Monthly Archives: June 2013

78: “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music)” b/w “Black Mountain Rag.” Okeh 18013. Recorded in 1953.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Known as The King of the Strings for his breakneck pace and virtuosity on the guitar, Joe Maphis was also a very capable singer. Born in Suffolk, Virginia but later settled in Bakersfield, California, Maphis made a name for himself with this song about a gal who lets nightlife get between her and finding a “home-lovin’ man.”

That’s Joe’s wife Rose Lee accompanying him on vocals. They toured as a husband/wife act years before Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash sang “Jackson” together. June’s mother, Maybelle Carter, was a guitar hero of Maphis’s, incidentally. Continue reading

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45: “Right On Be Free” b/w “No No No” by The Voices of East Harlem. Elektra EKM- 45705. Recorded in 1970.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

The Voices of East Harlem was a community choir comprised of twenty members that ranged in age from 12 to 21; they were formed in 1969. Lead vocalists Gerri Griffin and Monica Burress sang lead vocals with authority, but the real power came from having all twenty voices come at your ears as one big sound.

Usually, a gospel choir will give you a sense of where they’re coming from with their name—a christian denomination or a local church will be right there. The same is true with The Voices of East Harlem—they were voicing the political, rather than spiritual, struggle of the people of their community. Gospel intensity was mixed with R&B and soul to create a platform that, while certainly not anti-religious, was more engaged with personal struggles and larger social issues.

All of which sounds very admirable, well-intentioned, and unfortunately, preachy. Lucky for you, dear reader, it’s really just high quality music. Dig.

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78: “You Took Advantage of Me” b/w “Crazy Rhythm” by Miff Mole and His Little Molers. Okeh 41098. Recorded in New York City, 07/27/28.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Irving Milfred Mole, a.k.a Miff Mole, was born in Roosevelt, NY, in 1898. He studied violin and piano as a child but switched to the trombone at the age of fifteen. The early  1920’s were spent playing with bands lead by Gus Sharpe and Jimmy Durante, and later with the Original Memphis Five. In 1923, Miff met cornet player Red Nichols, and they soon realized that they could make better music together than they could as bit players in other people’s bands. For the rest of the Twenties, these two played in each other’s bands, alternating between Miff as leader (Miff Mole and His Little Molers, Sophie Tucker and Miff Mole’s Molers) or Red as leader (Red Nichols and His Red Pennies, The Red Heads, The Charleston Chasers). It often depended on which label they were recording with; all of the Okeh records were under the name of Miff Mole and His Little Molers, or just Miff Mole and His Molers.

On “You Took Advantage of Me,” it isn’t immediately clear why Miff was so influential in the world of jazz trombone. Listen closely at 0:33, though, and you’ll get a hint of the kind of melodic sensibility that most trombonists were not encouraged to express. The coda that the band employs at 3:01 also shows a level of sophistication that was pretty high for its time.

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45: “No Tree Will Grow” b/w “A Girl Named You” by Supersister. Polydor 2001 252. Recorded in The Netherlands, 1971.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Formed in The Hague as Sweet OK Sister in 1968, the group moved from pop music to progressive rock when singer/songwriter Rob Douw left the group. They shortened the name to Supersister and quickly moved on to music that better reflected their influences—Frank Zappa, The Soft Machine, and Caravan, to name a few. Robert Jan Stips’ keyboards are dominant in most of the music, drawing this listener to compare the group to Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

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78: “Gone With “What” Wind” b/w “Blow Top” by Count Basie and His Orchestra. Okeh 5629. Recorded in New York City, 05/31/40.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Born in Red Bank, New Jersey in 1904, William “Count” Basie was raised by a musical family—his father played the mellophone and his mother the piano; she taught him how to play. Reportedly, the teenaged Basie preferred playing drums to piano, but meeting musicians like fellow Red Banker Sonny Greer, who played drums with Duke Ellington’s band, made him reconsider his musical focus. Playing piano locally lead to gigs in Harlem, and soon enough Basie was on the road with bands like Katie Krippen and Her Kiddies and Walter Page and His Blue Devils, playing in jazz hotbeds like Chicago and Kansas City.

By 1937 Basie had his own group and had returned to the east coast, settling in Woodside, Queens and soon enough playing the Roseland in Manhattan. With advice and encouragement from producer John Hammond, Basie and his Orchestrawent from being a strong road act to an orchestra that was good enough for the most critical New York audiences. In 1938, they participated in a Battle of the Bands at the Savoy against Chick Webb’s orchestra. Each band had a promising young singer—Webb had Ella Fitzgerald, and Basie had Billie Holiday.

According to Metronome magazine, Basie’s band was the victor:

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45: “Jelly Belly” b/w “The Seventh Veil” by Nai Bonet. Karate Records 532. Recorded in New York City, 1966.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Not much is known about Nai Bonet’s early life. She was born in Saigon to a Vietnamese mother and a French Father, in 1944. At some point her family moved to New York City, moving from Brooklyn to the Bronx to Yonkers. While visiting a friend who was practicing the craft, Nai Bonet tried belly dancing for the first time. She was a natural, as later evidenced by her debut headlining gig at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. She was only 13 years old.

Fast forward to 1966. Now 22 years old, with a few small theater and TV parts under her belt, Nai tries her hand at singing. Still known primarily known for her dancing ability, she wisely chooses a silly little tune called Jelly Belly. And the Karate Records graphic designer wisely uses the back of the sleeve to break the dance down step by step.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

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