Monthly Archives: December 2011


        James Ramey was born August 17, 1944 in Richmond, Indiana and later moved to Chicago at the age of nineteen. Adopting the stage name “Baby Huey” after the gigantic duckling cartoon character Martin Taras created for Paramount Pictures in the ’50s, he formed The Babysitters with guitarist Johnny Ross and organ player/trumpeter Melvin “Deacon” Jones.

The song “Running” is a Curtis Mayfield number, and Mayfield actually produced the sessions that would be used to create the posthumous and only album by Baby Huey and The Babysitters—The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend. It was assembled and released in 1971, after Baby Huey died in a South Side motel room on October 28, 1970 at the age of 26. The death has been attributed to both a heart attack and a drug overdose. Despite weighing in at roughly 400 pounds, Baby Huey was in fact a heroin addict.

His mighty mighty voice and singular delivery impressed Curtom Records arranger Donny Hathaway and got the band signed to Mayfield’s record label, located in Chicago’s old RCA studio. For their rendition of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” alone The Baby Huey Story is a must have album; and I’ll certainly be posting that track at some later date. They were not merely a soul group but inhabited that territory where soul meets bombastic psychedelic rock. After some pedal shifting and tone tweaking into echoes, “Running” comes on with Sly Stone style good-times menace of horns, bass, drums, and guitar. I particularly dig the way the keyboards seem to flit about the melody, but periodically step on it to keep it in shape, and the horns just jump right up and punch you in the face. As for the vocals, it’s not often that someone who sounds so desperate comes across so sweet. Enjoy!

Baby Huey and The Babysitters live April 24, 1970 at the Sound Storm festival [photo by Robert Pulling

Running by Baby Huey and The Babysitters (1970)———(Click To Listen)

Like it? Buy it.

James “Baby Huey” Ramey: lead vocals

Melvyn “Deacon” Jones: keyboards

Othello Anderson: flute

Rene Smith: percussion

Byron Watkins: tenor saxophone

Rick Marcotte: trumpet

Alton Littles: trumpet

Danny O’Neil: guitar

Dave Cook: organ

Dan Alfano: bass guitar

Plato Jones: bongos

—Bobby Calero


Mayfield, C. Running [recorded by Baby Huey and The Babysitters] On The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend. [CD] Curtom. (1971) Water. (2006)

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 Cancer (June 21 – July 22)

Horoscope for December 2011

By Susan Miller

It can be maddening when the planets send mixed messages. This has been going on since last month, so it is no wonder you may feel anxious and on the horns of a dilemma, unable to see the road ahead clearly. On one hand the eclipse season is upon us, and eclipses push us hard to step with the times and to fix any weaknesses that these lunar and solar events uncover. They certainly make us attend to things with a sense of urgency. On the other hand, Mercury is retrograde, and will remain retrograde until December 13, making the first half of December a very bad time to make big decisions. Push-pull, on off, stop and go. No wonder you are feeling caught in a maze without an idea of what to do next.

As a Cancer, the moon rules your sign, so when the eclipses come by every six months, you feel the full moon eclipses very dramatically and much more than a solar eclipse. Last month we had a new moon solar eclipse in Sagittarius on November 25, and it was friendly. You don’t feel those as strongly, so the big one is coming this month. The sixth house, where that eclipse fell, rules the things you do on a day-to-day basis. Here’s a special surprise Santa has cooked up for you before the year is out! Jupiter has been retrograde since August 30, but on December 25 will turn direct speed. In every way, your life is getting better and better!


The man pictured above—looking like a still from an Alejandro Jodorowsky film—is Ralph Lundsten. Born in 1936, Lundsten is one of Sweden’s most famous composers of electronic music. “For me, I invented electronic music. There were certainly other people who did this at the same time, other places of the earth, but I invented it for myself” (Tidningen Sex, 2004).

The track I bring you today is off of Lundsten’s 1979 album Alpha Ralpha Boulevard, which gets its title from a 1961 story by science fiction author Cordwainer Smith. The story concerns “the opening days of a sudden radical shift from a controlling, benevolent, but sterile society, to one with individuality, danger and excitement” (Wikipedia, n.d.) and the Abba-Dingo, a computer that has reached the status of a God, which can only be reached by a forbidden highway leading into the clouds: Alpha Ralpha Boulevard.

Despite Lundsten’s assertion that “rock and pop is a widespread disease,” (Tidningen Sex, 2004) to my ears the track “Horrorscope” is reminiscent of the intricate funk created by Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson for Off The Wall, but as opposed to being designed to inspire us to dance it has been constructed in order to give one the heebie-jeebies.

Horrorscope” by Ralph Lundsten And The Andromeda All Stars

Composer, Producer, Synthesizer, Piano By – Ralph Lundsten

Bass – Georg Wadenius

Drums – Peter Sundell

Guitar – Georg Wadenius, Jan Schaffer

Keyboards – Georg Wadenius, Wlodek Gulgowski

Sitar – Jan Schaffer


Lundsten, R. (1979). Horrorscope [recorded by Ralph Lundsten And The Andromeda All Stars] On Alpha Ralpha Boulevard [Vinyl] EMI. (1979)

Miller, S. (2011). Cancer Horoscope for December 2011. Astrology Zone. Retrieved December 27th from

Tidningen Sex. (2005). Pop is a national disease- interview with Ralph Lundsten.  Tidningen Sex # 5. Retrieved December 27th from

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Alpha Ralpha Boulevard. Wikipedia. Retrieved December 27th from

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Formed in the mid ’60’s by a group of friends that often performed at the same cafes in L.A. (or as the above poster states, “Eight high-octane musicians who met and jammed in the great peanut butter octopus that is Los Angeles”), Sweetwater serves as a perfect icon for the word Hippie. Integrated musically as well as racially, over the course of three albums they created a potpourri of sound that if it were released today would most likely fall under the rubric of “freak folk.” Sweetwater toured with The Doors for much of ’68 and ’69 and were the second act to perform at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, coming on after Richie Havens.

In December of ’69, while recording their sophomore album for Reprise Records—Just For You—twenty-year-old lead singer Nancy (Nansi) Nevins was in a serious car accident. As a result she suffered severe brain trauma and damaged her vocal cords, putting her in a coma for weeks and necessitating physical therapy for years (Howitt, n.d.). Although she had participated in much of the recording process she was unable to perform in support of the album, and the band simply lost momentum.

Compared To What” ——–———Click To Listen

Albert Moore (flute/vocals)

Nancy Nevins (vocals/guitar)

August Burns (cello)

Alan Malarowitz (drums)

Elpidio Cobian (conga drums)

Alex Del Zoppo (keyboards)

Fred Herrera (bass)

Like It? Buy It.

The track I bring you today is “Compared To What” off of 1970’s Just For You, with lead vocals handled by flute player Albert Moore (The one depicted in an authentic Amish hat). Sweetwater’s Baroque-folk-jazz fusion works perfectly for Gene McDaniels’ anti-war anthem; McDaniels being a little remembered soul singer who passed away earlier this year on July 29, 2011. Disenchanted with the United States, particularly the escalating conflict in Vietnam and the state of race relations in the late 1960s, McDaniels took a brief sojourn from the Nation. During this period, in 1967, Mcdaniels wrote “Compared to What.” This “scathing critique of social realities in the United States” (Neal, 2011) was initially recorded and released as the opening track on Roberta Flack’s 1969 debut album, First Take. More recently John Legend and The Roots recorded the song for their 2010 album of cover songs, “Wake Up!”

However, I prefer Sweetwater’s more frenetic interpretation. The song begins by dragging the groove along as the flute and cello weave in and out seamlessly, before it all bursts into a souladelic freak-out of a man in pursuit of authenticity. Despite how busy the music may seem at times, and the number of chefs in this kitchen, each ingredient comes across as perfectly measured. Sweetwater have altered Mcdaniels’ lyrics somewhat, which I have reproduced below:

Compared to What

Well, I love this life, this life I love

A-Hangin’ on, with push and shove

Possession it is my motivation

And it’s hangin’ up the God-damn nation

And it Looks like I always end up in a rut

You know I’m Tryin’ to make it real

— compared to what? baby!

The President, well he’s got his war

Folks don’t know what it’s for

No one gives us rhyme or reason

If you have one doubt, they call it treason

And it looks like I always end up in a rut

I’m tryin’ to make it real —Try!

I’m tryin’ to make it real —Try!

compared to what? baby!

The President, he’s got his war

Folks don’t know what it’s for

No one gives us rhyme or reason

Have one doubt, they call it treason

I say we’re chicken fat, all without one gut.

We keep Tryin’—Try!

We keep Tryin’—Try!

Tryin’ Tryin’ Try!

Tryin’ to make it real

Don’t care if we die

Tryin’ to make it real

Just  keep on tryin

John he’s dead and gone and

Martin he didn’t have long and

Old folks putting us on and

I have got to be me

I have got to be myself

I cant be no one else

I gotta be for real

I just gotta try to be real

Make me real

I gotta be for real

Tryin’ to make it real

Gotta make it real

So real

And here’s a video of John Legend and The Roots soulful, yet more restrained rendition:


Neal, M. A. (2003). Real, Compared to What: Anti-War Soul. Popmatters. Retrieved on

December 26th from

Getting Out Our Dreams and Sony Music Entertainment  (Creators). johnlegendVEVO

(Poster) (2010, Sep. 13). John Legend & The Roots – Compared To What (Live In

Studio) [Video] Retrieved from

Howitt, B. (n.d.) Sweet Water. Bernie’s Musical Views. Retrieved on December 26th


McDaniels, G. (1967). Compared to What [recorded by Sweetwater] On Just For You.

[CD] Reprise. (1970)/Collector’s Choice. (2005)

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ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS JEWS (or to be Jewish, rather).

Don’t get me wrong, I love Xmas as much as much as the next guy, but there’s certain elements to this season that seem to heighten anxiety, and the days seem to pass in rapid succession. At moments, it can leave you feeling as awkward as a child walking in on Santa Claus making it with mom. Sometimes it just looks like it might be easier if it wasn’t one of “my” days.

So, here are two tracks that (along with Rum from my cousin Paul) help ease me into the Christmas Spirit:

Like it? Buy it.

Huey and his crew, “The Clowns,” hammered out this holiday record in their distinctive New Orleans style R&B in 1962. In fact, it was so distinct that it was soon withdrawn due to outraged reactions, which called the rocking treatment of these sacred tunes sacrilegious (Heer, n.d.).

Christmas Party (feat. Nicole Sheahan)————-Click To Listen

In 2004, NYC’s (although I believe now they live in Philly) The Walkmen dropped their special Christmas Party 7″, EP. Here you’ve got guest Nicole Sheahan helping out on vocals. This one just makes me laugh, in a sentimental way.

Well, Merry Christmas to All, and to All a Goodnight!

Peace On Earth,



Heer, D. (n.d.). Huey “Piano” Smith. Blackcat Rockabilly Europe. Retrieved on December 24th at

Martin, W. (2004). The Christmas Party [recorded by The Walkmen] On The Christmas Party. [7” Vinyl]. Record Collection. (2004)

Mohr & Gruber. Silent Night [recorded by Huey ‘Piano’ Smith & The Clowns] On ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. [CD] Westside. (1962/1998)

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“It all exists, even if it’s in your mind. Who’s to say that dreams and nightmares aren’t as real as the here and now? Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”

John Lennon


Allowing my last post to bleed into this one, here’s a quote by Howlin’ Wolf given in 1968, shortly after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“Somebody has been cashing checks and they’ve been bouncing back on us, and these people, the poor class of Negroes and the poor class of white people, they’re getting tired of it. And sooner or     later it’s going to bring on a disease on this country, a disease that’s going to spring from midair and it’s going to be bad. It’s like a spirit from some dark valley, something that sprung up from the ocean…Like Lucifer is on the earth” (Gates, 2004).


At first I was not quite sure how I felt about the whole “Occupy Wall Street” movement and could certainly understand the frequent critique that they did not express a clear “message” nor provided direct, and comprehensive “solutions” to their myriad grievances. However, as I was discussing the topic recently with a good friend of mine, I realized that the message might truly be a simple “Shit is fucked up!” It might not be eloquent—or serve well as a slogan for a Shepard Fairey poster—but I believe that this is what it all boils down to…somewhere back there we made a wrong turn, and we all need to register that fact first before we carry on with finding the right way forward.

Sometimes, “solving problems is not good enough or even the point, when the hardest task is not to denounce evil, but to see it” (Marcus, 1975).

Some suck their teeth and deign to say, “Get a job!” Sure, but then what? Particularly when in the grand scheme of the here & now, regardless of what you might think of your position and the comforts it affords you, we are all essentially shoveling shit in some debtors’ prison to please some plantation warden whose name we never even caught, nor knew we were indentured to. We are on the cusp of 2012 and still we live in a world where there are divergent rules and regulations for a particular set of privileged individuals, while the remaining masses are relegated to a servant-class status at best; at worst are horrors too innumerable to begin to list here.

Several months ago, a Polish émigré who abandoned a career in L.A. and now lives as a masseuse/farmer in Costa Rica said to me (after divulging her admiration for Alex Jones) “C’mon guys, we are living in the future; we should be building cathedrals of music, not fighting stupid little wars all for somebody else’s wallet.” Next she advised me to “throw out your television,” something that I admittedly am not quite ready for, but I do believe she has a point; shouldn’t we be somewhere else by now, somewhere other than here?

V For Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

      Alan Moore, the man (along with David Lloyd) behind the mask that has been co-opted as a symbol for much of what these movements represent, recently gave an interesting interview to Honest Publishing (2011) in which he discusses the Occupy movement, and the fascinating idea of ideological change. I have posted some excerpts below:

Alan Moore [photo by Mitch Jenkins, 2010].

“As far as I can see, the Occupy movement is just ordinary people reclaiming rights which should always have been theirs. I can’t think of any reason why as a population we should be expected to stand by and see a gross reduction in the living standards of ourselves and our kids, possibly for generations, when the people who have got us into this have been rewarded for it; they’ve certainly not been punished in any way because they’re ‘too big to fail.’ I think that the Occupy movement is, in one sense, the public saying that they should be the ones to decide who’s too big to fail. It’s a completely justified howl of moral outrage and it seems to be handled in a very intelligent, non-violent way […].

“What do you think needs to change in our political system?

“Everything. I believe that what’s needed is a radical solution, by which I mean from the roots upwards. Our entire political thinking seems to me to be based upon medieval precepts. These things, they didn’t work particularly well five or six hundred years ago. Their slightly modified forms are not adequate at all for the rapidly changing territory of the 21st Century.

“We need to overhaul the way that we think about money, we need to overhaul the way that we think about who’s running the show. As an anarchist, I believe that power should be given to the people, to the people whose lives this is actually affecting. It’s no longer good enough to have a group of people who are controlling our destinies. The only reason they have the power is because they control the currency. They have no moral authority and, indeed, they show the opposite of moral authority.

“With politics at the moment seemingly determined to keep ploughing on their same destructive course because they can’t think of anything other to do, when we’re facing the possibility of an economic apocalypse, of potentially an environmental apocalypse, we don’t necessarily have an infinite amount of time. I think that since our leaders are not going to address any of these problems then we really have no choice than to attempt to wrest the steering wheel from them. If they’re aiming at the precipice with the accelerator pedal flat to the floor, then we don’t have any other choices left. Do it now, in this generation, because we don’t how many more there’s going to be.

“So something has to be done […]. I would suggest beheading the bankers, but while it would be very satisfying and would cheer us up, it probably wouldn’t do anything practical to alter the situation. Behead the currency. Change the currency, why not? It would disempower all the people who had bought into that currency but it would pretty much empower the rest of us, the other ninety-nine percent” (Honest Publishing, 2011).

I think at this point in time it is quite obvious that we need something new, something other. In an attempt to be clear as to where I position my ass in relation to the fence, I am not opposed to civil disobedience, and I am certainly not advocating that we find recourse in performing pagan rituals with menstrual blood and hallucinogens “on the endless expanse of a Nevada prehistoric lake bed” (Grigoriadis, 2006, p.90), but perhaps we need to occupy our heads with new ideas about what it is we think we are doing here, and just why we are doing it?

There is a tendency in society to firmly believe that what there is, is all there is, forever, and ever, amen; close the book, grit your teeth, and shrug your shoulders. However, a mere glance over those shoulders back into history reveals countless worlds firmly fixed within the confines of their supposed reality: realities that today we either reject wholesale, or vivisect for whatever bits we wish to cling to…and sometimes those realities only linger because they’re making someone money.

Our current financial system, now seemingly entrenched into even every little spasm of our synapses, appears to work exceptionally well.  Unfortunately, it does so only for those who were designated heirs-apparent during the design phase of this system’s architecture. Whether this lineage is through actual bloodlines or more of an inheritance through mutual ethics (or lack thereof), for the rest of us it’s a mug’s game. We’ll never get ahead this way. If the game has been bought, sold, and won a long time ago, perhaps it is time we invented a new game? It’s either that or one day we’re going to kick the whole board over in a fit, and if that day comes you better take shelter.

                                      Gimme Shelter By Cal Tjader—————Click To Listen

Like it? buy it.

Callen Radcliffe Tjader, Jr. a.k.a. Cal Tjader (July 16, 1925–May 5, 1982) was a vibes player who played with Dave Brubeck and in George Shearing’s quintet in the early fifties before forming his own group and going on to gain an international reputation for his distinctive musical style that encompassed Latin, jazz, and soul music (McClellan, 2004). Signing to Fantasy Records in 1971, Cal Tjader released Agua Dulce with its hypnotic rendition of The Rolling Stone’s “Gimme Shelter.”

Arranged by Ed Bogas the song features: Cal Tjader, vibes; Rita Dowling, Moog Synthesizer; Micheal Smithe & Pete Escovedo, Congas; Coke Escovedo’ Timbales; and either Richard Berk or Lee Charlton, Drums.


To stay within the theme, here’s “Mr Guy Fawkes” performed by the Australian psychedelic rock group, The Dave Miller Set. Originally written by guitarist Mick Cox of the Irish group Eire Apparent (who opened for Jimi Hendrix’s America tour of ’68), Dave Miller remodeled the song to be his group’s single in 1969 (Kimbal). I love Dave Miller’s proto-Layne Staley vocals atop this orchestrated ballad with a boot-stomping backbeat.

“Mr Guy Fawkes”

by The Dave Miller Set: Dave Miller (vocals), John Robinson (guitar), Leith Corbett (bass), Mike McCormack (drums). Produced by Pat Aulton.

Although I’ve by no means reached a terminus to my thought processes on these matters, I remain firm in my belief that there is much more than just all this.


Cox, M. (1968). Mr. Guy Fawkes [recorded by The Dave Miller Set]. On Mr.Guy Fawkes (single). Spin Records. (1969)

Gates, D. (2004). Delta Force. The New York Times. Retrieved Dec. 22, 2011 from

Grigoriadis, V. (2006, September 7). Daniel Pinchbeck and the new psychedelic elite. Rolling Stone, 1008, 89-90, 114-117.

Honest Publishing. (2011). The Honest Alan Moore Interview. Honest Publishing. Retrieved Dec. 23rd, 2011 from

Jagger/Richards. (1969). Gimme Shelter [recorded by Cal Tjader]. On Agua Dulce [CD] Fantasy. (1971) BGP. (2011)

Kimbal, D. (n.d.) The Dave Miller Set, Sydney, 1967-1970, 1973. MILESAGO: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964-1975. Retrieved Dec. 23rd, 2011 from

Lawrence, K. (2005). John Lennon: In His Own Words. Andrews McMeel Publishing.

McClellan, Jr., L. (2004). Tjader, Callen “Cal” (1925–1982). The Later Swing Era, 1942 to 1955. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. 2004. 303. Retrieved Dec. 23rd, 2011 from Gale Virtual Reference Library at

Marcus, G. (1975). Mystery train (4TH ed.). New York: Penguin.

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Hubert Sumlin photographed at the Union Chapel, London in 2003. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Hubert Sumlin (November 16, 1931 – December 4, 2011)

Today I bring you two Howlin’ Wolf tracks featuring the dynamic guitar work of the recently deceased Hubert Sumlin. Born near Greenwood, Mississippi on November 16, 1931, Sumlin grew up in Hughes, Arkansas. Besides having one of the most pleasant faces I’ve ever seen on a man, he was one of the most sensitive guitarists I’ve ever heard.

Sumlin should be celebrated as a true American artist. As The Wolf would moan like a man gone insane with lust and too much whiskey, Sumlin’s guitar could pierce through the trance with a sudden and ascending ribbon of sweet, angular notes, suspend it on the edge, before it all plunged down to a percussive, hip-shaking scratch rhythm with the precision of a metronome. The contact point between flesh and steel strings, being a finger-picking guitarist, created much of his distinct sound. He had used a pick until Howlin’ Wolf fired him one day, telling him to go home and practice without one. Returning to work (he always returned) he decided to settle in with the new tone this direct contact afforded him (Redley, 2011).

Hubert Sumlin & Howlin' Wolf at the Manchester Free Trade Hall, England (1964)

Alongside Howlin’ Wolf and his fellow musicians, Sumlin was inventing the future while simultaneously granting the listener a glimpse into something ancient and strange. With a flick of the wrist he could raise horror to joy, or intimate just what a man would drag himself through for a taste of a woman; and Howlin’ Wolf’s music was all about that lascivious hunt. Although technically his boss (and Wolf was certainly a “boss,” taking money out of each man’s pay for social security) their relationship was more complex than your typical paradigm of employer/employee: “It was ‘The Wolf’ who knocked my front teeth out when I told him I was going to tour with Muddy Waters” (Redley, 2011). “We were like Father and son, although we had some tremendous fights. He knocked my teeth out, and I knocked his out. None of it mattered; we always got right back together” (Friskics-Warren, 2011). Despite (or perhaps because of) all this, Sumlin played guitar for Howlin’ Wolf’s band from 1954 to 1976, when Wolf’s died from complications of kidney disease at the age of 65.

As for Chester Arthur “Howlin’ Wolf” Burnett himself, not enough could be said about the man, so for the sake of brevity I’ll quote Sam Phillips (the first to record him, and who later went on to “discover” Elvis Presley) who said in regards to Howlin’ Wolf’s music: “This is where the soul of man never dies” (Gates, 2004).

Hubert Sumlin performs with Howlin' Wolf in 1971. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives

First up is perhaps one of Sumlin’s finest recorded performances: The Willie Dixon penned “Hidden Charms.” Recorded August 14, 1963 in Chicago, the track features Howlin’ Wolf on vocals; J.T. Brown on tenor sax; Donald Hankins on bass; Lafayette Leake on piano; Hubert Sumlin on guitar; Jerome Arnold or Buddy Guy on bass; and Sam Lay on drums.

Like it? Buy it.

On another note, after I graduate my wife would like to move upstate to pursue a more rural life; this song pretty sums up all my sentiments on that matter:

Like it? Buy it.

Another Willie Dixon number (although, and not to take anything away from the man, I believe Dixon was considered more of a lyricist, and perhaps Wolf deserves more of a composition credit) this riot of affection is titled “Little Baby” and was recorded May, 1961 in Chicago, featuring Howlin’ Wolf on vocals; Johnny Jones on piano; Jimmy Rogers & Hubert Sumlin on guitars; Willie Dixon on bass; and Sam Lay on drums.

And lastly, to truly begin understanding where this music is supposed to tickle you, watch the whole sweaty, money waving show below from 1966, featuring Howlin’ Wolf on harmonica &vocals; Hubert Sumlin on guitar; Andrew McMahon on bass; Sam Jones on sax, S.P. Leary on drums; and an inebriated Son House “conducting.”


Dixon, W. Little Baby [recorded by Howlin’ Wolf, 5/61]. On Howlin’ Wolf  (“The Rockin’ Chair album”) [CD] Chess. (1962/1990)

Dixon, W. Hidden Charms [recorded by Howlin’ Wolf, 8/14/63]. On Howlin’ Wolf: The Real Folk Blues [CD] Chess. (1965/2002)

Friskics-Warren, B. (2011). Hubert Sumlin, Master of Blues Guitar, Dies at 80. The New York Times. Retrieved Dec. 22, 2011 from master-of-blues-guitar-dies-at-80.html?_r=1

Gates, D. (2004). Delta Force. The New York Times. Retrieved Dec. 22, 2011 from

Redley, S. (2011). Hubert Sumlin R.I.P November 16, 1931. Blues & Soul. 1049 Retrieved Dec. 22, 2011 from

Yumgui (Poster) (2009, Dec.23). Howlin’ Wolf – 1966 – How Many More Years – The Newport Folk Festival [Video] Retrieved Dec. 22, 2011 from

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August 7, 1970 rehearsal

Elvis was a hero to most

But he never meant shit to me you see

Straight up racist that sucker was

Simple and plain

Mother fuck him and John Wayne

(“Fight The Power” by Public Enemy, on 1990’s Fear Of A Black Planet).

Not only are the above lyric revisionist malarkey (albeit malarkey within an incredibly well-constructed song—with The Bomb Squad’s dense, intricate layers of loops upon loops, and Chuck D’s relentless delivery) but also they stem from the resentment that lies in a false belief that Elvis Presley owes something to somebody.

Perhaps it is difficult, looking back from here on our modern perch, to realize that Elvis did not emerge from the factory floor, fully equipped with “Karate Chop! Power Action” and packaged with a set of poor colored-folks songs that were market-tested to go over like hot cakes with the sterile white youth.

Elvis was some strange, new strain of American; he was something that America had been searching for. He was a creature of self-invention as well, who had the imagination to view himself as something other than white trash on welfare, and had the ambition to see his delusions come true. That is what I feel is the essential element to Elvis Presley’s best work: the Fantastic.

Without imagination mankind would be a hollow thing—robbed of its aspirations and the confidence with which to pursue them. There must always remain a tinge of the fantastic in our minds in order for mankind to rise above its self-perceived dull life. Without this fundamental component where would Herman Melville be, other than just another sailor looking for work?

Besides all the metaphysics and philosophy: Elvis could sing these songs better than anyone else—wet with wisdom and amusement from the guts—and to the ears’ of America’s children it felt just like sex.

So in retort to Chuck D—in reality, how many peoples’ heroes have appeared on stamps? Furthermore, how many people even have heroes to be commemorated anymore? But Chuck D does tend to make a good argument, and at the very least makes a man think. As he once said, “Words are your artillery” (Edwards, 2010). Public Enemy is certainly a phenomenal group that should be required listening in public schools, particularly in an age where the content of most hip hop has more corporate endorsements than a racecar’s hood. Anyway, more on Public Enemy come January 16th.

Now, to return to the miasma of race, authenticity, the fantastic, and Elvis (and at this point in my life I have grown so bored by race discussions that I wouldn’t even bother unless I thought there was a good story in it) I’d like to post something written by Greil Marcus. Marcus (1975) writes in Mystery Train (probably the last time I’ll be quoting from this book for awhile as I had to return it to the library):

“—but for Elvis, the blues was a style of freedom, something he couldn’t get in his own home, full of roles to play and rules to break. In the beginning the blues was more than anything else a fantasy, an epic of struggle and pleasure, that he lived out as he sang. Not a fantasy that went beneath the surface of his life, but one that soared right over it.

Singing in the fifties, before blacks began to guard their culture with the jealousy it deserved, Elvis had no guilty dues to pay. Arthur Crudup complained his songs made a white man famous, and he had a right to complain, but mostly because he never got his royalties. Elvis sang “That’s All Right” and “My Baby Left Me” (one of his first sides for RCA, and the only one in the Sun rockabilly style) with more power, verve, and skill than Crudup did; his early records were more than popular with blacks; but still the implication, always there when Crudup or Willie Mae Thornton (who made the first version of “Hound Dog”) looked out at the white world that gave them only obscurity in exchange for their music and penned them off from getting anything for themselves, is that Elvis would have been nothing without them, that he climbed to fame on their backs. It is probably time to say that this is nonsense; the mysteries of black and white in American music are just not that simple. Consider the tale of “Hound Dog.”

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were Jewish boys from the East Coast who fell in love with black music. Hustling in Los Angeles in the early fifties, they wrote “Hound Dog,” and promoted the song to Johnny Otis, a ruling R&B bandleader who was actually a dark-skinned white man from Berkeley who many thought was black. Otis gave the song to Thornton, who made it a number one R&B hit in 1953; Otis also took part of the compser’s credit, which Leiber and Stoller had to fight to get back. Elvis heard the record, changed the song completely, from the tempo to the words, and cut Thornton’s version to shreds.

Whites wrote it; a white made it a hit. And yet there is no denying that “Hound Dog” is a “black” song, unthinkable outside of the impulses of black music, and probably a rewrite of an old piece of juke joint fury that dated far beyond the birth of any of these people. Can you pull justice out of that maze? What does Huck owe Jim, especially when Jim is really Huck in blackface and everyone smells loot? All you can say is this was Elvis’s music because he made it his own” (p. 154-55).

Stranger In My Own Home Town – Elvis Presley (Demo July 24, ’70)   — — — Click to Listen

The track I bring you today is Elvis Presley’s run-through of Percy Mayfield’s “Stranger In My Own Home Town.” Percy Mayfield was the remarkably gifted songwriter behind “Hit the Road Jack,” which Ray Charles made a hit in October of 1961.

Here is Elvis at RCA Studios on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, on July 24, 1970, rehearsing for his upcoming Las Vegas concerts at the International Hotel. Elvis really drags his vocal through the mud of America on this one. Contained in the same breath there’s a languid playfulness and straightforward emotional anguish, each in equal measure. This is what it sounds like when the Lord of Mischief resigns himself to being a truck driver. You can see how the sentiments for this song might’ve been particularly relevant for him, as he truly could never return home again without being seen as some Freak Show King. This demo features Ronnie Tutt keeping rhythm and some great guitar licks & freak-outs from James Burton that border on Phil Upchurch’s psychedelic-funk style in certain places.

Despite what one can say about his descending into B-movie parody in the mid-sixties, or ending as a swollen song-and-dance-man swaddled in rhinestones and Lycra, this hillbilly from a two-room shotgun house loved music. To some extent, you must see that the goose that lays the golden eggs must be maintained complacent with prescription pills and antibiotics if you want to continue to sell product; and that is in a sense what I believe happened to the man in the end.

Here’s how Elvis put this song down on tape more than a year prior on February 17, 1969 at American Sound Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, while recording the album From Elvis in Memphis. This up-tempo, orchestrated stage version features some sick electric sitar by Reggie Young.


D, C., Sadler, E., Shocklee, H., & Shocklee K., (1989) Fight the Power [recorded by Public Enemy]. On Fear of a Black Planet [CD] Def Jam/Columbia. (1990)

Edwards, P. (2010). Chuck D: How To Rap. HipHopDX. Retrieved Dec. 20th, 2011 from

Marcus, G. (1975). Mystery train (4TH ed.). New York: Penguin.

Mayfield, P. Stranger In My Own Home Town [recorded by Elvis Presley 7/24/70]. On Cut Me & I Bleed [CD] RCA Victor. (1999)

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Ding Dong, Kim Jong-il is Dead

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has died of a heart attack at the age of 69.

Now listen to the mesmerizing sounds of people mourning the loss of this psychotic despot:

And here are 50 fascinating facts about Kim Jong-il

from  Dec. 19, 2011 issue of The Telegraph, although, I believe the word “fact” should often be taken within a certain light.

1 According to his biography, he first picked up a golf club in 1994, at North Korea’s only golf course, and shot a 38-under par round that included no fewer than 11 holes in one. Satisfied with his performance, he reportedly immediately declared his retirement from the sport.

2 He was a near-obsessive film buff with a reported collection of 20,000 plus video tapes.

3 Kim, thought to be 5ft 2in (157cm) tall, is said to have worn lifts in his shoes and sported a bouffant hairstyle

4 He was suspected of killing his younger brother Kim Shu-ra when he was five after the child drowned in the family’s swimming pool in their Pyongyang mansion. The claims were never proved.

5 He was born on Feb. 16, 1942 aged 69, in a secret military camp on Baekdu Mountain, on the North Korean border, his official biography says. But Soviet records claim he was born on February 16, 1941 in the village of Vyatskoye, in Russia, where his parents were in exile during the Japanese occupation of Korea.

6 North Korea has one of the largest armies in the world. According to the US State Department, it has an estimated active duty military force of up to 1.2 million personnel, compared to about 680,000 in the South, with about one in five of men aged 17-54 in the regular armed forces.

7 In 1960, he began to study at the politics and economics department of Kim Il-sung University and graduated four years later.

8 His survivors are believed to include five children. The youngest, Kim Jong-un, is expected to eventually succeed him.

9 His eldest son, Kim Jong-nam, once believed to be the designated heir, appeared to have fallen out of favour after being arrested in Tokyo in 2001 while travelling to Disneyland on a forged passport .

10 According to his official biographers, his birth in Baekdu Mountain was prophesied by a swallow and heralded with a double rainbow and a new star in the heavens.

11 Kim was eight when his mother, Kim Jong-suk, died in childbirth, according to his official biography, although there are suggestions that his mother died of gunshot wounds.

12 He was known by more than 50 names including Dear Leader, Supreme Leader, Our Father, The General, Generalissimo.

13 He is said to have broadcast once in his country – in 1992, during a military parade in Pyongyang, he said into a microphone at the grandstand: “Glory to the heroic soldiers of the Korean People’s Army!” Applause broke out in the crowds and the parade participants cheered.

14 Nine years later, he was elected secretary of the committee before in becoming a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee in February 1974.

15 He was hailed as a demigod in North Korea while South Korea portrayed him as a vain playboy with a penchant for bouffant hair, jumpsuits and platform shoes designed to make him look taller.

16 The dictator travelled by private train for state visits – a decision believed to be connected to his apparent fear of flying, a phobia he was believed to share with his father.

17 In December 1992 he was Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, First Vice-Chairman and later Chairman of the National Defence Commission before being re-appointed in April 1993.

18 On Oct. 8, 1997, Kim Jong-il was elected General Secretary of the WPK.

19 Kim Jong Il was given the honorary title “Hero of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” in 1975 and then again seven years later.

20 In April 1992, he was given the title of Marshal of the DPRK. He has also received the Kim Il-sung Order three times and many other awards and honours.

21 After the death of his father Kim Il-sung in July 1994, it took three years for Kim to consolidate his power and finally take the title of General Secretary of the Workers’ Party.

22 Because, at his death, his father was named “Eternal President,” Kim never officially became president of North Korea.

23 Since October 1980, he has been a member of the Presidium of the Politburo and secretary of the Central Committee of the WPK and the Central Military Commission.

24 Between 1982 and 1998, he was deputy to every Supreme People’s Assembly.

25 His private train journeys were as luxurious as befitted a leader of North Korea, despite the millions left behind starving due to famine: one Russian emissary who travelled across Russia by train with Kim described how live lobsters were airlifted daily to his train.

26 He started working for the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) in 1964.

27 At university it was claimed in his biography that he wrote no fewer than 1,500 books in three years

28 His all time favourites including Rambo, Friday the 13th, Godzilla and “The Eternal Bosom of Hot Love”.

29 He was said to be a particular fan of Elizabeth Taylor, the late Hollywood actress.

30 Kim ordered the kidnapping of Shin Sang-ok, the South Korean film director, and his actress wife, Choi Eun-hee, in 1978 in order to build up North Korea’s film industry. They made seven films before escaping to the West in 1986.

31 Kim apparently produced a patriotic 100-part documentary series on the history of his North Korean homeland as well as writing a book titled On the Art of Cinema.

32 Kim also apparently composed six operas and enjoyed staging musicals.

33 He was the main villain in Hollywood film, Team America.

34 He is said to have owned at least 17 opulent mansions

35 He reportedly spread the myth across North Korea that he could control the weather with his moods, as if by magic.

36 Kim had female staff inspect each grain of rice to check it adhered to standards of length, weight and colour.

37 He forced waitresses at restaurants frequented by foreigners in Pyongyang to have cosmetic surgery in order to appear more “western”.

38 He reportedly drank £450,000 of cognac each year in a country where average income was about £580.

39 A recent new list of luxury imports now also reveals a penchant for Chinese dolphins, French poodles, and African aphrodisiacs and is said to have developed a palate for Donkey meat as well lobster and expensive French wine.

40 A personality evaluation report on him, compiled by psychiatrists suggested that the “big six” group of personality disorders – sadistic, paranoid, antisocial, narcissistic, schizoid and schizotypal – which were shared by dictators Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Saddam Hussein were also dominant in the late North Korean leader.

41 Minju Joson, a North Korean newspaper, reported once that Kim invented a product described as “double bread with meat” and created factories to produce them in order to feed his students and teachers. Some observers noted it was very similar to an American-hamburger.

42 Satellite imagery recently showed that he had installed a series of loopy waterslides.

43 The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is considered one of the most secretive countries in the world.

44 It is said to have acquired its nuclear programme from the Soviet Union in the 1980s

45 Estimates of the size of its nuclear weapons stockpile range from low single digits to just more than a dozen but there is no certainty the country has built a working bomb.

46 North Korea has faced a tightening international sanctions regime since 2009 after it conducted a series of illegal nuclear and ballistic missile tests, allegedly torpedoed a South Korea corvette and shelled a South Korean Island.

47 Its economy is reeling under the impact of UN sanctions and a series of natural disasters, according to data published South Korea’s central bank.

48 Statistics showed North Korea’s economy contracted for a second consecutive year in 2010 despite the North’s leadership promising to deliver their country to the “gateway of a mighty and prosperous nation” by next year.

49 The 23.9 million North Korean citizens are not able to freely use mobile phones or the Internet (with the internet domain .kp) although Kim considers himself to be a communications expert.

50 It is a mainly atheist or non-religious country with traditional beliefs with the UN estimating that men live on average 76 years and women 83 years.


North Korean State Media (Creators). rkcrkprk99 (Poster) (2011, Dec. 19). North Koreans weeping hysterically over the death of Kim Jong-il  [Video] Retrieved from

Telegraph Media Group Limited. (2011,  Dec 19). 50 fascinating facts: Kim Jong-il and North Korea. The Telegraph. Retrieved from


That Bad Man, Cruel Staggolee

An All-American Myth—and he’s a mean one.

Here is an icon—an archetype— that men have both celebrated and reviled in song, and have attempted to emulate ever since that bad night in 1895. On Christmas Eve in North St. Louis, “Stag” Lee Shelton shot down Billy Lyons in The Bill Curtis Saloon—or was it the night of the 27th in The Bucket Of Blood, or in The White Elephant

— It was only 1 of 5 similar murders that day in St. Louis—

“The song spreads like a game of Chinese Whispers across the South as musicians hear it and play it back from memory with their own embellishments. The Stag Lee of the song is hung for the murder, sent off with an elaborate funeral, kicks the Devil from his throne and takes over Hell. Reality slipped away and the myth was created.” (Redhead Production, n.d.).

“At least one version of the song was sung as early as 1895 and written or recorded versions began showing up by 1910” (Dodson, 2003).

As cultural critic and historian Greil Marcus (1975) writes:

Somewhere, sometime, a murder took place: a man called Stack-a-lee—or Stacker Lee, Stagolee, or Staggerlee—shot a man called Billy Lyons—or Billy the Lion, or Billy the Liar. It is a story that       black America has never tired of hearing and never stopped living out, like whites with their Westerns. Locked in the images of a thousand versions of the tale is an archetype that speaks to the fantasies of casual violence and violent sex, lust and hatred, ease and mastery, a fantasy of style and steppin’ high. At a deeper level it is a fantasy of no-limits for a people who live within a labyrinth of limits every day of their lives, and who can transgress them only among themselves. It is both a portrait of that tough and vital character that everyone would like to be, and just another pointless, tawdry dance of death. (1975, p.66)

That there pretty much sums up the seed behind every braggadocio hip hop & gangsta rap album I’ve ever heard.

The version below of this classic tale comes from Los Angeles band Pacific Gas & Electric, off their 3rd album, 1970’s Are You Ready.

I really dig the shuffle and swagger on this one, and the hints of dust in vocalist Charlie Allen’s voice. (I’m not even going to discuss the cover art).

————————–(CLICK TO LISTEN)

Like it? Buy it.

“what does the song say exactly? it says no man gains immortality thru public acclaim. truth is shadowy. in the pre-postindustrial age, victims of violence were allowed (in fact it was their duty) to be judges over their offenders—parents were punished for their children’s crimes (we’ve come a long way since then) the song says that a man’s hat is his crown. futurologists would insist it’s a matter of taste. they say ‘let’s sleep on it’ but theyre already living in the sanitarium. No Rights Without Duty is the name of the game & fame is a trick. playing for time is only horsing around. Stack’s in a cell, no wall phone. he is not some egotistical degraded existentialist dionysian idiot, neither does he represent any alternative lifestyle scam (give me a thousand acres of tractable land & all the gang members that exist & you’ll see the Authentic alternative lifestyle, the Agrarian one) Billy didn’t have an insurance plan, didn’t get airsick yet his ghost is more real & genuine than all the dead souls on the boob tube — a monumental epic of blunder & misunderstanding. a romance tale without the cupidity” (Dylan, 1993).


Dodson, A. P. (2003). A Song With a Story of Its Own: Scholar Cecil Brown’s search for the oft-sung exploits of Stagolee underscores the indelible power of our oral culture. Black Issues Book Review. 5(4), 60-61. Retrieved Dec. 18th, 2011 from Academic Search Complete

Dylan, B. (1993). About the songs. In World Gone Wrong (p. 2-3) [CD liner notes]. Columbia Records

Marcus, G. (1975). Mystery train (4TH ed.). New York: Penguin.

McCulloch, D., & Hendrix, S. (1996). Stagger Lee (Illus.). Image Comics

Redhead Production. (n.d.) History. Stagger Lee. Retrieved Dec. 18th, 2011 from

Traditional. (n.d.). Staggolee [recorded by Pacific Gas And Electric]. On Are You Ready [CD] Yellow Label / SPV. (1970)

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Something In Its Infancy…Let Me Ride

How else to begin the show but with the voice of Regina Havis to cleanse the air and give a little plea to let me ride? Recorded  April 20, 1980 at Massey Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, This was Concert # 4 with the Third Gospel Band for Bob Dylan. Backed up by Clydie King, Gwen Evans, Mary Elizabeth Bridges, Mona Lisa Young, and Terry Young on piano, here’s Regina explaining how it came to be that she would open the shows with this Spiritual number by Rev. Willie Morganfield.

If I got my ticket, Lord, can I ride?
If I got my ticket, Lord, can I ride?
If I got my ticket, Lord, can I ride?
Ride up to Heaven in the mornin’.

This was recorded just about the same day Dylan composed a letter to a friend who had just joined the U.S. Military, in which he writes:

“the Spirit of the Lord is calling people here in this beautiful and clean city but they are more interested in lining up for Apocalypse Now than to be baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost —” (lettersofnote).


Marshall, S. (n.d.). An exclusive interview with Regina Havis. B-Dylan. Retrieved Dec. 17th, 2011, from

Morganfield, W. (Can I Ride) If I’ve Got My Ticket Lord [Recorded by Bob Dylan]. On Born Again Music [CD]. Luxembourg: Flashback. (April 20, 1980).

Usher, S. (2011). People are more interested in Apocalypse Now than the Holy Ghost. Letters of Note. Retrieved Dec. 17th, 2011, from

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