Monday, November 29, 2010

Desmond Dekker - "Isrealites" - Uni, 1968

And now for something completely different - a little Ska from legend Desmond Dekker! Desmond is a Jamaican music giant, who's impact was felt around the world. Hell, an old friend from college even named his son Desmond Dekker!  My first introduction to Desmond Dekker was in high school when his song "007 (Shanty Town)" blew my mind.  I've been a fan of Ska/Rocksteady since.
  In 1941 he was born Desmond Adolphus Dacres in St. Andrew, Jamaica and grew up in Kingston.  After some encouragement from his friends Desmond auditioned for a few labels in 1961. and was able to land a contract at Beverley's record label with the help of Derrick Morgan.  His first song in '63, "Honour Your Mother and Father", was the first in a string of hits. From Wikipedia:
"In 1968 Dekker's "Israelites" was released, eventually topping the UK Singles Chart (the first reggae hit to do so) and peaking in the Top Ten of the US Billboard Hot 100. Dekker was the first Jamaican artist to have a hit record in the US with a form and style that was purely Jamaican, though he never repeated the feat."
One of the funny things about this tune is that despite being well known and loved, most don't have clue what the heck Desmond is saying. The lyrics are as impenetrable as "Louie, Louie".

Desmond's career slowed down a bit in the 70's before riding the 2Tone second-wave ska movement to increased popularity. Once that movement died out in the early 80's, so did the gigs, and Desmond declared bankruptcy in 1984. He did work on a few more projects after that point, mostly re-recording old hits and projects with other musicians. Dekker died of a heart attack on 25 May 2006, at his home in Thornton Heath in the London Borough of Croydon, England, aged 64.
This is actually the only record I own on the Uni label. Here's the Wiki blurb on them:
"Uni Records (short for the label's legal name Universal City Records and rendered as UNI) was a record label owned by MCA Inc. The brand, which long featured a distinct UNi logo, was established in 1966 by MCA executive Ned Tanen and developed by music industry veteran Russ Regan. Notable artists on Uni included Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Foundations, Hugh Masakela, Brian Hyland, Desmond Dekker, Bill Cosby, Elton John, Neil Diamond, Dave and Ansil Collins, Fever Tree and Olivia Newton-John. In 1967, Uni took over management of MCA's newly acquired Kapp Records. In 1971 Uni was merged with Kapp and the co-owned American Decca Records, to form MCA Records. The Decca, Kapp, and Uni labels continued to be used for new releases for a short time, but in late 1972, new releases by their former artists began appearing on the MCA Records label; before long their back catalogs had been transferred to MCA as well."
And of course, the clip!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jessie Hill - "Ooh Poo Pah Doo" - Minit, 1960

This one's a real stomper!  After some call and response oohs and ahhs, Jessie yells "I'ma tell ya 'bout Ooh Poo Pah Doo!".  Apparently Ooh Poo Pah Doo has something to do with "creating a distrubance in you mind".  This song certainly creates a disturbance on the dancefloor! Born on December 9th, 1932 in New Orleans, Jessie Hill was a lifetime musician, performing in bands from his high school years.  After working as a drummer with Professor Longhair and then Huey "Piano" Smith, he put together the House Rockers in 1958.

The origins of this particular song are interesting. Apparently it was actuallly penned by a local "winehead" piano player known only as "Big Four".  Jessie caught him performing this tune a scribbled down the lyrics on a paper bag.  The intro was borrowed from Dave Bartholomew.  The House Rockers then added the song to their repertoire and it quickly became a crowd favorite.  After shopping this song unsuccesfully at Ric/Ron, Jessie finally found a taker at Minit Records.  Allen Toussaint was brought in to produce the session, but since he didn't really get the tune he wasn't able to add much. “I didn’t think ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’ made much sense,” admitted Toussaint. “I thought songs had to be more expressive. But when I saw the effect it had on people, I began to look at things differently.”
After starting out as a local Carnival favorite, "“Ooh Poo Pah Doo" slowly built up steam over the course of a year till it broke nationally, peaking at #3 in Billboard’s R&B chart and #28 on the pop chart.
Unfortunately, Jessie and the House Rockers were never able to replicate that early success.  But he did cut a few more tunes in the "nonsense words" vein, here are some from my collection.

Jessie did have a short and rather successful stint on the West Coast, but problems with alchohol and a nasty temper made it hard to be productive for long.  After returning to New Orleans his worsing personal and financial condition alienated him from most of his friends. He passed away in 1996 from heart and kidney failure on September 17, 1996 and was buried under a plywood grave marker in Holt Cemetery.

For those wanting more detail, I highly recommend this bio:
We've talked about Minit before here (  All you need to remember is that if you see a 45 on this label, just grab it. In my experience, there are far more hits than misses in the Minit catalog, especially in the earlier releases.
And, the clip!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"Where Y'at?" has been moved to a new date!

My monthly gig at The Charleston is now the 4th Saturday of every month! Hope to see ya!

Monday, November 15, 2010

November 2010 Mix: Bop-A-Munga!

During the 50s and 60s, tons of popular culture was inspired by far away jungles and the natives and beasts we imagined lived inside them. For my November 2010 mix, I've put together some of my favorite tunes in that vein. The natives are restless, and need to dance!

Bop-A-Munga by djmikecrash

The Applejacks - "Rocka-Conga" - Cameo, 1959

Sometimes a record grabs me for the sheer silliness of it.  This is one of those records. I guess I'd call it a "novelty dance" number. While researching it, I came to know the story of Dave Appell.
Are those groupies back there?
The Applejacks, not to be confused with the Beat group of the same name from across the pond, was basically a studio band under the direction of Dave Appell. Appell (pronounced "apple") has a long history in the music business and is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades.  After getting his start arranging for several United States Navy big bands during WWII, he arranged for a few other dance orchestras and recorded several tunes for Decca as the "Dave Appell Four".
Somewhere in the mid-late 50's, Appell moved back to his hometown of Philadelphia and got involved with Cameo Records doing background vocals, session work as a guitarist, engineering, arranging, and producing. From Wikipedia:
"In the summer of 1958, Appell got an idea for a song from the Philadelphia String Band of a marching-type song with a dance beat. He wrote an instrumental song called "The Mexican Hat Rock," a jumped-up version of the old "Mexican Hat Dance," that he had his studio band record. The song was released under their own name on Cameo that fall and became a big dance hit on American Bandstand, reaching # 16 on the charts. The Applejacks also charted with "Rocka-Conga" (# 38) later in the year.

Appell went on to become the leader of Cameo-Parkway's house band, backing such artists as Chubby Checker, Bobby Rydell, The Dovells, Dee Dee Sharp, and The Orlons. Their records Appell also arranged and, in many cases, produced, and even co-wrote with Kal Mann, like "The Twist," "Let's Twist Again," "Bristol Stomp," "Mashed Potato Time," and "South Street." These were the years of the twist and other dance crazes, in the launching of which Appell played a vital role. Appell left Cameo in 1964."
Mr. Appell is 87 and still doing his thing - you can check out his website here:
Cameo Records was based out of Philadelphia and was a subsidiary of Cameo-Parkway Records.  Founded in December 1956 by Bernie Lowe and Kal Mann, the label had many hits with previously mentioned artists. Judging by what I find while digging, The Orlons were particularly popular (at least round these parts). The British Invasion of the mid-sixties put a hurt on the label, and one of their last big hits was "96 Tears" by ? and the Mysterians.  By 1967, the label winding down and being sold off in pieces.
And, the clip:

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Cramps - "The Way I Walk" - Vengence, 1978

I thought I'd mix it up this week with something more current (only 30 years old!).  This is The Cramps' very first release, b/w "Surfin Bird".  In my eyes that makes it a pretty epic 45, I just wish mine was in better shape!
What can be said about the Cramps that hasn't already been said? Some record collector art geek from the Midwest picked up a fellow record-nerd hitchhiker in California sometime in 1972 - and those two went on to become Lux Interior and Poison Ivy, the core of The Cramps.

Their fusion of Garage, Rockabilly and Punk sounds took NYC by storm and inspired too many musicians to count.   The Cramps are REQUIRED listening, people.

My own personal Cramps experience is pretty limited. I remember seeing a "punk" in the goofy 80's movie "Back To The Beach" wearing a "Bad Music for Bad People" t-shirt and I thought "this sounds like music I should check out". Luckily, my uncle Marcos and my cousin Maria were huge Cramps fans and were happy to sort out a few tunes.  They actually took me to my only Cramps show: March 7, 1991 with the Reverend Horton Heat at Chicago's Riviera Theatre.  I had just turned 15 and I didn't really know what to expect, I just knew these guys had a really crazy and weird rocking vibe.  I think the "wildest" shirt I had was a very hippy tunic kinda thing I got in Jr. High for a costume so I wore that.  Obviously I was pretty clueless and probably looked like a huge asshole.  But the show was amazing, of course.  It was defintely a turning point in the creation of the music-geek degenerate you see before you today.
Back to the song.  If you're a hardcore Cramps fan or record nerd, then you're aware that many of The Cramps best songs were either covers of older tunes or borrowed liberally from them.  "The Way I Walk" is a great example.

The original is a belter of a tune from Detroit-rocker Jack Scott released in 1959. Check out the original in this YouTube clip:

Note the difference between the Scott and Cramps versions. The Cramps take the original version, strip it to its raw rock essence, then drag it through a dirty alley and soak it with booze until it's a lean, mean, attitute machine.  Crampsified!
I strongly feel that The Cramps' deep knowledge of great old music is what enabled them to make great new music.  That's one of my main motivators in DJing these days - trying to educate folks on gems from the past so they can make the gems of tomorrow! It makes me crazy when I hear new music sampling other music that was only produced only a few years prior. Really, is that as far back as most these days are willing to look for inspiration?
As far as the "Venegence" label, I believe this was an imprint started by The Cramps for releasing their own material.  This first issue was cheekily numbered "666".  There were a few more issues on this label before it disappeared, but I believe it was resurrected later for some reissues and one new album.
And finally, the clip!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Shake Frantic! at Huckleberry Bar

This month we're holding the event on a Wednesday since Huckleberry Bar is closed on Thanksgiving. The upshot - no work tomorrow so let's party all night! I'll buy a drink for anyone that can name all the artists in the flier.

Next up: Graveyard Rock at Trophy Bar!

Wednesday, November 10th at Trophy Bar! Don't let hump day drag you down, fight the work-week beasts!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Kathy Keegan - "Nobody's Gonna Hurt You" - Al-Brite Records, 1960(?)

Info is really scarce for today's 45! All I could really dig up on Kathy Keegan is that she is perhaps English-born but was living in New York (second hand info which is supposedly from the liner notes in her "When You're Young And In Love" album on DCP International (DCL 3800).
This is only pic I could find!
The vibe of this tune really reminded me of Wanda Jackson's "Funnel of Love", but I believe Keegan's song came out about a year before Wanda's. Lack of available info on this singer or this song make me wonder if it didn't rise above a local hit, which would be a real shame!
"...there is a touch of Judy Garland in Keegan's vocal delivery, but the vocalist is still distinctively Keegan. Petite (4 feet 11 inches, 100 lbs), Kathy projects in clarity of tone and quality of purpose all that she sings." - Billboard, April 25,1964
Other articles of this period indicate Mrs. Keegan had a busy nightclub and television apperance schedule, appearing at places like the Copacabana in New York, The Flamingo in Vegas, The Ed Sullivan Show, etc.
Al-Brite label info is also scarce.  I do know they were a small Brooklyn-based label.  I found this partial discography here, with most of the release dates missing:
I also dug up this ad from the November 30, 1959 issue of Billboard Magazine.
The label's addresss is in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn and looks to be a Chinese market of some sort currently.
And now, the clip!