth not creep me out!
Album cover of the disembodied head. It's a '50s thing.
Instead, it giveth me the comfort of sepia memories of a time long past, when verily the heads without torso spread across record albums and advertising like grains of sand upon the ocean shore.
May thy Christmas album be flippeth unto Side B, and may the joyful, soothing sounds of mine youth sound unto the people forever more!
My cup of egg nog runneth over. Surely music and jocularity will follow me all the days of December, and the soundtrack shall evermore float upon the aether . . . like Jackie Gleason's head.

Monday, June 12, 2017

This was the city: Omaha, Nebraska


It was a Saturday — July 3. It was hot and muggy in Omaha, Nebraska.

We got up at the usual time that morning, 7:45. About 8:30, we started to open every window, turn on every fan.

We started to draw the blinds to block the hot sun come afternoon. It was supposed to be almost 90.

While we were doing that, we turned on the radio. My brother’s Winthrop. We call him Stinky. The boss was Dad. My name’s Favog.

GREAT. Mom left the thing on KFAB, not KOWH. Must have been listening to her soap operas. I always preferred Sandy Jackson.

Eight forty-five. What was "Big Mike" selling now? He was talking to the salad dressing guy -- Louis Albert. It seemed strangely interesting.

We sat down to listen. . . .


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I'm your rumba man


This is a 1956 iPod playing a 1950s iTunes download -- Xavier Cugat's favorite rumbas, to be specific.

And I'm still doing the rumba, baby. I can't seem to quit. If Chris Brown catches us doing the rumba, Chris Brown would just pitch a fit. (With firearms.)

But I can't help myself; it's much bigger than me. If I were you, I'd hang onto a rumba man like me.

NOW, you might ask, what sort of geekery gets a rumba man like me excited? Old LP records, yes. But more than that . . . old LP records in great shape that have price tags on them from a St. Louis record store that went out of business about the time your rumba man was getting in business.

So to speak.

Don't get me started about how to figure out how old a pressing is, or where did the filler songs come from when a record company reissues a 1948 10-inch LP as a mid-'50s 12-inch LP and adds four songs to it . . . because more space.

Just don't. You ain't geek enough.


Well, that's about all for now. File this under Things That Probably Will End Up on This Week's Show.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Colorfully killed by irony


Remember the old sitcom, Norby?

No, me neither.

Norby, from the creator of the somewhat better-remembered show Mister Peepers,  ran on NBC for exactly four months in 1955. It's notable for being the first sitcom to have every episode filmed in color.

All 13 of them.


David Wayne starred in the show, one of the first regular series in the then-new "compatible color" format on network TV. It was sponsored by Eastman Kodak -- which wanted to sell color movie film just as much as NBC wanted to sell color TV sets for parent company RCA -- and was "Photographed on Eastman Color Film."

Color sitcom on a network that wanted to showcase the newest big thing -- color -- and a photography behemoth that wanted to move Kodacolor . . . what's not to love?


WELL, this is where the irony comes in.

What wasn't to love? The cost. Kodak hated how much it cost to sponsor and film Norby on Eastman Color Film a lot more than it loved trying to sell color film to the 99.9 percent of TV viewers who, alas, could only see the show in lifeless monochrome instead of living color. Remember, in early 1955, an RCA console color TV would set you back $898 in non-devalued American currency.


That would be, not to put too fine a point on it, $7,955.03 in 2016 cash money.

And, friends, there we have it. The first all-color sitcom in TV history was killed by irony -- it just cost too bloody much.

All because it was in color.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Dropping the needle on another show


Music, the way it used to was and, more and more, still be.

I have records, and I'm not afraid to play them. Now, that's the answer to the $64,000 Question.

I imagine you'd be surprised to know exactly how much of the music on 3 Chords & the Truth comes to you in the the old-school manner, off of old LPs, 45s and even 78s. Welllllllll. . . .

I'd have to say most, actually.


BESIDES, old Zenith "Cobra-Matic" record changers are just so cool. As are old LP jackets. 

I think that about covers it until later, when we'll drop another episode of the Big Show onto the platter and see how it plays.

That is all.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Tonight's vinylpalooza


I'm cheap enough that paying $15 for this 1959 stereo release gave me serious pause at the LP bins of an Old Market antique emporium.

On one hand, I'd rather find a gem for a song at an estate sale or something.

On the other hand, the records from this vendor are usually in marvelous playing condition.

On the third hand, a stereo rock 'n' roll record from 1959 -- the mono version of Bobby Freeman's Do You Wanna Dance album came out the previous year -- and from an indie label, no less. That's likely on the rare side, making the $15 price not a rip-off.

I'll say!

BEFORE LISTENING to this early-rock classic this evening, I did a little Internet price checking for the stereo version of Do You Wanna Dance . . . Jubilee 1086 for all you record geeks out there. And the low price I found it being sold for was something like $29.95. The high price (on eBay, of course) was . . . was . . . gulp! . . . $110. I understand a mint first pressing goes for $200.

Mine seems to be a second pressing. Sigh. I coulda been rich.

Now note that amid all this "What's it wurf???" nerd-o-mania, not a word was written about the actual music, which was great despite following the rock-album convention of the day for a hot act. That would be:

SIDE A
  • Cover something.
  • Cover something.
  • Cover something.
  • Original that'll never be released as a single.
  • Cover something.
  • Hit record we named the LP for.
 SIDE B
  • Cover something.
  • Cover something.
  • Original that you'll hear nowhere else. Ever.
  • Cover something.
  • Original that sounds exactly like the big hit on Side 1.
  • Cover something inspiring. Or something.
That is all. Good night, and good listening.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How your hi-fi stereo record works

Click on the picture for larger, readable view

This afternoon's vintage-LP listening comes with a technical note.

And our tech talk today centers on a question: You ever wonder how stereo records put the stereo on the record?


Well, the top photo of the inner sleeve of our 1958 release by David Carroll and His Orchestra explains how the modern marvel of stereophonic records work. And it also contains a caveat for the stereo newbie, as nearly everyone was 57 years ago -- do not play this thing on a monophonic record player.

A mono cartridge on your mono phonograph will tear this sucker up.

See the explanation on the record sleeve for why that is.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Let's dance!


Here's some of what's been on the old record player the past couple of days.

In 1956, Capitol Records got Benny Goodman and some of the old orchestra gang together to recut some of his classics in hi-fi. And boy do they sound good in high fidelity, pointing out the advancements in recording technology in just the decade and a half or so since the originals came out on 78 r.p.m. discs.

THE ALBUM, The Benny Goodman Story, featured selections from the motion picture of the same name that had just hit movie houses all across America.

What's interesting about this album, which just may be a first-run pressing -- given the packaging and red Capitol label, which changed to turquoise sometime that same year -- is how the cardboard LP sleeve came inside a paper outer sleeve. I don't think I've ever run across that sort of packaging before for a record album.


And that's your bit of vinyl-nerd bait for the day, all the way from the fabulous '50s.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Ads that will embarrass y'all in 60 years


For the hell of it, I've been going through some mid-1950s editions of Television magazine, immersing myself into an archival wayback machine.

Trade advertising was fascinating then -- at least to me -- sometimes dry, sometimes cute, occasionally  sophisticated . . . and too often, through the clarifying lens of 2015, horrifying.

Let's just say my little "wayback" exercise is a quick and effective manner of coming to grips with how a culture you were reared in -- and, frankly, didn't think much about at the time because people never see the forest for the trees -- actually was pretty horrifying in many ways.

IN THIS CASE, looking back at 1955 and 1956 through the lens of a television camera, we see a culture that was both deeply racist, quick to stereotype and completely hung up on the glories and nobility of "the Lost Cause." We see a culture dedicated to whitewashing (both literally and figuratively) its defining narrative and embracing an identity that you could sum up as They Who Give the Finger to the Yankees.

The South's past: Not forgotten because it's not really past.

Of course, to be fair. one Minnesota TV station had a trade ad touting itself via the ugg-a-mug stereotypical language of the American Indian, but you have to admit that the South set the standard for casual bigotry in the United States. We Southerners leave our subtlety at the door.

NOW, this has me thinking about matters not of the past but of the future.

My wondering goes something like this: When future generations of Americans -- or whomever -- look through the cultural output of post-millennial America, what things will horrify them that we hardly think about at all? Which of our cultural assumptions will testify against us and our age?

You know, sort of like watermelon-eating black children, branding yourself with the Confederate battle flag or the "gallantry" of Nathan Bedford Forrest?





Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cool jazz on a hot summer's night

Was anybody better than Billy Eckstine?

Several were as good but none better, I don't think. And this 1959 stereo version of Eckstine's 1958 Billy's Best album makes for fine listening on a hot, steamy Midwestern eve.
 
Hell, it would be just as wonderful on a frigid winter's night on the Plains, too. 

So this was tonight's musical selection here in the Revolution 21 studio here in Omaha, by God, Nebraska, deep into the dog days of summer, with state-fair season still a month away and college football a little further out than that.

UNLIKE many vinyl aficionados, I have nothing in particular against compact discs or good-quality digital audio files. But, damn, there's really nothing like putting an old LP on the turntable, basking in that particular smell of aged cardboard and paper. Nothing like holding the record sleeve in your hands and dreaming of your lost youth . . . or the days when jazz ruled the western world and you were yet a glimmer in your mama and daddy's eyes.

Maybe you can't hold this '50s classic of American popular music in your own two hands, but you can always listen to 3 Chords & the Truth and dream sweet dreams about a culture at its zenith that's just showing off.

Because it could.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Last evening's vintage listening


Here's a glimpse at my vintage listening for last night -- Billy Vaughn and his orchestra goes Hawaiian back in 1959.

Well, contrary to Dot Record's sloganeering, this LP represents not "the greatest sound on records!" but rather, "Really great, but still no RCA Victor release from the same era."

I know this because I'm a nerd. 

A vintage record nerd, with geek tendencies.

ACTUALLY, this LP was amazingly clean and unworn, despite its vintage. It sounded new, even after all these decades.

The vinyl itself was a little warped but still played flawlessly. And the album still was in the Sears and Roebuck plastic wrap.

I can almost see, a half century and six years past, the music going 'round and 'round on something like this . . . right out of Sears' 1959 Christmas catalog. Musical satisfaction guaranteed.

Aloha.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

3 Chords & the Truth: It's a secret


You'll never know how much I really loved it. You'll never know how much I really cared.

Listen . . . do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell?

Closer . . . let me whisper in your ear. Say the words you long to hear -- what the Big Show's paying tribute to.


Listen . . . do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell?

CLOSER . . . let me whisper in your ear. Say the words you long to hear -- screw it, I can't tell you.

I've known  the secret for a week or two. And nobody knows, not even you.

Listen . . . do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell?

Closer . . . let me whisper in your ear. Say the words you long to hear . . . nope. Still not telling you.


It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.