Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hot pants and panty hose

Dick Curless is mostly known for the trucker’s anthem “A Tombstone Every Mile”. He had twenty other hit records but that that’s not most memorable thing about him either. It’s Curless low rumbling voice that I’ll never forget. He reminds me of Jerry Reed without a southern accent.

Curless was born in 1932 in Maine, his family moved to Massachusetts. It was there that Curless joined a band called the Trail Blazers. In 1951, Curless was drafted into the army and sent to South Korea. During the two years he was there, Curless was a truck driver and radio host. He called himself the Rice Paddy Ranger.

Back in Maine after the war, Curless started performing professionally in 1956, traveling as far as California. He recorded for small labels and had a few small hit records. “A Tombstone Every Mile” was released independently in 1965. The record did very well regionally, Tower Records picked it up and the record went all the way to the top 5. Curless joined the Buck Owens show and spent the next three years with the tour. There were 11 more top 10 hits in the sixties.

After that, Curless slowed down and the hits occurred less frequently. The quality didn’t disappear though. “Loser’s Cocktail” is a great drinking song and Curless cover of Joe Henderson’s “Snap Your Fingers” is very cool. Curless greatest moment though, is a song he recorded in 1973. “Chick Inspector” is one of the all time great really weird country songs. Featuring quite a few words you just don't expect to hear in a country song, it’s a mix CD staple for me. In 1974, Curless recorded LIVE AT THE WHEELING TRUCK DRIVERS JAMBOREE, one of country music’s great live albums.

Curless probably dropped “Chick Inspector” from the act when he became a born-again Christian and a regular in Branson, Missouri. He died of stomach cancer in 1995.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What did you say?

I didn't say nothin'

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Rainbow


The Rainbow
-- Leslie Coulson 1889-1916

I watch the white dawn gleam,
To the thunder of hidden guns.
I hear the hot shells scream
Through skies as sweet as a dream
Where the silver dawnbreak runs.
And stabbing of light
Scorches the virginal white.
But I feel in my being the old, high, sanctified thrill,
And I thank the gods that dawn is beautiful still.

From death that hurtles by
I crouch in the trench day-long
But up to a cloudless sky
From the ground where our dead men lie
A brown lark soars in song.
Through the tortured air,
Rent by the shrapnel's flare,
Over the troubled dead he carols his fill,
And I thank the gods that the birds are beautiful still.

Where the parapet is low
And level with the eye
Poppies and cornflowers glow
And the corn sways to and fro
In a pattern against the sky.
The gold stalks hide
Bodies of men who died
Charging at dawn through the dew to be killed or to kill.
I thank the gods that the flowers are beautiful still.

When night falls dark we creep
In silence to our dead.
We dig a few feet deep
And leave them there to sleep -
But blood at night is red,
Yea, even at night,
And a dead man's face is white.
And I dry my hands, that are also trained to kill,
And I look at the stars - for the stars are beautiful still.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A lovely flower

that blooms in May

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A special treat

The Sneakers CD was reissued a little while ago. If you haven’t gotten a copy yet, you should. It’s good. The new version is called NONSEQUITUR OF SILENCE, the first version from 1992 was called RACKET.

The disc contains all of Sneaker's original songs. It does not have a live cover of “Roadrunner” or two short found sound pieces. Here they are. I put all three together into one file so you’re stuck with the two found sound things. They’re short, you won’t even notice them. All three were recorded at Duke University in 1975. The live version of "Roadrunner" is particularly good.

Happy birthday!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


is the story

Monday, May 21, 2007

Masqueraders (again)

This morning I got a request to repost The Masqueraders "I'm Just An Average Guy". OK. Here's Jim C's original post with a few other songs by the band:

I first discovered the Masqueraders in 1979. I was 17, and my mom had remarried, so we'd moved in with the stepfamily. Their attic was full of the usual stuff, including a shelf of 45s, many of which had already melted from the annual oppressive summer heat. Among the survivors was one with a red and black AGP label, "I'm Just An Average Guy"/"I Ain't Gonna Stop" by the Masqueraders, whom I'd never heard of, but since the fine print said it was produced by Tommy Cogbill, who I knew to be the bassist on Elvis's '69 Memphis sessions, I figured it'd be worth a listen (I have no idea who'd bought that 45 in the first place, or why; my stepsisters were far too young and musically uninclined to be interested in an obscure soul group, and my stepfather had no interest in music at all). One listen and I knew I'd hit the jackpot. Their harmony was tight, assertive and richly textured, as if everyone in the group could be an outstanding lead singer. The actual lead vocalist had an explosive presence, like the Four Tops' Levi Stubbs, but with southern flavor. The A-side was a deep soul ballad that gave the lead singer plenty of room to testify, and the flip was a hip dance number with a streamlined groove that showed off those tight harmonies. I loved it, and it soon found a place on a compilation cassette that I played in my car so often my friends probably still have it memorized.

Flash forward to 1990, and my wife and I were making a weekend ritual of hitting an open-air flea market in a huge parking lot near our apartment. I came across a bunch of 45s melting in the hot sun, and bought the whole box just to rescue all that precious vinyl, much of which perished anyway. One of the more resilient pieces had a blue and silver Bell label, "I Ain't Got To Love Nobody Else"/"I Got It" by The Masqueraders. I'd loved my earlier discovery, but figured it was a one-shot by a group that missed the brass ring and never got a second chance, yet here they were again. The A-side is probably my favorite southern soul side ever. Their harmony sounds like commitment -- to the song, and to each other, like they'll be singing together as long as they live. The B-side is another dance number, this time distinguished by an odd arrangement that really shows off the American Sound rhythm section. So now I'm hooked: who are these guys (and what an appropriate name for such men of mystery)?

Once we got a decent Mac and the internet became all-pervasive, I started occasionally looking for clues. Several years ago, both of my previous finds surfaced on a comp CD called Lifestyles Of The Slow & Low, aimed at fans of low rider soul. A soul fan in Israel posted RealAudio renderings of some of their other sides, and provided some impressive biographical detail. And then, while searching (the British version has lots of stuff won't list), I found a Masqueraders comp called Unmasked. The good news was that it had a lot of great stuff on it; the bad news was that some of it was mastered horribly, and my scratchy 45s and those midrangy RealAudio renderings actually sound better than some of those CD tracks.

Besides those earlier discoveries, I particularly like "I Don't Want Nobody To Lead Me On", "Poor Boy's Dream", the Bacharach-ish waltz (!) "Tell Me You Love Me" and especially "This Heart Is Haunted" (originally credited to Lee Jones & The Sounds Of Soul, and issued on Bell's Amy subsidiary), but really, these guys could do no wrong. They don't sound as rustic as, say, Otis Redding, but they're every bit as soulful. In the same way that Elvis sounded southern but never sounded like a country singer, these guys sound southern, yet urban, with a delivery as polished as their Detroit and Philly counterparts and a passion as pronounced as Otis, Wilson Pickett and all the rest. They were also fantastic songwriters who steered clear of stock musical underpinnings, which means their stuff still sounds amazingly fresh today. Until recently, they actually had a website, and it showed photos of recent gigs they'd played in Memphis (even though some of them live in Memphis and others in Dallas, which means they go to a lot of trouble to keep performing together -- again, commitment). How they never hit with crossover success is still a mystery, but at least now we get to listen to these sides without any of those annoying associations with Big Chill soundtracks and saturation airplay on goodtime oldies stations. Enjoy.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Strange things

happening every day

Friday, May 18, 2007

Jazz from Peter Gunn

There are a lot of records based on the music from Peter Gunn. Most of them are worth hearing. This 1959 LP by the Joe Wilder Quartet is one of the better ones. Joe Wilder is an excellent trumpeter. Hank Jones, Milt Hinton and Joe Cresci are the rest of the quartet. Surprisingly, the show’s famous theme song is not included on the record.

Joe Wilder started playing in 1941, during World War II, he was bandmaster for the Marine Band, after the war he played in bands led by Lionel Hamilton, Lucky Millinder and Jimmy Lunceford. In the early Fifties, Wilder was playing in pit bands on Broadway. In 1957, Wilder joined the music staff of ABC-TV where he worked until 1973. Joe Wilder then started recording again and is still playing.

JAZZ FROM PETER GUNN is currently available on CD, paired with THE PRETTY SOUND, another Joe Wilder album from 1959. Pick one up!

Hey Bo Diddley!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Yes, that Layla

"Talk about ambition, Chutzpah - That's us." - John Fahey, 1984

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Just a couple more minutes

Whatever I’m doing, wherever I’m going, if I see a box of records, I’ll stop and flip through it. My wife hates it but I’ve got to look, there just may be something worth getting. Two minutes (sometimes hours) later, I decide there isn’t anything I need and go on my merry way.

Which is almost what happened when I found this record. I was flipping through a box filled with the usual suspects (Jesus Christ Superstar, show tunes, The First Family), nothing close to rock. Right in the middle of that was the Nip Drivers’ DESTROY WHITEY album. I pulled it out and asked the old black guy running the booth how much he wanted for it. He looked at it and said “That thing? 2 bucks.” He never did tell me how he ended up with a mid-80’s hardcore record, I’m pretty sure he was glad to get rid of it.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Happy birthday

Sunday, May 13, 2007



OK, one more.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Point that thing

somewhere else

Point that thing dub

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Yoo made a believer out of me

After a few weeks of listening to this great song that I got from either Office Naps or Soul Sides, I finally figured out where I had heard it before. I don't know which song came first. It's easier to for me to believe that a bunch of wacked-out Germans heard a song an American soul singer than it is to think of the American soul singer listening to a bunch of wacked-out Germans. Although the wacked-out Germans did have Malcolm Mooney. Is he the connection? I can't find any proof. Mooney was in Europe for most of the late Sixties. Of course it could just be a coincidence. Only a few of the words match up.

OK, now somebody mention Primal Scream...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Forsake not your brother

Just try and help each other

Friday, May 04, 2007

Who stole the cookies

from the cookie jar?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Delightful Little Nothings

Delightful Little Nothings were a shoegaze/indiepop band from Benecia CA, in the early 90s. They sounded like Velocity Girl. A lot like Velocity Girl. But Velocity Girl was good so it’s OK. The band compared themselves to Heavenly but said that they sounded like this before they ever heard of Heavenly.

I first heard Delightful Little Nothings on a Mint/Lookout compilation called A SLICE OF LEMON. Their song – “Blah, Blah, Blah” – is one of the better songs on the record. I had seen the band’s 7” – called e.p. – at the record store so I picked it up the next time I was there. The songs are good but a little too long. As with all shoegaze bands, the songs sound better turned up loud. As far as I know, these are the only songs Delightful Little Nothings recorded. I’ve never heard of anything else. The record was released by the Candy Floss label.

Bassist Mike Talbot had played in Monsula and went on to the Zim-Zims after the Delightfuls ended. Paul Curran was also in Monsula and also in Crimpshrine.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Happy birthday

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Pigus Drunkus Maximus

Last week, I put up a song by Top Jimmy & The Rhythm Pigs, now I’ve decided to post more about the band.

Sometime in the late seventies, Jimmy Koncek decided that in addition to working at Top Tacos, he wanted to be a blues singer. Koncek was introduced to a guitar-playing doorman named Carlos Guitarlos. The two put together a band and soon had a Monday night residency at a Hollywood punk club called the Cathay de Grande. The band played their for three years and attracted a loyal following that included John Doe & Exene Cervenka, Ray Manzarek, and David Lee Roth. Van Halen want as far as recording a Top Jimmy tribute song called “Top Jimmy”.

Steve Berlin (Los Lobos, The Blasters) produced the band's album called PIGUS DRUNKUS MAXIMUS. Don Bonebrake of X plays drums and the Blasters great piano player Gene Taylor of the Blasters sit in on the LP too.

The Rhythm Pigs are reported to have been a terrific band live. The one album they made backs up that claim. The band had a wide ranging repertoire, the LP has songs written by Jimi Hendrix, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Paycheck and Bob Dylan. There’s a great cover of “Homework” and a fine take of Merle Haggard’s “Workingman’s Blues". But my favorite song on the LP is an original song by Carlos Guitarlos. “Dance With Your Baby” is a high energy jump blues telling all the hipsters in the back of the club to get up and dance or at least bring the band a fresh drink.

Drinking is also part of the band’s story. Apparently they did a lot of it. Unfortunately, Jimmy Koncek died of liver failure in 2001. Carlos Guitarlos became a homeless street musician in San Francisco for a period and developed diabetes. Fortunately, he got himself together and now has several well-regarded discs out.
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