Excello Records roundup
December 26, 2012 1:07 AM   Subscribe

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!
posted by flapjax at midnite (7 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
Quite right. Excello had some great artists on the roster, and there's something in bossman Jay Miller's production style that gives its releases a sense of sheer attack which you seldom find elsewhere.

There are loads of CD compilations of old Excello stuff out there - Ace Records' Real/Best/Genuine trio is particularly good - and they're all packed with gems.

The legendary British radio DJ John Peel was living in Texas when Excello was at its peak in the early 1960s, and berated himself for years afterwards because he'd been too stupid to buy up every last one of the label's 7-inch singles while he had that chance. "I should have just backed a truck up to the door and said, 'Give me one of everything and I'll not trouble you again'," he said after playing a Lazy Lester track on his show one night.
posted by Paul Slade at 1:45 AM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you for the soundtrack to my snow day!! Brilliant.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:37 AM on December 26, 2012

I love just about everything I've heard from Excello. There were 2 CD comps that came out about 20 years ago (Sound of the Swamp: The Best of Excello, Vol. 1 and Southern Rhythm 'n' Rock: The Best of Excello, Vol. 2) that introduced me to so many faves. It seems like every mix I made for the next decade had something from one of those comps.

Along with Slim Harpo and "I Hear You Knockin'" (and the other great stuff above), here are a few other personal faves from the Excello catalog:

The slightly kooky "Calling All Cows" by Blues Rockers
the mournful "Prisoner's Song" by Warren Storm
And the swinging little rocker "My Next Door Neighbor" by Jerry McCain
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:45 AM on December 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Brilliant post, thanks for sharing!
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 9:51 AM on December 26, 2012

Thanks. This is just grand. I'm going to make a weird leap, hang on.
I just got the Beatles box set for Christmas. The earliest recordings have delightful raw energy, and though this post has music that surely sounds different, the excitement and rockin' fun is very similar. I'm having a great musical Christmas.
posted by cccorlew at 10:52 AM on December 26, 2012

Omg I *love* this kind of music! What a treat! Thanks dear flapjax! As ever, a superb post.
posted by nickyskye at 1:10 PM on December 26, 2012

Nifty stuff. Must email this to several people.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:16 PM on December 26, 2012

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