Monday, September 13, 2010

Link Wray "Rumble Mambo"/Red Saunders "Hambone" - OKeh, 1963

It was just too difficult to pick one side of this 45! So we'll have a listen to both.

Theodore Dudley "Red" Saunders was a Jazz drummer and bandleader born in Memphis, Tennesee. Over the course of his long career he worked with such notables as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Woody Herman, and recorded with Big Joe Turner. There is an amazing write-up on Red and his discography here that I won't even try to touch:
Promo for the original Hambone release
"Hambone" was originally released in 1952, and went #20 on the R&B charts for one week. The Hambone Kids' contribution of rhythmic practice is "hamboning" or "patting juba": slapping various body parts as a substitute for drumming and utilizing a traditional West African beat.
"More correctly, it's the 'patted juba' rhythm, which got it's first airing in this country as the popular "shave and a haircut, two bits" beat when it was popularized by black shoeshine boys. Kids would slap the rhythm, using their legs, stomachs and chests as drums. Because the hambone off the hog was a popular item in poor Southern households for flavoring and thickening a pot of greens, the name somehow got attached to the juba rhythm by the time it reached Southside Chicago's schoolyards."
- "What Was The First Rock N' Roll Record?", Jim Dawson and Steve Propes
By the way, What Was the First Rock 'N' Roll Record? is a great book and I highly recommend it for those you you looking to learn more about early Rock. Spoiler alert: there is no first Rock N' Roll record! Now back to Hambone..
After "Hambone" popularized the juba rhythm, it was famously used by Bo Diddley in 1955 for his "Bo Diddley" on Checker - openning the floodgates for juba-based Rock songs. To name a few: Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away", Johnny Otis's "Willie and The Hand Jive", the Strageloves' "I Want Candy", and The Stooges "1969". And the kids still love that crazy beat!
The Hambone Kids with Red on the drums
This version of "Hambone" is actually a sparse, alternate take of the original version, in which the Hambone Kids and Dolores Hawkins are accompanied throughout by guitar, bass, and drums only; the rest of the band contributes nothing, except shouts of "Hambone!" at the beginning and end of the piece.

The other side of this record is a rather odd pairing - a version of Link Wray's "Rumble" titled "Rumble Mambo".  Since we already talked about Link a bit here, I'll skip the biographical info. Link Wray released a few versions of "Rumble" over his career in an attempt to capitalize on it's popularity.  This particular version has a great flavor that sets it apart from the others.
Flier for one of Link Wray's last gigs
Okeh (pronounced 'okay') was started by by Otto K. E. Heinemann in 1918, making it one of the oldest labels we've ever talked about. Okeh jumped in the "race" music market early, and released loads of Jazz from the classic era. Here's another interesting bit from Wikipedia: "Okeh Records pioneered the practice of "location recording" in 1922. Starting in 1924, Okeh also sent mobile recording trucks to tour other parts of the country to record performers not heard in New York or Chicago. Regular return trips were made once or twice a year to New Orleans, Louisiana, Atlanta, Georgia, San Antonio, Texas, St. Louis, Missouri, Kansas City, Missouri, and Detroit, Michigan, recording a wealth of jazz and early country music artists." Columbia bought a controlling interest in Okeh in the mid-20s, but after the early 30s production began to slow. Okeh went through several small starts and stops before finally being deactivated by Columbia in the 70s.
And now, the clips!
Hambone (Alternate Take)

Rumble Mambo


  1. Weird, I bought a Link Wray collection on vinyl in the '80's (I think on Edsel Records) which included this version of Hambone. You're saying Link has nothing to do w/this recording. It always did stand out as odd on the record. Also, pretty much the whole record is now available on itunes, but Hambone is missing. I guess someone figured out that attributing the tune to him was a mistake.

  2. This was the 1963 version with Sandy Becker as "Hambone"Goofing inbetween! Delecta Clark became better known as "Dee Dee Sharp" when she was signed to Cameo..Bernie Lowe the prez of the label,gave her the moniker!