It's time to say farewell to one of the great and legendary voices of American music. Mr Bobby 'Blue' Bland has died. With the perfect combination of muscle and tenderness, grit and sweetness, he gave us so many stellar performances over his long career. Here are but a few: Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City, The Way You Treated Me, Stormy Monday, Further Up the Road, St. James Infirmary, I'll Take Care of You, I Stand Accused, That's the Way Love Is, Ain't Nothing You Can Do... and the list goes on. Thanks for the music, Bobby Bland.
On April 7, 1968 - three days after Martin Luther King's assassination - Nina Simone performed the Martin Luther King Suite for the first time at the Westbury Music Festival in NY: Sunday in Savannah, Why (The King of Love is Dead), Mississippi Goddam.
From the early fifties to the mid-seventies, the Nashville based Excello Records released the kind of raw blues, R&B, and rock & roll that maybe wasn't ever going to make it to the Top 40, but was full of grit and sweat and soul, for those who liked their American roots music unadulterated. Their most well-known release was probably Slim Harpo's Baby Scratch My Back, but rocking blues like Lazy Lester's I Hear You Knockin' and Leroy Washington's Wild Cherry are little unpolished gems which deserved their place on any self-respecting cheap bar's juke box. Lowdown blues like Lonesome Sundown's My Home Is a Prison also found a welcome home at Excello, as did tunes that blurred the distinctions between country/rockabilly and R&B, like Lazy Lester's I'm A Lover Not A Fighter, and latin-tinged swamp-rock chuggers like Charles Sheffield's It's Your Voodoo Working. Then there were the straight up country tunes (reminiscent of that classic early Johnny Cash sound) like Al Ferrier's I'm the Man, or rough-hewn, raucous rockabilly like Johnny Jano's Havin' A Whole Lotta Fun. In short, Excello Records was a microcosm of the sound of the South, and though their artists mostly never achieved much in the way of wider national fame, they are an important part of the patchwork quilt of American pop music history. The tunes included in this post are just the tip of the iceberg: there's so much to explore from this one amazing little label. Happy searching!
Before hip-hop beefs, there were response records, also known as answer songs, usually replies to well-known songs. There are a few key eras: blues and R&B recorded music in the 1930s through 1950s, including a number of responses to "Work With Me, Annie" (1954), recorded by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, with answers including "Annie had a Baby," and "The Wallflower" by Etta James; and Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog" (1953), with a quick response by Louis Innis and Charlie Gore, made a mere week after the original was released, and Rufus Thomas' "Bear Cat" (1953), Sun Records' first hit. Country, rock & roll, doo-wop and pop music picked up where the blues left off, with most activity in the 1950s to 60s. Two examples from this era are "Are You Lonesome To-night" and "Who Put The Bomp," and responses to both. The most well known from the next decade was Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" (1974), a response to Neil Young's "Southern Man" (1970) and "Alabama" (1972). Until the 2000s, no answer songs had charted as high as the original hits. That changed with Frankee's "F.U.R.B. (Fuck You Right Back)" (2004), a response to Eamon's "Fuck It (I Don't Want You Back)" (2003), which was the first answer song to reach number 1 in the UK. Six years later and across the pond, Katy Perry's "California Gurls" was a response to "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z. It was the first answer song to reach No. 1 in the Billboard Hot 100. More Responses inside. [more inside]
New Year's Eve is fast approaching, and for lots of folks that means... drinking. Plenty of drinking. And since there's no shortage of singers and songwriters who've had a little something to say about that particular topic, maybe some of the following tunes can serve as an appropriate soundtrack to your own joyous (or not?) imbibing of spirits. For example, there's... Jimmy Liggins with his succinct rendition of Drunk, and there's... [more inside]
Ahmet Ertegun, 1923-2006. Co-founder of Atlantic Records, 83 year-old Ertegun had been in a coma since he fell backstage at a concert by The Rolling Stones at Beacon Theatre, NYC, in October. Very comprehensive obit -- more complete than either the one in Variety or New York Times -- to be found in UK's Guardian