Category Archives: Miscellaneous Flotsam

Halloween radio special 9-11pm CST tonight

This evening on Lost Frequencies:

Two hours of lost ’50s and ’60s bop, mambo, R&B, exotica, soundtracks and oddball surf instrumentals and country. No silly monster novelties, just deep haunted house moods and b-movie atmospherics.

KRTS 93.5FM or stream at http://marfapublicradio.org/ 9-11pm CST.

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No post today

Traveling.  Office Naps returns in two weeks.

Traveling

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I owe it all to the 45rpm record

Office Naps is officially five years old.

Office Naps is five years old

Office Naps is five years old this week. Thanks to foxgrrl's flickr stream for the photo.

Thank you, dear reader, for all of your support, stories and positive feedback over the years!

Posted in Miscellaneous Flotsam, Personal natter | 8 Comments

The local personality

Ed. note: I’ve been after the Austin-based 45 collector, Wisconsin rock ‘n’ roll enthusiast and platter party host Dominic Welhouse for a post for a few years now, basically since I started Office Naps.

Dominic is one of the healthier collectors I know.  He has box after box of heart-pounding vinyl rarities spanning every imaginable style, but – when it comes to music – form and a sort of classicist perfection will forever trump mere collectibility.  Through our years-long conversations and MP3-laden email correspondence, I’ve come to regard him as a spiritual brother in the quest for perfect wall of sound productions and dreamy ’60s country obscurities and other otherworldly strains of post-War music.  There have also been a few sub-genres of his own invention or compilation; I was thrilled when he proposed this theme.

These three 45s capture something that could be so inspired – creative, even – about local media, and local media hosts, in the post-War decades.

The first two selections relate to radio and music.  Alongside entrepreneurial hustle and local record stores, venues and recording studios, a radio host played a critical role in the infrastructure necessary for nurturing a thriving music scene.  Airtime for local groups and artists was procured, live appearances as emcees and disc jockeys were made, relationships among artist, label and venue were forged.  At their best, the host played the role of tastemaker, passionately and consistently pushing their own sensibilities through a selected programme of favorites.    But galvanizing a local scene was more than the sum of exposure, connections and good tastes.  A Mad Mike or Mad Daddy took things to some fervent new level, cultivating their own sound and capturing the imagination of a local populace with flamboyant, envelope-pushing patter and playlists of wild rock ‘n’ roll originals.  Theirs was charisma and a free-wheeling, specialized enthusiasm, a born type.

These three selections (the third includes television host Gailard Sartain) all document this rarer breed: the personality.  These individuals drove vital, original programming to young audiences and championed up-and-coming acts but all was not just boosterism for local musicianship or the means, in Sartain’s case, for filling up a slot of television programming.  In short, it was about the host’s art as an entertainer and no less than the sheer, breathtaking expanse of their personality.   This dynamic reaches some sort of obvious fruition with these three selections.  Terry Lee, the Weird Beird and Gailard Sartain talked, wrote, played music, acted and – with nothing to offer but their God-given charisma – they made records, too.  I’ll let Dominic take it from here.

Terry Lee, TL's Sleepwalk (T.L. Sound co. TLS45-1A)1.  Terry Lee, TL’s Sleepwalk (T.L. Sound co. TLS45-1A)
Even after the payola scandals of the late ’50s, those able to cater to the tastes of teen ears made a pretty good living if they had good hustle. Terry Lee Trunzo – or as his fans knew him “Terry Lee” – could hustle with the best. In addition to his radio program, at one time or another Trunzo hosted television dance shows, promoted live concerts, DJed dance parties, managed and recorded local bands (the Swamp Rats, Arondies and the Fantastic Dee Jays, among others) and compiled albums of song favorites in album jackets featuring suave pictures of himself.

One of Trunzo’s claims-to-fame was a show segment called “Music For Young Lovers.” For a few hours every night he played nothing but make-out music. A popular part of his show, “Music For Young Lovers” was undoubtedly the soundtrack of many Pittsburgh teens furtive romantic experimentation.

In “TL’s Sleepwalk,” Terry Lee shamelessly bites Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk,” slows it down, and gives it fresh purpose. Terry Lee evokes the inchoate feelings of the romantic teen with this smooth monologue, recorded in August 1963.

Strangely, this record didn’t get a 45 release until 1987. Until then, fans of “TL’s Sleepwalk” could only find it on one of his Music For Young Lovers LPs.

The Weird Beard & Crazy Cajun, T'was a Weird Nite Before Christmas (Capri 509)2.  The Weird Beard & Crazy Cajun, T’was a Weird Nite Before Christmas (Capri 509)
The Weird Beard aka Russ Knight – born Russel Lee Moore – was an extremely popular Dallas DJ in the early sixties. Working the 7pm-to-midnight shift at Dallas’s KLIF, he is reported to have enjoyed a 62% percent market share. Folks to whom I’ve talked confirm that he was hugely popular, and his appearance on the 1962 volume of the oldies series Cruisin’ bears this out. Popular with the kids, his patter often rhymed and – among his conceits – he conducted interviews with “Beatles,” young men faking Liverpudlian accents. He helped with KLIF’s JFK assassination coverage and was later deposed by the Warren Commission concerning his contact with Jack Ruby during that fateful week. Reading a transcript of his testimony yields the tidbit that Ruby brought sandwiches and celery soda (!) to KLIF DJs/reporters during assassination coverage. After Knight mentions celery soda in his deposition, he’s asked follow-up questions in which his interrogator attempts to decipher the soda’s brand. Crazy.

In 1964 Knight moved to KILT in Houston. His antic behavior and popularity with the kids undoubtedly led to him laying this track down with East Texas producer Huey Meaux, a man whose activities (good and bad) could fill a large-yet-very-readable biography. Meaux’s productions are often marked by their looseness and the Weird Beard’s waxing is a case in point. This record has qualities I would describe as “psychedelic,” but I strongly suspect the drug of choice was hard liquor. What I imagine began as a fairly normal recording date became very weird, indeed. Meaux even gets in on the sonic fun himself. Every time I play this record, I struggle to discern its maker’s intended audience. As with many of the records featured on Office Naps, I doubt this one found its way into many jukeboxes.

By ’66 Knight was back at KLIF. Since then, he’s been in a variety of markets across the U.S, including a recent stint doing talk radio in Washington, D.C.

Natural Brass Company featuring Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi, Scope Them Turkeys Out (Brass Monkey BMR-107.01-A)3.  Natural Brass Company featuring Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi, Scope Them Turkeys Out (Brass Monkey BMR-107.01-A)
In Tulsa, Oklahoma from 1970-1973, the television airwaves carried The Uncanny Film Festival (get it?) and Camp Meeting. Essentially a way to repackage and celebrate B-movies, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, and an occasional Busby Berkeley fantasia, the show included locally-produced sketch comedy. Several years before the nationally broadcast Saturday Night Live, Tulsans had their own show filled with comic hi-jinks, catchphrases, off-kilter humor, and – at least once – a musical performance courtesy of Leon Russell. By the second season they even had a cast member, Gary Busey, who’d subsequently wreck his life with drugs.

Natural Brass Company featuring Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi, Scope Them Turkeys Out (Brass Monkey BMR-107.01-A)Gailard Sartain’s opportunity to stand in front of the camera is an old cliché: he was working as a television cameraman when his station’s late night movie host quit. He asked the program director, “Why not give me a shot?” and his pluck was rewarded: Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi was born. Sartain would play a variety of characters, but “Mazeppa,” the wizard who would join host Sherman Oaks (Jim Millaway) to introduce the films, was his calling card. This record dates from the show’s first year of production.

Natural Brass Company featuring Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi, Scope Them Turkeys Out (Brass Monkey BMR-107.01-A)Roy Clark caught an episode of Mazeppa Pompazoidi and Sartain was invited to join the cast of Hee-Haw. Sartain went on to be a Hee-Haw regular. To this day, he enjoys a movie career as a character actor (notably, he played the Big Bopper in The Buddy Holly Story).  In my imagination, The Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting is like Hee-Haw, adding drug humor and increased sexual innuendo.

Also a visual artist, Sartain did the artwork for Leon Russell’s Will ‘o The Wisp LP.

Posted in Miscellaneous Flotsam | 4 Comments

The Bee Gees’ “Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show,” as recorded in a half-million gallon tank by David Paul

I make a rare detour this week to feature an extraordinary video, and to talk to its creator, David Paul.

The sour truth of being an obsessive music collector is that, like any addiction, the longer you feed it the longer it takes to reclaim those visceral moments of excitement that guided you into the habit in the first place.  I listen to thousands of new and new-old recordings every month.  Of those, only a few dozen will make it into any sort of permanent rotation in my life, whether it’s my physical record collection or my iTunes playlists.  And, of those, it’s only every few months that something really takes me out of myself for a bit, and that has me instantly and obsessively reaching to replay a recording.

This was one of those recordings.

In full disclosure I am a huge fan of the Bee Gees’ ‘60s pop records – “Every Christian Lion Hearted Man,” in particular – and I’m a big fan of the sound and effect of echo.  This recording has both.  But there are many great components of David Paul’s recording beyond mere acoustics and song choice.

There’s the lighting, for one.  Simple but dramatic – an unwavering luminescent globe bathes the performer.  There’s the tank.  It creates an utterly alien, unreal atmosphere, the vastness of its interior indistinguishable in the gloom but instantly obvious from the boundless echo.   There’s the performance itself.   The chords are basic, serviceable.  Here it is the human voice that provides the focal point.   Unrehearsed but clear, it soars high, playing off oceanic masses of gorgeous, decaying sound.

Like any memorable recording, this performance transcends its components, becoming an experience.  There’s the artfulness and drama of its setting, of course, but everything here breathes honest, spontaneous, solitary joy.  There is something heroic about the pure and stupendous sound that one person can create.

Well, it stirred me.  And there was obviously a good story in there.  So I recently contacted the recording’s creator – electrician and musician David Paul – to ask him some questions, to which he kindly assented.

LD: I’d love to have any biographical details about yourself, as well as about your musical background.
DP: Well first off Dan, I wanna thank you for your interest and taking the time to expose me getting tanked! Ha!

I live in Kansas City, Missouri, where I was born and raised.  I’ve always seemed to have a knack for playing music, as far back as a young child, when I learned to play guitar by ear and noodle on my grandparents’ reed organ. I played trumpet in elementary school and worked my way up to first chair, until circumstances forced us to sell it.  I never bothered to try and read music after that.  I always had a guitar around, though, playing old three-chord standards, you know, “Home On The Range,” “On Top of Old Smokey,” “Down In The Valley,” etc.  Around 1971 or ‘72, I got Neil Young’s album Harvest, and that really struck a spark in me – must have learned every song on that record! That’s when I took up the harmonica.  I bought about three or four harps before I got the right key to play “Heart Of Gold.”

Back in 1978, I took up the fiddle, and about six months later I was asked to join a local band named Denver Locke. That’s when I started playing professionally – full-time for about four-and-a-half years. We had an old 1959 Greyhound bus and toured Colorado, the Northwest and Canada.  I’ve been in and out of bands every since. My most recent venture musically has been with my good friend Harv Fitzer, a professor and guitar teacher at JCCC in Kansas. Harv got on a roll and started writing songs, and I’d throw in my two cents’ worth. We just call ourselves “Fitzer and Paul”. We currently have a song called “Stupidity” on Neil Young’s web site Living With War.  You can also hear some other stuff on our website or our myspace page.

Over the years, I’ve had to have a real job, so I make a living as a handyman, jack-of-all-trades, so to speak, master of none (same with musical instruments).  Over the last several years I have been an electrician, building control cabinets and wiring for these big train and ship engines with generators on them. Many small towns have their own power houses and use these to generate electricity for peak use and power outages.

Which brings us around to how I gained access to the big tank.

LD: Right – how did you come across the tank – and at what point did you realize “Hey, this would make an interesting place for a recording”?
DP: We were working in Belleville, Kansas at the city power plant, and right outside of the place the city was upgrading their water system.  We (Steve Payne, mechanical and electrical engineer and guru for Industrial Diesel Service, and a guitar picker in his own right) watched this half-million gallon steel tank being constructed from the ground up.

When it was finished and painted inside and out, they’d left the hatch unbolted, and we got the idea to take some instruments in there in the evening after work. With flashlight in hand, we proceeded to check it out.  The sound bounced around in there so much that we could barely understand each other when we tried to talk – simply mind-boggling.  Steve commenced to experiment with his guitar, and me with my mandolin, not really playing any songs in particular, just bouncing notes around. We only had cell phones and a digital camera as a means to capture the experience.

Well, once was obviously not enough, and as luck would have it, the tank went untouched (except by us) for a few weeks. We must have had a few hours of noodling out notes in there, but so far I’ve been too cheap to by any software to try and edit it down to something listenable.

LD: The Bee Gees’ song worked beautifully within the tank.  Were you a fan of the early Bee Gees in particular, or was “Every Christian Lion Hearted Man” a spontaneous choice, knowing that it was a song that would work well in there?
DP: Being born in 1958, I grew up listening to every Beatles album as it was released, and we (brothers) had the Bee Gees’ first album somewhere around 1968. It always struck me as a great album, and was very Beatle-ish sounding. Whilst working I would think about songs to try out in the tank, and then “Every Christian Lion Hearted Man” popped in my head. I remembered how it started out with that chant that sounded like it was in a big cathedral, and wanted to see how it sounded in there. The night I recorded it, I went in there alone with a flashlight, guitar, and Panansonic Lumix digital camera. Propped the light to where it shone on the wall, and set the camera on a paint can. Proximity to the microphone is fairly critical.  I later realized being too far away, your voice is indistinguishable, and too close, you lose the “big” sound.  As luck would have it, the camera was placed about right.

LD: Your singing and harmonizing with the guitar and echo was incredible, yet it feels spontaneous.  Had you already worked out the parts to the song?
DP: Well, sorta. I never could understand what the Bee Gees were chanting in that song, so I just made something up to fit. But it was the first time I ever tried to play that song, just prior to going in there, so the spontaneity seems apparent.

In hindsight, I probably would have left the last round out of the song, but I was having so much fun with it I didn’t want to stop!

LD: You mentioned “Within You Without You,” too.   Did you try any other songs in there?
DP: One night I had my fiddle in there, and the Beatles’ song “Within You Without You” came to mind.  I probably played that over and over for at least half an hour, having never played it before, until I thought I was happy with it. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have the means to edit the sessions, so I haven’t posted any more “tank sessions” on YouTube yet.  If I remember right, I think I have bits of “Amazing Grace”, and some Moody Blues stuff on the fiddle, as well as lots of miscellaneous noise.

LD: And what was the experience of being and playing in the tank like?
DP: There was just such a magical feeling and sound inside the tank – especially when you turned off the flashlight… total darkness, only your mind’s eye at work. Every little sound was something new to your ears! It could be angelic, or to the other extreme. I wish there had been more time (and inspiration), and better equipment to really take advantage of the rare opportunity. We could have/ should have done so much more with it. And then, as usual, all things must pass, and the tank hatch was sealed, and filled with water, of which the town of Belleville now drinks.

LD: And then you eventually posted this to the Internet...
DP: Yeah, I’m glad I did. I am truly amazed and flattered by all of the comments and interest I have received from people around the world! For some reason, it has really had an impact on a few people. I love reading the comments, some of which are very humorous, and so far all have been quite positive. I wonder if any of the surviving  Bee Gees will ever hear it?

Thanks again to David for the interview and for his remarkable recording.  I would encourage anyone who enjoyed the video to leave a comment on David’s YouTube page (or here at Office Naps, too).

Posted in Miscellaneous Flotsam, Psychedelic/Pop | 4 Comments

Journey into Mellow

A shorter post this week, owing not to lack of enthusiasm but rather to the scarcity of specifics about the subjects, as well as to their somewhat unclassifiable nature.

In the late ’60s there seemed to briefly prevail a commercial space where underground rock met the instrumental chops of the studio and professional musicians, a space tinged with hippie sunshine, now sound psychedelia and, dare I say it, even jazz.

It’s a bit hard to pinpoint, exactly.  But think the isolated autumnal interludes on any number of the era’s arthouse and b-movie sountracks – everything from the Last of the Ski Bums, The Naked Angels and The Touchables to Chastity, The Trip and The Golden Breed, and many, many others.   Think, too, of some the solo instrumental releases from session musicians like Louie Shelton (Touch Me), Big Jim Sullivan (Sitar Beat) and Hal Blaine (Psychedelic Percussion), or the innumerable anonymous studio psychedelic cash-in creations that went even further, and stranger: Fire & Ice Ltd., the Friendsound, the Ceylieb People, the Mesmerizing Eye, the Soulful Strings, the Free Pop Electronic Concept, etc..   Think the ’60s groovy jazz-pop experiments of vibist Lynn Blessing, Hungarian-born guitarist Gabor Szabo, or Szabo-related group the Advancement.

Mellow moods

Strictly mellow interludes this week

Stylistically, these were examples that could have only happened in the late ‘60s – the trajectories of pop, rock ‘n’ roll, psychedelia, soundtracks, jazz and easy listening would never line up quite the same way again.

Obscurities all, this week’s three selections converge somewhere along the most ragged edge of that ’60s pop-psychedelia-jazz continuum, and are further infused with a healthy amount of garage band do-it-yourself energy.  They would have made for great “mellow” interludes in some AIP biker exploitation flick: “Sonny’s Theme,” or “After the Party,” or “Sunset Rest.”   Alas, they were destined for a different sort of obscurity.

The Fugitives, Wind of Love (Midnight No. MN-101-B)1.  The Fugitives, Wind of Love (Midnight No. MN-101-B)
The Fugitives were a working Georgia band consisting, at least in part, of Calvin Lynch, Tony McMichael and James Tester.

This instrumental was released on Calvin Lynch’s brother Franklin’s Midnight Records.   Midnight Records was just one of several tiny labels that Franklin Lynch operated, and that helped to document some of southern Georgia’s ’60s soul, gospel, country and teen rock hopefuls.  (Franklin Lynch’s story is covered in greater depth at the superb Georgia Soul blog.)

The Fugitives’ first two 45s were released on Franklin Lynch’s New Talent Records, and recorded at the Middle Georgia Recording Studio  – another Franklin Lynch operation – located in the town of Monticello, about one hour southeast of Atlanta.  (The Fugitives would function as a sort of house band at the studio, incidentally.)   While good, these releases were in the standard ’66-era R&B-inflected garage band vein.

“Wind of Love” was the Fugitives’ third, and final, 45.   Recorded later – in 1969 – it sounds a bit like a spontaneous jam, and it probably was.  But there is an unusual quality to it, too;  at a time when local rock bands nationally were indulging in ever longer, ever more ponderous, passages, “Wind of Love,” is simple, almost spare, in its arrangement.

It’s a record well worth seeking out.  Its flip (“Easy Come, Easy Go”) is driving, ahead-of-its-time rock ‘n’ roll with obvious appeal to fans of Hackamore Brick or Loaded-era Velvet Underground.

Space Shuttle, She’s On My Mind (Oxala SLR-807)2.  Space Shuttle, She’s On My Mind (Oxala SLR-807)
Space Shuttle was an obscure San Diego outfit that recorded this around 1970, I’d hazard.

The composer on both sides, and brainchild of the group, was one Don Auten (or D.R. Auten), a longtime San Diego-based guitarist, singer, songwriter and composer.   A self-taught talent, Auten’s resume extends back to the early ‘70s and encompasses overlapping careers in engineering, design and guitar-building.  Auten’s profile is very much of the musician-craftsmen-technician school, evoking a slightly earlier and more individualistic era of southern California music, when guitar playing and building often went hand in hand with an engineering or technical background.

This gorgeous original, recorded when Auten was barely out of his teens, mixes bits of psychedelicized pop and jazz in a unclassifiable, very Aquarian, blend.  Its slightly-more-uptempo flipside is cut from similar cloth as well.

Auten’s name surfaced in credits from time to time in ensuing decades, but the ’90s onward have been the more productive time, musically speaking, for Auten, with a generous number of full-length solo guitar releases to his name.   D.R. Auten still lives and creates music in the San Diego, and can currently be found playing jazz guitar there with the Gaslamp Jazz Band.

3.  Morning-Noon & Night, I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You (Peace [United Under One] 6744)Morning-Noon & Night, I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You (Peace [United Under One] 6744)
This is a reverb-flooded, sun-baked, charmingly shambling cover of the Bee Gees’ 1968 hit.  I suspect this selection’s origins may lie somewhere in the Midwest or the South, but even that generalization is complete and utter speculation.

Its flipside is another stretched-out instrumental cover – Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” this time.  It’s a bit livelier but with similar, somewhat stoned aesthetic.

I’d guess this was recorded around 1970 but, otherwise, nothing.

Posted in Garage Bands, Instrumentals/Surf, Miscellaneous Flotsam, Psychedelic/Pop | 6 Comments

The Exotica Project

I’m pleased to announce the Exotica Project, my new 45-related website.

The Exotica Project explores a somewhat disparate collection of one hundred exotic-themed 45s through the motifs that unite them.  The site approaches “exotica” more as a style, and a motivating and creative force, than anything so rigid as a genre, expanding what have become exotica’s somewhat ossified boundaries in the process.

The Exotica Project: 100 Dreamland 45s
The site’s big gimmick is an index that maps exotica’s building blocks – stylistic components like bird calls, vibraphones and flutes, for instance – to these one hundred otherwise different selections.

I will occasionally be swapping in different selections from my backlog of records (as well as new acquisitions) and, with time, hopefully adding in more site functionality and information about the records themselves.

In the meantime, enjoy the Exotica Project.

Posted in Exotica/Space-Age, Miscellaneous Flotsam, The Exotica Project | 10 Comments

No car, no woman, no money

Whither the hard-luck lounge singer?

The dark-lit cocktail lounge at city limits, its few patrons and the décor both well past their prime. The nightclub singer, somewhere between down-on-his-luck and end-of-his-rope, staring pathos in the eye.

This week: everything that gets idealized, if that’s the word, about old Vegas. (It’s also sort of a follow-up to this earlier post.)

Our historical revisionism aside, none of these three singers was from Las Vegas. Nor, probably, were they nightclub performers. But the overwrought vocals and haplessness are there. It was a shtick that would become even more of a caricature, reaching a nutty crescendo in the ‘70s, when every huge-lapels-and-sideburns duo from here to Elko self-released an album: Steve and Cozy Sing!

Photo courtesy of Tom Spaulding’s excellent NorCal Explorer blog

But these three souls are downright compelling, if not good. Unlike a lot of previous Office Naps posts, they’re gathered together without a shared lineage to unambiguously connect them, or any obvious commercial antecedents. The Rat Pack – Dean Martin especially – may have played the part to a certain extent, but they were the boozy, free-spirited playboys, debauched rather than dejected. These, on the other hand, were the guys who always hung out down near the end of bar with an inevitable refrain: no car, no woman, no money.

1. Henry Thome, Wolf Bait (Viv)
I’ll begin with a bit about Phoenix’s Viv Records.

Viv was a label founded by Lee Hazlewood in 1955, when he was still a local country music DJ, and fledgling producer and songwriter, his “Some Velvet Morning” still a decade away, his hip drifter persona only beginning to develop. (Hazlewood’s ‘50s credits are nonetheless impressive, including “The Fool,” recorded by Sanford Clark, and a series of twangy instrumentals by guitarist Duane Eddy.) Viv was typical of the better independent regional labels that flourished in post-war America, the sort that chronicled hinterland music otherwise neglected by the labels in Chicago, New York City, Nashville, or Los Angeles, the sort run by individuals with certain ambitions, if not an idiosyncratic ear for music.

And that individual was Loy Clingman, a folk/country musician and songwriter who himself had recorded for Viv Records and who, by the late ‘50s, had bought the label from Lee Hazlewood. In addition to operating Viv (and several tiny affiliates), Clingman – a junior high teacher by trade – also ran the Baboquavari coffeehouse in Scottsdale with his wife. Given what must have been considerable strains upon his time, he managed it all with an enviable persistence. From the late ‘50s onwards, Clingman released a schedule of Phoenix-area 45s through Viv: country and rockabilly, folk, and, later, garage bands – as well as a smattering of local R&B; and soul along the way.

Which brings us to Henry Thome. The almost comical sung-spoken asides, the lonesome piano, the 3 am trumpet solo: “Wolf Bait” could have had its own talk show. Thome plays the lovelorn sap brilliantly here, but, strangely, he was by all accounts a folk-singer who performed around Scottsdale and Phoenix in the early ‘60s. Thome was a regular at Clingman’s Baboquavari coffeehouse, apparently, a relationship that resulted in Thome’s three Viv 45s released between 1962 and 1963. This was the first of the three records, though none, of those I’ve heard, are particularly folk-y.

Nor were any of the Viv releases particularly successful. This record, from 1962, would be one of the label’s better performers – not for “Wolf Bait” but for its flipside “Scotch and Soda,” an oddly jazzy reading of an unattributed song from the Kingston Trio’s debut album a few years prior.

In addition to Thome, both “Wolf Bait” and “Scotch and Soda” feature Mike Condello (bass) and Bob Morgan (playing “drums” on a cardboard box). Notable Arizona musicians both, Condello in particular released some excellent late ‘60s psychedelic records, and was musical director for The Wallace and Ladmo Show, a local children’s television show.

2. Bobby Blue and the Love Orchestra, Black & Blue (Love)
Though presumably based in the New York City area, many questions will likely never be answered about Bobby Blue and this excellent version of “Black & Blue.” Including the thorny one of race. I only bother to mention this because “Black & Blue” is a well-known song, actually, one written by African-American lyricist Andy Razaf during the Depression, and famously performed by Fats Waller, Razaf’s great interpreter. Razaf penned, among hundreds of others, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Honeysuckle Rose,” but “Black & Blue” is especially poignant, with understated commentary on racial injustice.

But Bobby Blue, in this version, crucially changes one of the original’s lines, and one of its most poignant: “I’m white inside, but that don’t help my case / Cause I can’t hide / What is on my face.”

Anyway, Blue’s version barely sold, which is a different type of poignant.

Love Records was a small Brooklyn-based label owned and operated by Alan Hartwell, a jazz bandleader. Hartwell produced the label’s sole hit: drummer Cozy Cole’s hip instrumental “Topsy.” (Cole, incidentally, would revisit “Topsy” several times in coming months for Love Records, including “Turvy,” parts I and II, and “Topsy-Turvy,” parts I and II – never too much of a good thing, that.) A full-length Cozy Cole album (Cozy Cole Hits), a few 45s from jazz singer Savina Cattiva – plus this week’s mystery selection, recorded in 1960 – would round out the label’s short, happy run of releases.

Surprisingly, Love Records has been reactivated by Hartwell himself in recent years.

3.  Trey Barker, Valley of Tears, Part II (Fifo)
The songwriters here are Bob Markley and Baker Knight.

Bob Markley – self-styled bohemian, scion of Oklahoma oil wealth – first appeared in Los Angeles in the early ‘60s with a law degree and a burning desire for fame. Markley wrote a song or two (including this selection), and released one dire teen-pop 45, but his dreams only reached any sort of bloom as part of one of the stranger phenoms of ‘60s L.A. psychedelia: the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Most of this group preceded Markley, actually – core members Michael Lloyd (later a big-time producer and industry executive) and Shaun and Danny Harris had already been making home recordings together – and fell in with Markley after an introduction through notorious Hollywood rock impresario Kim Fowley in 1965. Markley desperately wanted to play frontman, and the group was impressed enough with Markley’s well-heeled circles and financial leverage to take him aboard. Thus was one of the stranger bonds in ‘60s pop music forged.

Baker Knight is an entirely different entity. A guitarist, singer and prodigious songwriter, the Alabama-born Knight journeyed to Los Angeles in 1958, where Ricky Nelson would make his fabulous “Lonesome Town” a big hit. From some ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll 45s to, later, some strange psychedelic pop, Knight would continue to release records under his own name, but his bread and butter would always remain songwriting. Ricky Nelson in particular would record Baker Knight songs, though several of the pop stars of the Frank Sinatra-owned Reprise label – Dean Martin, Nancy Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Sinatra himself – would also record Knight’s material in the ‘60s.

“Valley of Tears”: something is clearly working here. Like “St. James Infirmary,” “House of the Rising Sun,” or, for that matter, “Lonesome Town,” this is just as much a state of mind. A great, weird blend of high atmosphere and bluesy hard luck, “Valley of Tears” could have shown that ham Presley and his “Heartbreak Hotel” a thing or two about creating a mood. Likely recorded around 1960 or ’61, Knight’s involvement here is not entirely confirmed, actually. Given the lyric’s similarity to “Lonesome Town,” though, this is almost certainly his handiwork. (Baker and Markley were acquaintances, moreover – Baker later contributed the song “Shifting Sands” to the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band.)

The story behind “Valley of Tears” will, I suspect, always remain obscure. This was only one of hundreds of songs that Baker wrote or co-wrote, and no, and I do mean no, information is available about singer Trey Barker. (I have the sneaking suspicion that Trey Barker is Baker Knight.) Also murky is the extent of Markley’s involvement with the mysterious Fifo label, which had a short, spotty run of obscure 45s in the early ‘60s, finally bringing everything full-circle with a lone album release in 1966, the ultra-rare debut by the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Classic puzzle-wrapped-in-an-enigma stuff here.

Either way, Baker would continue writing songs. Elvis had a hit with his “The Wonder of You” in 1970, and Knight wrote country and pop songs with success in ‘70s, including Mickey Gilley’s 1976 version of “Don’t the Girls Get Prettier at Closing Time.” Baker retired from the music business in the ‘80s and moved back to Alabama, passing away in 2005.

As for Markley, despite artifice and his all-around dubious talents, his connections paid off to the extent that the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band released five interesting, if wildly uneven, albums for Reprise Records. However, Markley, according to legend, also later tangled with the police and, later still, drifted into dementia. The saga of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band is thoroughly chronicled here.

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