May 26, 2017

505 Gary U. S. Bonds (1939- ) “Quarter to Three” 1961

Bonds “was barely in his 20s when his performances of rollicking tunes like "New Orleans" (1960) and "Quarter to Three" (1961) allowed him to break into the upper echelons of rock 'n' roll music. Just five years later, however, Bonds' shooting star had already begun to fade. Despite widespread critical acclaim, the Norfolk, Va., resident would spend the next four decades trying to scrape by on the golden-oldies circuit, playing in hotel lounges and even shopping malls” (Kirkus Reviews, 2013).

Gary U. S. Bonds “Quarter to Three”

504 Bobby “Blue” Bland (1930-2013) “Turn On Your Love Light” and “I Pity the Fool” 1961

Born in Rosemark, Tennessee, Bland “moved with his mother to Memphis so that her worries about her son’s dismal employment prospects might be allayed, as she was thoroughly convinced of Bobby’s musical talent. Bland soon found a musical home in Memphis. In the early 1950s he joined gospel groups, won singing contests and began associating with a group of fellow blues performers known informally as the Beal Streeters” (Michael Cala, Sing Out!, 2011).

Bobby “Blue” Bland “Turn On Your Love Light”

Bobby “Blue” Bland “I Pity the Fool”

503 The Beach Boys “Surfin’” 1961

L.A. producer Doris Morgan advised the Pendletones, “You’ve got to have an angle. Something to set you apart from the others.” Dennis Wilson suggested surfer music over the objections of the other group members, though they admitted to working on a song titled “Surfin’.” Morgan “told the boys to write down all the surfing phrases they knew, add them to the lyrics, and polish the melody…If she liked what she heard when they came back, they could record it” (Steven Gaines, Heroes and Villians: The True Story of the Beach Boys, 1986).

The Beach Boys “Surfin’” 1961

502 Ray Charles (1930-2004) “Deed I Do” and “Let the Good Times Roll” 1959

The Genius of Ray Charles album was one of the last he recorded for Atlantic, the company the produced his first LP. “He’d never forget their help, and he’d always be proud of the work they had done together. They might collaborate again someday, who could tell? But making records was a business, and in business everybody made the best deal they could make at the time. ‘Seventy-five cents out of a dollar and owning my own masters, that’s why I left Atlantic,’ Ray recalled years later. Friendship and sentiment had nothing to do with it” (Michael Lydon, Ray Charles: Man and Music, 1998).

Ray Charles “Deed I Do”

Ray Charles “Let the Good Times Roll”

501 Dave Brubeck (1920-2012) Quartet “Take Five” 1959

Brubeck’s father wanted him to work on a ranch. Instead, Brubeck said, “I went through the College of the Pacific as a music major [1938-42] without being able to read music, until a little bit at the end. Strangely enough, I could write music down, and that helped me to read gradually” (Len Lyons, The Great Jazz Pianists, 1983). “’Take Five’” was so well received that it even made the popular music charts, peaking at number 25 in 1961—unheard of for an instrumental jazz recording. Time Out went on to become the first instrumental jazz album certified gold” (Rob Nagel, Ken Burke, Contemporary Musicians, 2010).

Dave Brubeck Quartet “Take Five”

May 19, 2017

500 Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” 1958

“Dinah Shore, one of the top TV personalities of the day, was the first white star to insist that her network, CBS, enter into a contact with Mahalia for an appearance on the ‘Dinah Shore Show.’ It was to be an historic alliance—the blond talk-show hostess, TV’s darling, and the sable-skinned empress of gospel—that would make a big dent in the rigid Jim Crow hiring practices of the entertainment industry…Jackson explained the difference between blues and gospel on the show: “The blues, baby, is when you’re feelin’ low…when you’re down in the mouth. But gospel is always happy a joyful sound. You know when you’re up an’ feelin’ good!” (Jules Schwerin, Got To Tell It: Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel, 1992). 

Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972)  “His Eye Is on the Sparrow”

499 Joao Gilberto (1931- ) “Chega de Saudade” 1958

“The Gilberto name is utterly synonymous with bossa nova: the light, melodic, samba-based musical hybrid that swept America and the rest of the world in the mid-60s. Guitarist/vocalist/composer Joao Gilberto grew up interested in Brazilian samba, absorbing the traditional rhthyms and melodies, but became seduced by jazz—the other ingredient in the bossa recipe—listening to radio stations playing American music. During the early 50s he settled in Rio De Janeiro, where the colourful cultural mix was already inspiring the brilliant guitarist/composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, with whom he soon began to collaborate” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2006). 

Joao Gilberto “Chega de Saudade”

498 Hoagy Carmichael (1899-1981) and his Pals “Star Dust” 1928; Billy Ward (1921-2002) and his Dominoes “Stardust” 1957

“Beyond argument, he’s the key precursor of that phenomenon of our own times, the singer-songwriter. Whether Billy Joel or Elton John, Dave Frishberg or Bob Dorough, or the countless others who have made an industry of devising and performing their own material, all share a common ancestor in the wiry little guy at the piano, hat back on his head, often bathed in cigarette smoke” (Richard Sudhalter, Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael, 2002). 

“‘Star Dust’ was recognized as the most played staple of the swing era, a perfect vehicle for a large jazz ensemble that wanted to play something a little more introspective than ‘Bugle Call Rag.’…Perhaps inspired by the 1957 hit single of the tune by Billy Ward and the Dominoes, the expression was also briefly embraced by cinematic rock-and-rollers in the 1975 Stardust (about a fictitious but Beatle-esque pop band) and the 1983 Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (David Bowie in concert)” (Will Friedwald, Stardust Melodies, 2002). 

Hoagy Carmichael and his Pals “Star Dust”

Billy Ward and his Dominoes “Stardust”

497 Slim Harpo (1924-1970) “I’m a King Bee” 1957

“Born James Moore in 1924 in Lobdell, West Baton Rough Parish, Harpo, an orphan, spent his early years as a physical laborer in Baton Rouge. A musical late bloomer influenced by blues harmonica legends such as Little Walter, Harpo began moonlighting as Harmonica Slim in the mid-1950s, gigging with singer-guitarist Otis Hicks, aka Lightnin’ Slim, who was the region’s most established bluesman.” Harpo “became one of the most commercially successfully blues artists of his day, a fact borne out by the number of white blues and rock ‘n’ roll bands who absorbed his music. None other than the Roiling Stones covered Harpo's ‘I'm a King Bee" on their debut album, leading Stones frontman Mick Jagger to famously say, ‘What's the point in listening to us do “I’m a King Bee” when you can hear Slim Harpo do it?’” (Ryan Whirty, Louisiana Life, Jan/Feb 2010).

Slim Harpo “I’m a King Bee”

496 The Crickets with Buddy Holly (1936-1959) “Oh Boy” 1957

John Lennon: “The name Beatles was directly inspired by the Crickets.” George Harrison: “Buddy Holly was my very first favorite and my inspiration to go into the music business.” Jerry Allison: “Buddy Holly would have loved the Beatles and the Stones and the whole English invasion. He would have kept coming out with stuff because he was always coming up with something new. Just before he died, he was talking about making a gospel album with Ray Charles” (Jim Dawson, Spencer Leigh, Memories of Buddy Holly, 1996). 

The Crickets with Buddy “Oh Boy”

May 12, 2017

495 Louis Prima (1910-1978) and Keely Smith (1932- ) “Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody”, “Jump, Jive, an’ Wail” 1956

“Louis and Keely’s single source of power came from their Casbar Lounge shows, those late-night, uninhibited forays into musical madness…In the summer of 1956, Life magazine attempted to provide its readers with a glimpse of what a daily routine must be like for the couple, showing Louis and Keely filling in for a sick nightclub performer as the main floor attraction from 10 p.m. to midnight, then, said the publication ‘they worked from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. in the lounge where their unusual act competed with the chant of the gambling casino’s croupiers. It was 8 in the morning before they had breakfast at home with their 18-month old daughter’” (Garry Boulard, Louis Prima, 2002).

Louis Prima and Keely Smith “Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody”

Louis Prima and Keely Smith “Jump, Jive, an’ Wail”

494 Mahalia Jackson (1911-1972) “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” 1956

Though Jackson appreciated the accolades of white audiences, she “felt like saying, ‘How big does a person have to grow, down in this part of the country, before he’s going to stand up and say—Let us stop treating other men and women and children with such cruelty just ‘cause they are born colored!” In 1956, she was invited to sing at a conference honoring Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama. Jackson agreed: “Yes, but I ain’t comin’ to Mongomery to make no money off them walkin’ folks!” (Jules Schwerin, Got To Tell It: Mahalia Jackson, Queen of Gospel, 1992).

Mahalia Jackson “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”

493 Harry Belafonte (1927- ) “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” 1956

Calypso would be the best selling album in 1957, outselling even Elvis Presley. Former Weavers manager Pete Kameron suggested that Belafonte start his own publishing company. “[T]here was no reason some stodgy publishing company had to get that money just for doing the paperwork…I liked being responsible for rising or falling by my own decisions. I also liked working with black professionals who understood where I came from and what I was trying to do. When I started out, there were no black agents or managers, no major black club owners. There were still hardly any, and certainly none in the movie business. No black movie executives, no black entertainment lawyers, no black screenwriters” (Harry Belafonte, My Song, 2011).

Harry Belafonte “Banana Boat (Day-O)”

492 Perez “Prez” Prado (1916-1989) “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” 1955

Influenced by African and Cuban music, “In 1942 Prado moved to Havana, where he arranged music for musical groups and orchestras, including the famous Sonora Matancera and Orquesta Casino de la Playa. He experimented with traditional Cuban rhythms, combining jazz and traditional music, and thus he angered musical purists. In 1948 he moved to Mexico City to form his own orchestra” (Alfred Cramer, Musicians & Composers of the 20th Century, 2009).

“Prez” Prado “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White”

491 B.B. King (1925-2015); Count Basie (1904-1984) with Joe Williams (1918-1999) “Every Day I Have the Blues” 1955

“It’s undeniable that B. B. King’s success was the climax of his development as an interpreter, rather than the triumph of an originator…Early in 1955, ‘Every Day I Have the Blues’ was an example of this. Composed by the Sparks Brothers, Aaron and Milton, who recorded it for Bluebird in 1935, “Every Day” was a big hit for Memphis Slim in 1948 as ‘Nobody Loves Me.’ Two years later, Lowell Fulson gave the song a definitive reading, and restored its original title, before King made it one of his warhorses. Although he mainly drew on Fulson’s version for inspiration, King was equally well aware of vocalist Joe Williams’s reading of the song, recorded with Kin Kolax’s Orchestra. Later, Williams would remake a hit version of it with Count Basie” (Sebastian Danchin, Blues Boy: The Life and Music of B.B. King, 1998).

B.B. King “Every Day I Have the Blues” 

Count Basie and his Orchestra with Joe Williams “Every Day I Have the Blues”

May 5, 2017

490 Kitty Kallen (1921-2016) “Little Things Mean a Lot” 1954

“A onetime child radio star in Philadelphia, Ms. Kallen grew into a singer who evinced an expressive style on both sweet and bluesy numbers. Her rise was also propelled by a comely appearance, and she was often introduced as ‘Pretty Kitty Kallen’…The ascendance of rock-and-roll and her struggles with a vocal-cord problem largely sidelined her by the late 1950s” (Adam Bernstein, The Washington Post, Jan. 7, 2016). 

Kitty Kallen “Little Things Mean a Lot”

489 Les Paul (1915-2009) and Mary Ford (1924-1977) “Vaya Con Dios” 1953

“One day in the spring of 1953 the couple stumbled across the song that would eventually become the biggest seller of their entire career…Settling into their hotel room for the night, Mary pulled out a sewing kit and sat on the bed to mend one of her stage dresses, while Les turned on the radio and began to pack. Suddenly he heard Anita O’Day charging through an up-tempo arrangement of ‘Vaya con Dios.’” They liked the song and convinced their reluctant record producer to release and disk jockeys to play “their version much slower and simpler than Anita’s” (Mary Shaugnessy, Les Paul: An American Original, 1993). 

“A Capitol engineer said of Les Paul in 1954: ‘He gets an impossible musical idea, and then invents the mechanical means for carrying it out.’ The kind of manipulated sound which he was exploring, which depended so much on the electric guitar, was not fully exploited until the rock era” (Tom and Mary Anne Evans, Guitars, 1977). 

Les Paul and Mary Ford “Vaya Con Dios”

488 Percy Faith (1908-1976) “Song from Moulin Rouge (Where Is Your Heart)” 1953

“From the 1950s the recorded music industry, which had a distant relationship to muzak and pre-programmed music in general, began to adopt the rhetoric, if not the format, of these types of music. Whereas a long standing assumption had not surprisingly been that consumers bought recordings to actively listen to them, many records were released that were specifically designed to create particular home environments: ‘music as wallpaper’ played in the background to add a mood, create a particular atmosphere, or convey sounds of exotic, otherworldly places that consumers might dream of visiting” (Chris Gibson, John Connell, Music and Tourism: On the Road Again, 2005)

Percy Faith “Song from Moulin Rouge”

487 Big Maybelle (1924-1972) “Candy” 1953

“Some of her staunchest devotees stridently claim that she is the greatest natural blues singer since the late great Bessie Smith died in 1937…Born Mabel Smith in Jackson, Tenn., 30 years ago, she has been shouting the blues ever since childhood, swears that she’ll sing them until the day she dies. Although her repertoire is mainly blues numbers, Big Maybelle sings jump tunes with great dynamic drive. ‘I’m a blues singer to my heart,’ she says, ‘but I got a lot of other stuff too.’ To prove it she sings in Jewish, Italian and Russian” (“Big Maybelle,” Ebony, Feb. 1955). 

Big Maybelle “Candy”

486 Jimmy Forrest (1920-1980) and the All Star Combo “Night Train” 1952

“In March 1952, the tenor saxophonist Jimmy Forrest, a thirty-two-year-old son of St. Louis, broke the R&B charts wide open with a brooding, tough-rhythmed evocation called ‘Night Train.’ Duke Ellington had written and recorded a song called ‘Happy-Go-Lucky Local’ in 1946. Forrest had played in Duke Ellington’s orchestra in 1949 and 1950, and he had stolen ‘Night Train’ directly from the Ellington composition…How fine and fitting it was that this act of inspired robbery should become the favorite record of Sonny Liston, who at the time was in the joint for a lower form of robbery. It was the record that he would play, again and again, at every workout, until it echoed within him, the soundtrack of blow and heartbeat, until the end” (Nick Tosches, The Devil and Sonny Liston, 2000). 

Jimmy Forrest “Night Train”

485 Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) “Blue Tango” 1952

“Written while he was still in the Army, Blue Tango showcased Anderson’s facility for combining various musical elements in one piece…The danceable song became a favorite on radio and on jukeboxes, and it reportedly was the first instrumental record to sell a million copies. No one was more surprised at the success of Blue Tango than its unassuming composer…Film composer John Williams, who conducted the Boston Pops Orchestra for several years, said that Anderson’s music ‘remains forever as young and fresh as the very day on which it was composed’” (Alfred Cramer, Musicians and Composers of the 20th Century, 2009). 

Leroy Anderson “Blue Tango”

484 Hank Williams (1923-1953) “Hey, Good Lookin’” 1951

“Typically, Hank would offer a song around, and if enough artists seemed interested, he would record it himself…The humility that all country performers were, and are, supposed to wear like a crown of thorns often drops in private, but Hank’s hubris alienated many of his peers” (Colin Escott, Hank Williams, the Biography, 2004). 

Hank Williams “Hey, Good Lookin’”

483 Nat King Cole (1919-1965) “Too Young” 1951

Jack Benny said in his eulogy of Nat Cole: “In accepting the belief ‘Thy will be done,’ many times we are prompted to question the justice of events such as the one that brings us here today. Nat Cole was a man who gave so much and still had so much to give…Sometimes death isn’t as tragic as not knowing how to live. This nice man knew how to live and how to make others glad they were living” (Daniel Epstein, Nat King Cole, 1999). 

Nat King Cole “Too Young”

482 Percy Mayfield (1920-1984) “Please Send Me Someone to Love” 1950

“There are very few R&B singers who haven’t recorded at least one of Percy Mayfield’s songs. The handsome Louisianan had a unique vocal slant as well, with his warm Creole phrasing and urbane delivery (a la Billy Eckstine) leading to a string of Top Ten hits in the early 1950s for Specialty Records.” He was “known as the Poet Laureate of the Blues…a disfiguring auto wreck ended his performing career in 1952” (Gary Von Tersch, Sing Out!, Summer 2008). 

Percy Mayfield “Please Send Me Someone to Love”

481 Joe Glazer (1918-2006) “We Will Overcome” 1950

The song is based on a 1900 hymn by Charles Tindley, “I’ll Overcome Some Day.” Glazer learned the song from a friend, Agnes Douty, who learned it at Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, “a pioneer in efforts to improve racial relations in the South.” Glazer said, “I was teaching what later became the anthem of the civil rights movement to white textile workers all over the South. Remember, these workers were from small mill towns and probably strict segregationists, following the likes of George Wallace and Jesse Helms.” Glazer’s 1950 version of “We Shall Overcome” “was the first time a modern version of the song had been recorded” (Joe Glazer, Labor’s Troubadour, 2001).

Joe Glazer “We Will Overcome”