The Moray Eels Eat The Holy Modal Rounders and Charlie Poole, to boot
May 30, 2005 9:16 PM   Subscribe

We kept changing the name. First it was the Total Quintessence Stomach Pumpers. Then the Temporal Worth High Steppers. Then The Motherfucker Creek Babyrapers. That was just a joke name. He was Rinky-Dink Steve the Tin Horn and I was Fast Lightning Cumquat. He was Teddy Boy Forever and I was Wild Blue Yonder. It kept changing names. Then it was the Total Modal Rounders. Then when we were stoned on pot and someone else, Steve Close maybe, said Holy Modal Rounders by mistake. We kept putting out different names and wait until someone starts calling us that then. When we got to Holy Modal Rounders, everyone decided by accumulation that we were the Holy Modal Rounders. That's the practical way to get named.
The Story Of The Holy Modal Rounders. In 1965, they used the psychedelic in a lyric and channeled Charlie Poole. From 1999, Green Man reviews their Too Much Fun!--& Ink 19's take as well. From No Depression comes Bohemian Rhapsody and from Richie Unterberger here's an interview with Peter Stampfel and the liner notes he wrote for the CD re-issue of cult classic The Moray Eels Eat The Holy Modal Rounders. In a related bonus, here you can find Charlie Poole singing Moving Day, a great song which I first heard by the Rounders.
posted by y2karl (19 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Also, There's a great box set of Charlie Poole out now on Columbia/Legacy--You Ain't Talkin' to Me: Charlie Poole and the Roots of Country Music... Oh, and here's someone's labor of love: The Songs of Charlie Poole. But enough already.
posted by y2karl at 9:17 PM on May 30, 2005

In 1965, they used the psychedelic in a lyric

Er. they used the word psychedelic in a lyric--they were like the first to do so, if I am not mistaken, and the song was, if I recall correctly, Robin Remaily's Euphoria--which can be heard here at #23 on this Global Radio show.
posted by y2karl at 9:27 PM on May 30, 2005

Cool stuff.

The Rounders intersect with so many unbelievably talented and interesting people: Gary Lucas, The Fugs (damn, I love The Fugs), Sam Shepard, Harry Smith, Scotty Moore, even Jeff "Skunk" Baxter! Incredible that they stayed a semi-unknown phenomenon for so long.

I love American music.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:54 PM on May 30, 2005

And from here, you got this, where you may learn how much fun it is to rob a bank.
posted by TimothyMason at 11:55 PM on May 30, 2005

Thanks, y2karl, I adore the HMR.

Perhaps my favorite musical moment is in their '64 recording of Flop-Eared Mule. This is a song with a total of five distinct words in the whole thing, and yet one of the guys manages to sing the wrong lyric at the beginning of the second verse. It makes me so very happy.
posted by infidelpants at 7:16 AM on May 31, 2005

Yes, I like Boobs a Lot!
posted by jonmc at 7:31 AM on May 31, 2005

Naturally, you've inspired me to listen to them all morning. So I can report that the word 'psychedelic' does not appear in Euphoria, unless I blanked on it. It is, however, in Hesitation Blues, from the same album:
Got my psychedelic feet
in my psychedelic shoes
I believe Lord above
I got the psychedelic blues
tell me how long
do I have to wait
or can I get you now
or must I hesitate?
(Pedantry demands that I note that Stampfel pronounces the word "psychodelic".)
posted by infidelpants at 8:21 AM on May 31, 2005

Dang if you aren't right. I was conflating that with the belladona cloud on Euphoria:

Well Ma's out there, twitchin' in the kitchen
Dad's in the living room, fussin' and a-bitchin'
I'm out here, kicking the gong for... Euphoria!
Euphoria - When your mind starts reelin' and a-rockin;
Your inside voice starts squealing and squawking
Floatin' around on a belladonna cloud,singin'... Euphoria!

Here's Parent with parrots, yet another article about Stampfel, by Robert Christgau--and here's his page for the Rounders. It's interesting to me at least that the Holy Modal Rounders Story linked above is archived at Red Hot Jazz.
posted by y2karl at 9:18 AM on May 31, 2005

Stampfel's quite a character; not merely does he still play way-out-there stringband music, but he's also the submissions editor for a sci-fi publisher, DAW Books. He's also working on a project to record a song from every year of the 20th century -- and still found time to call me to give me a free banjo lesson over the phone.

Stampfel and Weber don't get on so well these days. I was going to be working with Weber on a web project, but we never quite managed to get it to happen.

(if you're looking for an HMR album to buy first, get 1 and 2. Moray Eels is a bit hard to take, even if it doe have Sam Shepard on drums.)
posted by scruss at 10:46 AM on May 31, 2005

Lord, I love robbin' banks!
Tell the teller thanks...
"You probably just don't have the software to know how good I feel about the Have Moicy release. So many people have told me that they love it, it changed their life, it turned them on to old-time asskickin' hillbilly, it lead them to a superior love life, it brought them much wealth and still remains a favorite after 20 years or 10. Everytime I listen to it, it sounds more together; it sounds like a bunch of loonies too."
Amen, brother. And thanks for this great post.
posted by languagehat at 10:51 AM on May 31, 2005

i have an OLD tape of theirs.

They were wonderful. slaphappy and tight musicians.

"real world, real world, reeeall reaalll reealllll world"

posted by reflecked at 12:34 PM on May 31, 2005

jon, I hope you wear your jock a lot.
posted by RakDaddy at 2:03 PM on May 31, 2005

I hung out with Stampfel back in the 70s. Amazingly weird, very New York character. I love that he never gave up that old time-music-meets-psychedelic aesthetic - he even did a wild Appalachian version of the theme to Goldfinger about ten years ago.

Large amounts of free, entire Charlie Poole cuts can be downloaded from here! "If I Lose" rivals anything the Ramones ever did. Poole really influenced the 1970s US old-time revival, but his name was rarely mentioned although his songs were widely sung and used as the basis for a lot of folk rock imagery.

Scuse me, but I just got home to Budapest after a fifteen hour drive from Milan with Ricky Scagg's ex-guitarist. I'm dead.
posted by zaelic at 3:57 PM on May 31, 2005

Cool post, y2karl! I think it should be mandatory that you make a weekly musical post - they are among my all time faves, many bookmarked. Your knowledgeable commentary and well-chosen pointers have brought me more enjoyment than I can possibly thank you for.

... and speaking of a former y2karl music threads, look who's in my neighborhood in two weeks.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:55 PM on May 31, 2005

hey zaelic, you mean Goldfinger sounding like this? [MP3]

I was saddened to hear today that the supposedly excellent documentary about the HMRs, Bound To Lose, may never see public release, due to legal threats from Steve Weber [according to Stampfel, in the yahoo group have_moicy today].
posted by scruss at 5:12 PM on May 31, 2005

I'd give my left testicle for another copy of "Have Moicy".

But, I lost it long ago in Tijuana a card game.
posted by troutfishing at 10:43 PM on May 31, 2005

*pictures a Mexican triumphantly showing his compadres the testicle he won off a gringo in a card game*

scruss, thanks for that -- perked my morning right up!
posted by languagehat at 6:14 AM on June 1, 2005

Dear Rounders Fans:

It is our regret to inform everybody that Bound to Lose has officially been pulled from the 2005 Newport International Film Festival due to a legal threat by Steve Weber. After five years of working on the film, this is truly devastating. A lot of you have expressed support for the project and we want to offer a heartfelt thanks. And as if you need us to say it, Rounders fans are the best.
Paul Lovelace
Sam Wainwright Douglas

1713 8th Avenue
Suite #5-4
Brooklyn, New York
Roundersfilm /at/ yahoo /dot/ com
posted by scruss at 3:57 PM on June 3, 2005

Best acid bluegrass ever. Excellent post.

Doesn't it kinda break your heart
Doesn't it make you sad
When the boy you love so dear
Turns out to be so bad?
posted by gramschmidt at 8:49 PM on June 3, 2005

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