Bah doo day, oh what a girl
March 10, 2008 12:10 PM   Subscribe

Someone asked "What does it take before a song becomes a pop standard? Four generations? Five?
The Train Kept A Rollin' is a garage rock classic, but the original by Tiny Bradshaw (rec. 25-jul-1951 -- sax solo: Red Prysock) was played in a very different style. So who was Tiny Bradshaw? And what about all those covers?

Myron 'Tiny' Bradshaw first recorded in 1934, leading a swing band on eight sides for Decca. Originally a drummer and singer, Bradshaw was a non-playing leader modeled on Cab Calloway. ("They had a whole group of these guys. . . Lucky Millander, Cab Calloway, Tiny Bradshaw. . . They'd have someone in front to wave a baton and jump around and dance and maybe sing a song." -- from Dizzy Gillespie's autobiography, To Be or Not to Bop.") After the war Tiny gradually adopted the jump blues style of Louis Jordan, and recorded a number of sides for King Records that crossed over to the pop charts. He passed away November 26, 1958 at the age of 53 after being sidelined by a series of strokes.

Bradshaw's Billboard entry, including AMG bio
A useful E-zine entry on Bradshaw
Bradshaw Entry from The Encyclopedia of Popular Music
30 second song clips

Other Bradshaw sides
Well Oh Well (1950) Tiny's first big crossover hit. Maybe that's why nearly all of his uptempo numbers start with "Well. . . "
Soft (1953)
Heavy Juice (1953)

The Rock and Roll Trio (rec. 02-Jul-1956) were brothers Johnny (vocal, guitar) and Dorsey (vocal, bass) Burnette and Paul Burlison (lead guitar) -- all Golden Gloves boxers. Burlison was inspired by a 78 of the Tiny Bradshaw hit he'd bought a few days before the session, but the solo may actually have been played by Nashville cat Grady Martin. The Trio broke up acrimoniously after less than two years despite an appearance in the film Rock, Rock, Rock. (Dorsey Burnette quit just weeks before filming. The bassist here is Johnny Black.)

The record did not make the national charts. But some British teenagers like these guys were inspired to take up guitars, in part, by the Trio's records.

Screaming Lord Sutch and his savages (rec. 1965) -- guitar solo: Ritchie Blackmore. Self-styled lord, David Sutch based his act on that of Screamin' Jay Hawkins. His 'savages' and 'heavy friends' were the cream of 1960s UK studio cats.

Sutch bio: Eye of the goof
Sutch bio: Loony archive
Sutch interview: Ugly things

The Yardbirds' place in history would be secure based on this song alone.

Yardbirds BBC Sessions (rec. Dec-1965) -- guitar solo: Jeff Beck. I haven't found the Yardbirds original studio recording from 12-sep-1965 online, but this performance is very like it.
Yardbirds live (rec. early 1966) -- guitar solo: Beck.
Yardbirds live on French tv (rec. 27-Jun-1966) -- guitar solo: Beck. Jimmy Page plays bass.
Yardbirds on film: Antonioni's Blow-up (rec. late Oct-1966) guitar solos: Beck, then Page. The Yardbirds stand in for The Who and the song gets new lyrics and title (Stroll On). Notice that the first half of the guitar solo matches Beck's previous solos, and the second half matches Page's subsequent solos. This is one of only two confirmed tracks with Beck and Page both on lead guitar (the other is Happenings Ten Years Time Ago ). The 'twin-lead' line-up lasted only four months.
Yardbirds live on French tv (rec. 09-mar-1968) -- guitar solo: Page.
"Yardbirds Featuring Jimmy Page" (rec. 20-mar-1968) -- guitar solo: Page. This live album was released in 1971 to cash in on Led Zepplin's popularity, then withdrawn, bootlegged, repeat.

A good Yardbirds fan site with lots of info and pics.

Like a lot of American rock musicians of their generation, Aerosmith (1974) were influenced by the Yardbirds, though the guitar parts here were actually played by sessioners Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter. Aerosmith's particular innovation is the addition of the "Slow Train" intro section. Changes in public taste and the economics of pop music have made this the most popular and influential version.

Motorhead live (1980) keeps it simple, stupid. Lemmy has no more idea what the words are than Lord Sutch does.
This cover by Racer X live (1980s? 1990s?) shows that evolution isn't always about progress.
Guns, Roses, Arrow, Smith, Pierce, Fenner & Bean live (1993) take us back to the barely controlled chaos of the Yardbirds arrangement.

We can probably expect a cover in Tiny Bradshaw's original style -- any day now.
posted by Herodios (21 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
You aren't a DJ on Q104.3 are you?
posted by caddis at 12:14 PM on March 10, 2008

You aren't a DJ on Q104.3 are you?

I don't think so. Why?
posted by Herodios at 12:19 PM on March 10, 2008

Wow, nice post Herodios. Can't wait till I'm home so I can listen to this.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:26 PM on March 10, 2008

I just heard a long diatribe yesterday on 104.3 about this very issue, although they didn't take it all the way back to Bradshaw I don't think. Anyway, great post.
posted by caddis at 12:37 PM on March 10, 2008

Fan-freaking-tastic post, Herodios!

I had never heard of the Grady Martin-Rock and Roll Trio connection. Where did you come across that?
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 12:44 PM on March 10, 2008

I had never heard of the Grady Martin-Rock and Roll Trio connection. Where did you come across that?

It's just part of the history that shows up in liner notes and such. You could always google "grady martin" and "train kept a rollin", or you could start here

I wasn't there so I'm not taking sides.

This might interest you: Marty Robbins "Don't Worry About Me"

Check out Grady Martin's country fuzz guitar solo at 1:20. Supposedly a tech mistake that they liked and so kept.
posted by Herodios at 1:17 PM on March 10, 2008

Wow. I'm familiar with the Johnny Burnette version (and later covers) but never knew about the Tiny Bradshaw. Fantastic, as is the post—thanks!
posted by languagehat at 1:21 PM on March 10, 2008

Some great stuff in here, thanks.
posted by xbonesgt at 1:23 PM on March 10, 2008

This is audio only, but the band briefly known as The New Yardbirds used to open with Train as well. And on their very last tour, some ten years gone, they used it as an opener again.
posted by Ber at 1:28 PM on March 10, 2008

Ah, yes. The distorted Grady Martin solo.

Grady (whom I have plugged on MeFi before) was an absolutely phenomenal guitarist. I doubt it was really an accident.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:48 PM on March 10, 2008

languagehat: Tiny Bradshaw is good, not great, and would probably be (all but) forgotten if not for this one contribution. All eight of the 1934 Decca sides sound the same, his wartime recordings are pretty dull, and his jump blues recordings were formulaic, lacking the creativity of a Louis Jordan.

On the other hand he toured like a maniac for twenty years, employing some of the best musicians in the business.

On the third hand he offers an interesting viewpoint into pop music history. His career (1932 - 1958) spans the early swing era, wartime big bands, the post-war downsizing to bop and RnB, and early RnR. Fact, Tiny's last single was a cover of 'Shorts Shorts" by the Royal Teens (featuring the guitar of Al Kooper, who. . . etc etc etc.)
posted by Herodios at 2:28 PM on March 10, 2008

Terrific post-thank you!
posted by BridgetR at 3:08 PM on March 10, 2008

I tear this shit up on Rock Band. My cover is superior because it sounds just like Aerosmith's except I totally wail on the solo with one foot on my recliner. Let's see Steve Perry do that.
posted by mckenney at 3:32 PM on March 10, 2008

Whoa, great post! Many thanks, Herodios! Really looking forward to checking this all out, in depth.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:48 PM on March 10, 2008

Tiny Bradshaw was no Wynonie Harris, tha's for sure. And as dedicated as I am to those wild Burnette boys ("We go chargo"), and as much as I am totally unmoved (bored actually) by virtually anything else Aerosmith ever recorded, I have to admit that the Aerosmith version of "Train" is the most perfect 7 minutes or so in Rock and Roll.
posted by Faze at 6:47 PM on March 10, 2008

Faze: In that case it's worth re-iterating that Aerosmith themselves provided none of the guitar solos on that track. Steve Hunter on the slow part and Dick Wagner on the fast part, the guitar team that played on Lou Reed's Rock n Roll Animal live album.
posted by Herodios at 8:10 PM on March 10, 2008

hmmmm - i was wondering where you got that information and was going to refute it with this clip but - joe perry seems to be having a bit of trouble playing those damn solos, isn't he? - and actually the record doesn't really sound like him, anyway

by the way "stand in the shadows" by the frost is my favorite dick wagner solo
posted by pyramid termite at 9:13 PM on March 10, 2008

What a cool post!
posted by Wolof at 11:58 PM on March 10, 2008

Whoa, coming back late. The LIVE version of Aerosmith's "Train" on *Night in the Ruts* (the most obscure A'smith album of all) is the shit. Absolutely rock and roll perfection. Check it out.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:49 AM on March 11, 2008

How could any Aerosmith album possibly be considered obscure? They're one of the most over-exposed acts of the past 40 years.

And now I'll prove to caddis that I'm not a dj at a commercial radio station: I think Aerosmith is the second least interesting band/musician discussed in this thread so far.
posted by Herodios at 7:56 AM on March 11, 2008

Let's see Steve Perry do that.

Yes, let's.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 11:17 AM on March 11, 2008

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