Saturday, February 24, 2024

The Comprehensive Cub Koda Volume 2

Response was so positive to Volume 1 of The Comprehensive Cub Koda that Volume 2 was almost mandatory [Stinky writes]. Forget about leftovers— there were still big meaty chunks left over, and lots of good suggestions in the comments. After Volume 1 was on its way to the pressing plant (okay, we rubbed it against a ficus) I discovered a hard-to-find self-released rockabilly collection on Cub’s website, so here we are.

We spare no expense to pamper our patrons here at Jonderblog, so I reached out to Cub’s wife (Lady J), the webmaster, and even snail mailed Her Ladyship at the address on the site trying to buy a copy, to no avail. My usual resources didn’t even list it. But a friend at From The Vaults (who sometimes helps me find rare recordings) pointed out that five of the ten tracks were available as bonus tracks on a reissue of one of Cub’s albums. Problem solved!

One can’t make a “best of” without having all of the great man’s recordings to choose from— which isn’t to say all his records are represented here. While Koda seemed to have an instinctive understanding of all roots music, there’s nothing from one of his albums, Cub Digs Bo, on either volume. Not that it isn’t good, there’s just so much material that’s better. Cub was remarkably consistent & had GREAT musical taste. So much so that in his later years he was mainly known for his record reviews and his radio show— of which there are snippets included on Volume 2.

Like Peter Wolf “The Woofa Goofa” before him, Cub was from the snappy-patter, jovial jive school of DJ’s, and he had his famous friends record intros for him: “What time is it, Cub?” “It’s ROCKABILLY time!” I’ve spliced short segments onto the tracks so that Cub occasionally introduces his own records. It’s exactly the kind of cutesy crap I dislike— but with Cub’s palpable personality & atomic energy level, I think it works. He even introduces the pseudo-group he created & led (and with whom Cub may have invented “prank rock”), King Uszniewicz & The Uszniewicztones. “Whoever told these guys that they were a rock band was yankin’ their ankle!” Or as Down Home Music wrote: “You could blackmail people with tapes twice this good.”

After years of searching for obscure artist’s self-released 45’s in thrift stores, Cub got the idea to perpetrate a hoax and “create” a forgotten group: King Uszniewicz & The Uszniewicztones. He recorded the songs, came up with a backstory, used old photos of his dad for images of King Uszniewicz, & pressed some 45’s that he then slipped into the stacks of wax in thrift stores. Eventually there were three LPs of material released on Norton Records (most outlets list them under comedy), as well as a shared “battle of the bands” album with The South Bay Surfers.

Of course there are tracks with Brownsville Station— two that were suggested by George Glass — and a third, My Buddy Jack, which was clearly the inspiration for George Thorogood’s I Drink Alone. On the first installment, I used a live version of Brownville’s biggest hit Smokin’ In The Boys Room to highlight some of his onstage rap, so the original’s included here, along with another live track with an intro from Cub Koda & The Points, Double Mirror Wraparound Shades.

Also represented are his live raw bone blues records with The Houserockers, solo tracks with Cub playing all the instruments, and his scorching version of The Fred Wolff Combo’s instrumental Scratchin’ & Whammin’. Which, while I was writing these liner notes, I discovered was ALSO Cub Koda. He got me again!

As always, this compilation was designed in Stinky Laboratories to be listened to from soup to nuts— in hopes it will transport you somewhere without you leaving the house. But if you do take it on the road, please do as Cub might suggest, and “Keep the greasy side down.”

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Drive To 1981, He Said

You might recall a story on this blog about a singer and a guitarist whose collaboration was shelved for several years by the singer's record label.  This past year they performed together on the singer's web series, and revisited some of the songs they recorded back in 1977.

You can read all about the guitarist's "Drive to 1981" here. He moved to NYC and collaborated with a range of performers.  He envisioned himself as "a small intelligent mobile unit" -- a title somehow distinct from the role of a session musician. 

The invention of a looping device (which allowed the guitarist to play with himself) opened the door to new creative possibilities. He used it in live performance, in session work and on a solo album that he began recording in 1977.

In 1980, he formed what he considered a dance band.  And in 1981, he reformed the group that made him famous, which had disbanded in 1974.

Today's share features many of the mobile intelligent session musician's guest appearances on record and on stage (as "Dusty Rhodes" on Peter Gabriel's 1977 US tour, as part of a Hugh Cornwell benefit in 1980, and with Blondie).  It includes some of his work as a producer (for The Roches and others). And it ends not in 1981 but in 1982.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Get In Loser, We're Going Rockabilly (Volume 1)!

We've featured a good bit of rockabilly here lately, including Nigel Dixon, Pearl Harbour, Charlie Feathers, and Chuck E. Weiss (!). So let's keep rollin' with Stinky's latest compilation!  He had the idea awhile back: rockabilly songs performed by artists better known for other musical genres.  "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" is a perfect example.  Neil Young's album with the Shocking Pinks is another.

I made a couple suggestions ("Thumbelina" and Alan Vega's solo albums), but Stinky already had a great list of songs, with enough for another volume.  

I had asked Stinky if he knew of Robert Johnson -- not the blues legend, but the guy who looks like Moon Martin on the cover of his 1978 Close Personal Friend LP.  We found out that he's an accomplished Memphis guitarist who played with John Entwistle's Ox and auditioned to replace Mick Taylor in the Rolling Stones!   

A lot of the folks on this comp either grew up listening to rockabilly or (in the case of Conway Twitty and George "Thumper" Jones) started as rockabilly singers. Dolly Parton's duet with Ronnie McDowell appears on her 2023 album Rockstar.

It's a fun listen with a few surprises.  Warren Phillips & The Rockets were members of Foghat.  Joe Elliott is the Def Leppard frontman.  Ron Flynt was in the power pop band 20/20.  Jeremy Spencer was in Fleetwood Mac (and their alter egos Earl Vince & The Valiants). The La De Da's were from New Zealand (and are remembered for their 1966 single "How Is The Air Up There?") And didja know that Adrian Utley from Portishead was the rhythm guitarist on Jeff Beck's tribute to Gene Vincent?! If you've read this far, you're most likely a hepcat who recognizes the rest of the names on the tracklist, so jump on in -- we're going rockabilly!

Saturday, February 3, 2024

From Nigel Dixon To Willie Dixon!

Anyone with the slightest interest in the blues [Koen writes] will sooner or later encounter Willie Dixon’s name, whether as bass player, producer, writer/composer, or vocalist…

For me, it was probably the first 3 that piqued my interest and it wasn’t until I found a second-hand EP with 4 tracks from the American Folk Blues Festival that I heard him singing as well, in this case on "Crazy For My Baby". But any album I saw at the (pre-CD!) time featuring his name usually had his compositions sung by Muddy, the Wolf, and the other usual suspects of the Chicago blues scene.

In my early 80s travelling days I was pleasantly surprised to find a cassette of his 1969 I Am The Blues album in Malaysia of all places!

But after that not much happened until I discovered that in 1989 Don Snowden had written a book about Dixon:  I Am The Blues… I requested a Dutch friend to get me a copy and in 1995 I was reading it, a riveting story!

Later during the Napster and Audiogalaxy (remember those?!) days I finally managed to get some (low quality, 128 kbps) mp3 tracks of his songs, pretty cool, although truth be told Dixon was an average vocalist, at least compared to Muddy & the Wolf, but it was pretty cool to hear more of him.

Chess issued a 2 CD Willie Dixon Box in 1989 which was an interesting mix of his production work and compositions, but again, not much of his singing.

1988 saw a new Dixon album, produced by T-Bone Burnett: Hidden Charms, which rightfully won a 1989 Grammy Award.

In 1995 a 14-track single disc compilation was released: The Original Wang Dang Doodle: The Chess Recordings & More, which focussed on the man’s voice and even included some unissued tracks at the time, starting with his own first 1954 version of Wang Dang Doodle and ending with the 1990 Rob Wasserman collaboration Dustin’ Off The Bass.  Brilliant, I bought a copy immediately and still have it in my collection.

Fast forward to the present, various Willie Dixon compilations are widely available but most shoddily put together, usually mixing anything and everything without proper liner notes and just presenting all tracks under his name. Chances are very high that "Wang Dang Doodle" on one of those is the Howling’ Wolf’s version and not Willie’s, irritating to say the least! Therefore compiling a new collection seemed not a bad idea, a kind of The Original Wang Dang Doodle disc 2!  

What have we got? We start with Koko Taylor: her 1969 album was produced by Dixon and had several of his compositions, including 3 on which he sang as well, plus a single, "The Egg Or The Hen".  On Howlin’ Wolf’s "Going Down Slow", Willie does the introduction.

We have a couple of live tracks from various American Folk Blues Festivals, recorded between 1962 and 1966.  To get a better idea of Willie’s bass-playing skills, check out the 1966 live performance of Bassology.

Chuck E. Weiss recorded in 1970 a cover of the old "Down The Road A Piece" with Dixon, which only saw the light of day in 2002.  A semi-bootleg concert with Johnny Winter recorded at the Liberty Hall, Houston Texas on May 9th, 1971, gives us a cool performance of "Spoonful"!

For his 1973 album Catalyst, he recorded a slightly different version of "Wang Dang Doodle".  I selected one song each of I Am The Blues and Hidden Charms.

For the 1986 soundtrack of Scorsese’s The Color Of Money, Robbie Robertson got Willie on board and together with Hiram Bullock (g), Delmar Brown (keyboards), Mark Egan (b), Kenwood Dennard or Ricky Sebastien (d), and Gil Evans (arranger), recorded "Don’t You Tell Me Nothin’". This is a slightly different version of "Don't You Tell Nobody", which Willie recorded with Memphis Slim years ago in 1960 for Willie’s Blues…  Recycling the blues!

Finally, we return where it all started in 1949 with The Big Trio’s "Signifying Monkey".

Saturday, January 27, 2024

The Best of Nigel Dixon


After our recent Pearl Harbour announcement, Nathan Nothin posted Havana 3AM's debut album.  Down Underground shared some Pearl Harbour vinyl rips.  Reaction at Jonderblog HQ was swift and furious:  How dare they, those bastards!

Stinky summed up the general mood during an emergency shareholder meeting.  "We must crush them," he seethed (with a hatred he usually reserves for Butterboy).

You see, blogging is a highly lucrative industry, and the competition is cutthroat.  With each pageview and download, we receive kickbacks and incentives.  Bringing a free agent like Koen to our team was incredibly expensive, but we couldn't afford to lose him to a rival blog.   

The dirty secret of music bloggers is that we all hate each other, and we all hate music.  (It's got too many notes.)  Sure, we act friendly and feign enthusiasm.  But content is our commerce, and what Nathan and Viacom did is unforgivable.  

In order to reassert our dominance in this topical turf battle, Stinky put together an overview of Nigel Dixon's musical career, which started with British rockabilly band Whirlwind.  That led to his work on Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost Too and its followup album, 1983's Pearls Galore (not to be confused with her 1984 LP of the same title). 

Havana 3AM released their self-titled debut in 1991.  Nigel was the lead singer, Gary Myrick the lead guitarist, with Paul Simonon on bass and Travis Williams on drums.  Nigel Dixon died in 1993; Myrick released one more album under the Havana 3AM name (but with none of the other members) in 1996. 

Stinky's comp includes Nigel Dixon's solo single, songs that he cowrote and played guitar on with Pearl Harbour, a few Havana 3AM tracks, and a whole lotta Whirlwind.  Hopefully this show of force will teach our rivals a lesson.

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Celebritized for Your Protection: Actors Sing!

Actors who sing (and singers who act) are the theme of this first installment in Stinky's new series, Celebritized For Your Protection.  Some actors (like the late Bill Paxton, pictured at left) made music before their acting careers took off.  Jeff Bridges is another example.

Some were cast in films and TV shows after they had achieved success as singers (Kris Kristofferson and Art Garfunkel, for example).  Others (like Billy Bob Thornton and Crispin Glover) indulged their musical passions after achieving fame as actors. And a few songs on today's compilation were performed by an actor in a movie or TV series.  

Way back in the mid-80's, I bought a tape by mail from Irwin Chusid called Atrocious Versions, which eventually evolved into the Golden Throats compilations on Rhino Records.  Stinky isn't after the atrocious here, even though William Shatner and Ted Cassidy make appearances.  And it's not all TV and movie "bands" like The Monkees, The Partridge Family and The Barbusters.

Hey, did you know that Bill Paxton directed the Fish Heads video?  Or that Billy Mumy (member of the duo Barnes & Barnes) played a band member in the Rick Springfield movie?  Or that Trent Reznor appeared in Light Of Day with Joan Jett and Michael J. Fox? I was today years old (as the kids say) when I learned these things.  There are probably other "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" type connections among other performers on today's compilation.  I guess that's the nature of show business (and hey, Kevin Bacon makes music too!)

Welcome to the swingin' world of singin' actors (and actin' singers).  You can probably think of other examples.  Keep your ears open for the next installments of Celebritized for Your Protection, where Stinky features actresses and comedians who sing!

RIP to David Soul, who passed away recently and whose biggest hit was undoubtedly Hit The North (as a member of Frank Sidebottom's Supergroup). 

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Chuck E. Weiss: Sneaky Anthems For Old Souls

According to Wikipedia (quoth Koen), Chuck E. Weiss was known for an eclectic mix of blues, beat poetry, and rock & roll. His music included strains of every rhythmic style from nursery rhymes to zydeco…

The first time I ever heard Chuck’s name was probably in Rickie Lee Jones’s hit "Chuck E.’s In Love", but I had no idea who she was singing about… Much later when I got into Tom Waits and had read about the connections between these three, I started paying more attention to Chuck. Apparently, he had written a few songs with Tom and featured in the title of another, "Jitterbug Boy (Sharing a Curbstone with Chuck E. Weiss, Robert Marchese, Paul Body and The Mug and Artie)" …

In the pre-digital days, I had no idea of his first album The Other Side of Town, which was released in 1981. I wasn’t the only one, as it didn’t make much of an impact.  However, 1999’s Extremely Cool was a different story, as it featured Tom Waits prominently and had some great (weird) songs on it, e.g. "Do You Know What I Idi Amin"! I did manage to get some digital tracks from it, courtesy of Napster…

John E. Depp (left) and Chuck E. Weiss (right)

Old Souls & Wolf Tickets appeared on the scene in 2001, without Waits and more in a Delta blues style. As a curiosity, it had a great collaboration with Willie Dixon from 1970 on it, with Chuck covering the old Don Raye classic "Down The Road A Piece" from the 1940s!

In 2006 he released 23rd & Stout, featuring an exploration of many blues and rumba styles with more than a nod towards Tom Waits. His last album Red Beans and Weiss appeared in 2014, again a very decent collection of songs.  He often performed live with his band the Goddamn Liars in and around Los Angeles and was at times joined by Johnny Depp on guitar.  

Weiss died on July 20, 2021, in Los Angeles at the age of 76. He suffered from cancer before his death. All in all, Chuck delivered a remarkably consistent number of high-quality (weird) songs and therefore imo certainly deserves a Jonderblog compilation! Making compilations such as these is kind of fun, as I usually try to include a few odd & sods as well, and luckily Chuck recorded a few songs for compilations such as Son of Rogues Gallery (and tributes to Kinky Friedman and Elmore James).

However, the Willie Dixon collaboration (Willie on bass & vocals, Sunnyland Slim on piano, Shakey Horton on harmonica, Buster Benton on guitar) triggered a memory, something from my pre-travelling days when I was still working in Holland and a rabid 50s rock & roll/rockabilly fan, believe it or not…

In the mid-1970s, I started ordering albums and singles from Ronny Weiser, an American rockabilly fanatic who revived the careers of forgotten artists such as Ray Campi and Mac Curtis by bringing them back into his recording studio. In 1976 Weiser started recording new artists, and I vaguely recalled his two Rollin’ The Rock compilation albums (with dreadful artwork/lay-out, done by himself…) 

As I had sold off my record collection years ago, I did some digital digging and sure enough I found those two albums, both featuring a certain Chuck Weiss! On Vol. 1 there’s a great version of Big Joe Turner’s "Boogie Woogie County Girl", again with Dixon & co.! Vol. 2 has a more rockabilly-sounding track, "Callin’ Loud", unfortunately without any information about who’s playing on it, but still pretty cool. As far as I know, neither track has ever been released on CD, so a worthwhile addition to this compilation!