Be Bop Wino Pages

Joan Selects - the complete Joan Selects Collection

Big Ten Inchers - 78rpm rips by El Enmascarado

Attention Mac Users!

Mac users have been experiencing problems in unpacking the WinRAR archives used on this blog. Two solutions have been suggested.

1. Use The Unarchiver - - see comments on Little Esther Bad Baad Girl post for details.

2. Use Keka - - see comments on Johnny Otis Presents post.

Friday 22 October 2010

Lack of blog activity

Lurgied. As Spike Milligan would have said. But I'll be back with more swingin' sounds in the near future. In the meantime I'm returning to my bed of pain.

See y'all next week, I hope!

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Updated posts - 1

Followers of Be Bop Wino will be aware that I've been revamping quite a few old posts with new scans and more in depth writing. The improved versions have been appearing at the top of the blog as new posts while the original versions have been sent to the great digital trashcan in the sky. The post on The Five Keys and The Nitecaps is an example of such a post.

While I've been trawling back through the nether regions of the blog in search of posts to improve, I've become aware that it's all a bit chaotic and substandard back there, so I've embarked on a programme of improving every post that can be improved and leaving many of them in situe - back at the original date of posting. This means that the chronology of Be Bop Wino will be partly preserved - it's been going three years now - and also readers' comments will be left intact.

Some posts will still be revamped and moved to the top of the blog in order to bring related posts closer together. I will also continue to post new material as often as I can.

So here is the first update report. The first two posts (September 2007) have been completely rewritten. The very first post was rather self importantly called "The Be Bop Wino Manifesto." When I reread it I was amused to see that I intended to post "only" 4 or 5 times a week! Once a week is enough, I think. That first post is now called "They are not long, the days of wine and roses" which is a fairer reflection of my current outlook on life. The new title was inspired by a post on Una Medianoche Clara on the decadent poet and confirmed absinthe drinker Ernest Dowson.

The second post "Stompin' At The Savoy" has been rewritten with new scans and new links. I have added an extensive section on recommended CDs which continue the theme of the original cassette - the mixing of tracks which many people mistakenly think of as belonging to two incompatible genres - bebop and rhythm and blues. Roy Carr and Billy Vera in particular deserve credit for breaking down the artificial walls of musical genres.

Quick links to rewritten posts:

"They are not long, the days of wine and roses"

"Stompin' At The Savoy"

Sunday 10 October 2010

The Five Keys / The Nitecaps - The Best Of Doo-Wop Classics Volume 2

Side 1
1. Teeth & Tongue Will Get You Hung / The Five Keys
2. When Will My Troubles End (take B) / The Five Keys
3. Lawdy Miss Mary / The Five Keys
4. I'll Follow You / The Five Keys
5. Let Me Know Tonight / The Nitecaps
6. Oh, You Sweet Girl / The Nitecaps
7. In Each Corner Of My Heart / The Nitecaps
8. Sweet Thing / The Nitecaps

Side 2
1. Be My Girl / The Nitecaps
2. Tough Mama / The Nitecaps
3. A Kiss and A Vow / The Nitecaps
4. Bamboo Rock & Roll / The Nitecaps
5. You're Gonna Be Sorry / The Nitecaps
6. You May Not Know / The Nitecaps
7. Snap Crackle & Pop / The Nitecaps
8. When will My Troubles End (take A) / The Five Keys

This 1989 LP on the UK Detour label is a must-have for all fans of The Five Keys as it includes the unissued session they recorded for the RCA subsidiary label Groove in July 1954. Mystery surrounds the reason for these superb sides remaining unreleased. According to Marv Goldberg the group were still under contract to Aladdin when they recorded for Groove, although the West Coast indy had not recorded them since September 1953. The Five Keys’ contract with Aladdin was due to expire at the end of 1954 and talks about renewing the contract had stalled, which probably accounts for the label’s reluctance to record the group.

On 1st July 1954 the group cut a session for Groove. Four sides were recorded with “I’ll Follow You” / “Lawdy Miss Mary” scheduled for release as Groove 0031 on 9th August. In his article on The Five Keys, Marv Goldberg says that he saw the label copy for the planned single, but that the release was withdrawn on the 9th August, the date scheduled for general release. The group signed for Capitol on the 29th August and recorded for their new label the next day. It may be that Groove caught wind of the impending signing and wanted to avoid a complicated contractual situation, especially if The Five Keys were still under contract to Aladdin. The situation was further complicated by the departure of Groove A&R man Danny Kessler during July 1954 and a subsequent sparse release schedule by Groove until early 1955.

If you’ve read the post “It’s A Groove”, you’ll be aware that The Five Keys’ sound changed from R&B to pop when they moved to Capitol. R&B fans can relax – the recordings here are solid stomping rhythm and blues which is hardly surprising when you consider that the backing band includes Sam “The Man” Taylor on tenor sax and Mickey Baker on guitar. Maryland Pierce is in tremendous voice on both the rockers and the ballads. One can’t help wondering how different the history of both The Five Keys and Groove would have been if these sides had been released.

The Nitecaps (or Nightcaps) were a Detroit vocal group who recorded 3 sessions for Groove in New York between November 1955 and October 1956. Four singles were released from the sessions but none made it into the national R&B charts, although “A Kiss and a Vow” and “Bamboo Rock & Roll” were local hits in Detroit. The influence of the Clyde McPhatter era Drifters is obvious on some of The Nightcaps’ tracks, especially the unreleased “Oh You Sweet Girl” which is very similar to “Honey Love”. The group was backed by some of the best New York session musicians including King Curtis, Mickey Baker and Panama Francis. To these ears these are really good vocal group recordings, but perhaps there was a slight lack of originality which kept them from achieving more substantial sales.

Many thanks to Joan who contributed label scans of the Nightcaps’ singles.

Ripped from vinyl at 320 kbps.

Download from here:

1. Teeth & Tongue Will Get You Hung / The Five Keys
2. When Will My Troubles End (take B) / The Five Keys
3. Lawdy Miss Mary / The Five Keys
4. I'll Follow You / The Five Keys
5. Let Me Know Tonight / The Nitecaps
6. Oh, You Sweet Girl / The Nitecaps
7. In Each Corner Of My Heart / The Nitecaps
8. Sweet Thing / The Nitecaps
9. Be My Girl / The Nitecaps
10. Tough Mama / The Nitecaps
11. A Kiss and A Vow / The Nitecaps
12. Bamboo Rock & Roll / The Nitecaps
13. You're Gonna Be Sorry / The Nitecaps
14. You May Not Know / The Nitecaps
15. Snap Crackle & Pop / The Nitecaps
16. When Will My Troubles End (take A) / The Five Keys

This is a revamped version of an older post, with new cover scans. In the comments section of the "Groove Jumping" post there was some speculation about Volume One of Best of Doo-Wop Classics. "dbtb" pointed out correctly that it was in fact a Du Droppers compilation. While reading up on Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson in the August 1988 edition of “Blues and Rhythm” magazine I came across the advert shown below. It makes for interesting reading as at that time there was controversy in the UK regarding the release of bootleg LPs of vintage R&B material.

Monday 4 October 2010

Joe Houston – Earthquake

Side 1
1. Thunder Storm *
2. Trouble, Trouble, Trouble
3. Hurricane **
4. Tough Enough
5. Windy City Hop
6. Earthquake ***

Side 2
1. Jump The Blues
2. Guided Missile
3. Good-Bye Little Girl
4. Wee, Wee Hours
5. Bobby Sox Ramble

* this is the 78 rpm version of "Hurricane."
** this track is not "Hurricane" but is in fact an alternate take of "Bobby Sox Ramble."
*** this track is "Atom Bomb" which was originally released as Imperial 5213.

As can be seen above, a number of errors were made in the attribution of titles to the above tracks. This was due to a number of factors, some dating back to the original issues on Imperial. There is a full explanation in the sleevenotes by Ken Mills to the Saxophonograph LP "Rockin' 'N' Boppin'." It should also be noted that some Joe Houston Imperial tracks were subsequently released on Bayou with different titles.

“Cut for everybody and you’ll get a hit sooner or later,” said Big Joe Turner to his young tenor sax player Joe Houston back around 1950. And boy did young Houston take the advice to heart. So much so that trying to make sense of the Joe Houston discography has driven many an R&B fan to despair. To paraphrase Lord Palmerston (he was speaking of the Schleswig Holstein question): “the Joe Houston discography is so crazy, only three hep cats have ever really dug it. The first is six feet under. The second flipped his wig and is relaxing at Camarillo. The third is Jim Dawson who is still hanging on in there.”

But here at Be Bop Wino we laugh at minor details like matrix numbers and where and when sessions were held, and which sides were leased out to which companies, and which tunes were recycled under different titles. We just concentrate on the music itself and content ourselves with the knowledge that Joe Houston recorded some of the most blistering honking sax ever committed to wax.

He was born in 1926 in Austin, Texas. He started learning to play the trumpet at the remarkably early age of 11 but soon switched to alto sax, learning the solos of Charlie Parker and Joe Thomas from records. His first pro gig was with the King Kolax band with whom he toured the length of the United States and then shifted to blues shouter Gatemouth Moore’s band. He then toured with Amos Milburn’s backing band and decided to change over to tenor sax.

In 1949 he joined Big Joe Turner’s band for an extended engagement at the Ace of Clubs in Baton Rouge. Turner had cut some sides for the small Houston based Freedom label and on Big Joe’s recommendation not-so-big Joe went to Houston for his first recording session in November 1949. “Wee Wee Hours” and “Jump The Blues” are from that session. In March 1950 he recorded again for Freedom, with “Good-bye Little Girl” being included on this LP. The Freedom sides were standard jump blues, slightly rough around the edges and nothing to write home about. And there was no sign of the hellacious honking to come.

Sometime in late 1950 or early 1951 Joe recorded a four song session in Houston for a new local label, Macy’s. With three songs in the can, Joe cut loose on a wild and primitive honker for track number four. Released as “Blow, Joe, Blow” it sold well locally and was picked up by Los Angeles label Modern Records who were able to give it national distribution. In May 1951 Joe cut a couple of sides for a small Atlanta label, Sphinx. One of the tracks, “Worry, Worry, Worry,” was re-released on Mercury and became Joe’s biggest national hit, charting in February 1952. Meanwhile in August 1951 Joe Bihari of Modern Records arrived at Joe Houston's home in Baton Rouge with portable recording equipment and cut four sides, including another primitive screamer, “Houston’s Hot House” for release by the LA diskery.

Encouraged by his experience with the Biharis, Joe moved to Southern California, that land of fresh horizons and infinite opportunity, where by day the sun shone on the sparkling Pacific and by night beneath the twinkling stars hip teenagers gyrated sinfully to the eternal sax-driven riffs echoing from juke boxes, radios and live onstage late night battles of the hard rockin’ bands. Joe’s arrival way out West came at an opportune moment for rhythm and blues was breaking big in and around the City of Angels and black, chicano and white teens couldn’t get enough of it.

Big Jay McNeely was king of the tenor sax out there. Joe saw his wild stage act, copied it and was soon challenging Jay at live concerts. When we come to consider Joe’s recorded output at this time things get kind of complicated. Joe’s first LA sessions were for Lew Chudd’s Imperial label. Or maybe not, for he may have been cutting his first Combo sides at around this time too, and maybe sneaking in a quick session for Modern on the side.

Whatever was happening, we have now arrived at the bulk of the tracks on this LP which were recorded in May and July 1952 for Imperial. Some were re-workings of tracks he had already released on other labels. “Thunder Storm” (in reality the 78 rpm version of "Hurricane") is a slicker version of “Blow, Joe, Blow” on Modern, “Trouble, Trouble, Trouble” is basically a remake of his Mercury hit “Worry, Worry, Worry” and “Earthquake” (this is in fact "Atom Bomb") is a ringer for another Modern track, “Houston’s Hot House.”

It’s all fine rocking stuff, although the Freedom tracks which Imperial bought for re-release are in an obviously earlier style. From here on in the Joe Houston recording story gets incredibly complicated with sides being recorded for John Dolphin’s labels, the Biharis and Combo from late 1952 right through to 1959. His biggest local hit “All Night Long” was recorded for John Dolphin’s Money label towards the end of 1954 but was also released on Combo, Modern/RPM and Caddy. It was also re-recorded by Joe for a session which was released on the budget Tops label LP “Rock and Roll with Joe Houston.” Discography fanatics should buy the Ace CD “Joe Houston Blows Crazy!” and read the liner notes by Jim Dawson. As for myself, my head is beginning to hurt with just thinking about it.

Original release of "All Night Long" on Money, 1954 (scan courtesy of Joan K)

In the early 1960s the Biharis issued a number of Joe Houston LPs on their low budget Crown label. These bargain basement discs were aimed at exploiting current fads and so an increasingly unlikely series of Houston albums appeared on record racks in locations like supermarkets and grocery stores. Customers could buy a Joe Houston LP to twist to, to limbo to, to surf to, and there was even one you could rock and roll to. Of course despite the different crazes they aimed to exploit, the LPs all sounded remarkably similar.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Joe lived to see the revival of his kind of music in the 1980s and he was kept busy recording and touring right up into the present century. His most notable later recording was probably “The Return of Honk” with Otis Grand. Ill health brought an end to his active career in 2005.

Recommended purchases:

All the best Joe Houston sides have been released by the UK Ace label.

“Cornbread and Cabbage Greens” (Ace CDCHD 395) is now out of print. Billy Vera compiled this collection of Joe’s recordings for John Dolphin. Look out for it second hand.

“Honk! Honk! Honk!” (Ace CDCHD 781) is a compilation of screamin’ and rockin’ mid 1950s R&B from the vaults of Dootone and Combo. It includes 6 Joe Houston sides which originally appeared in the UK on the Ace LP “Rockin’ At The Drive-In.” Also on the CD are Chuck Higgins, Jack McVea, Roy Milton, Floyd Turnham and others. This is definitely in my top ten Ace CDs.

“Joe Houston Blows Crazy!” (Ace CDCHD 772) is a Jim Dawson compilation of Joe’s sides released on the Bihari labels – Modern, RPM and Crown. The sleeve notes tackle the complex Houston discography, including all those “twist” and “surf” LPs released on Crown. Included are the wildest of the wild – “Blow, Joe, Blow” and “Houston’s Hot House.”

Rockin’ At The Drive-In” (Ace CDCHD 994) is the CD issue of the LP issued by Ace back in the 1980s and by Combo back in the stone age. The definitive compilation of Joe’s Combo sides. The problem of 6 of the LP sides already being on “Honk! Honk! Honk!” is dealt with by using alternate takes. There’s plenty to delight the ear plus good liner notes by Tony Rounce. And you get that classic LP cover. Perhaps the finest 1950s LP cover of them all. Googie architecture, low riders, hand clapping teens, DJ Art Laboe, and Joe in an outrageously shoulder padded jacket. I’m in hog heaven.