Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Top 100 78 RPM's Countdown - 2014

OK, I've finished flipping through the 20,000+ 78 RPMS's I bought in 2013. I will likely not have another 100 discs for next year...perhaps 2015 will mark the year of QUALITY over QUANTITY. The 78 RPM Experiment is over. I'm just a collector now. I made all my money back, plus a couple grand. Still have over 600 records, 100 + of which are in steady rotation on the turntable. Some day I will catalogue the rest and get to eBay.

Speaking of quality; no Robert Johnson this year. You gotta budget for those.  My personal favorite record of the year is at the bottom of this blog.

But for now there's more music I've never heard before and some nice reminders about music I grew up with.

Hank Williams leads the pack this year with 4 appearances, two as Luke the Drifter,  a country-blues-talkin' man with tales of woe and warnings for all of us. Fats Domino is back with three songs this year. I recommend  Bo Weevil , I would have been hard-pressed to identify the artist if I heard it on the radio. Also showing up 3 times; Pearl Bailey, Ethel Waters, Tommy McClennan and the silky smooth voice of Big Bill Broonzy.

There are a few novelty songs which may be of interest to those who like their music on the bizarre side. "Whispering" Ed takes us on a journey through the vegetable patch in She Likes Her Onions. Nan Blakstone (or Nan Blackstone) has a torch song that defies description. If Frank Zappa and the Mothers existed in the 1940's they would have been Count Jim Moriarty and his crazy collection of friends who make You Gotta Say OWW! come alive.

Lead Belly's change of pace in Rock Island Line just makes me go WOW!

We have a return of the sassy ladies: check out Bessie Smith's I've Got To Get Me Some, or Memphis Minnie's Bumble Bee for some back-alley raunch.

The usual rock-n-roll and pop culprits from the well known to the lesser known. Dion and the Belmonts lead us off, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers drop their biggest hit. Bill Haley and His Comets almost break the Top 10 and we have a former Catwoman in Eartha Kitt. Some much bigger stars find their way in as well some lesser knowns.

Found a few jazz tracks to my interest. It's hard to separate jazz and blues when the whole thing got rolling. I recommend a listen to Joe Lutcher's Jump Band or Bumble Bee Slim or Louis Armstrong for some cross-over stuff.

Old-time delta or country blues? These things cost money and are not as easy to come by. You can find some authenticity in Willie Smith and the Cubs version of  Blues Why Don't You Let Me Alone. Willie didn't record much and he's really a band leader, not a blues performer but he did play piano on Mamie Smith's 1920 Crazy Blues; the first blues recorded by a woman. Little Brother, Blind Johnny Davis, Monkey Joe add to the mix. We have the ladies of course, the "That's All" girl, Annette Hanshaw, Rosetta Howard, Pearl Bailey, join monster stars Bessie Smith, Ethel Waters and Memphis Minnie.

 Enjoy the list. The quality varies from G (lots of surface noise), to VG (very listenable), to E (you can't complain, it's at least 60 years old). This is very subjective. Some sellers have what they call a "Pre-War" grading which gives a little latitude for the age of the record and the materials used to create the disc. Some record companies are always poor quality (KING comes to mind, I've got lots of great country-blues on KING but they all have noise). Unfortunately the more obscure blues records seem to be the most battered. It is, what it is.

Oldest song: Back to the Caroline You Love by Al Jolson, 1914.

#100 Dion and the Belmonts, Don't Pity Me (REO 8317, 1959) Something light to get us started.

#99 Willie "The Lion" Smith and his Cubs, Blues Why Don't You Leave Me Alone, (Decca 1957, 1937)

#98 Lena Wilson, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do, (Victor 19085, 1923) Lena played the vaudeville circuit from 1918-1921 before she settled in NYC playing clubs until the mid-30's, passing in 1939 from pneumonia.

#97 Fats Domino, Bo Weevil, (Imperial 5375, 1956)


#96 Creole Crooner Mississippi (Here I Am) (Columbia 1732-D, 1929)

Not much is known about this artist. From an online discography we get this:  "Creole Crooner (Identity unknown):Vocals Unknown:Guitar Unknown:Steel Guitar Recorded either in Chicago, IL. or New York City, N.Y. Monday, January 28, 1929.   Composed by Arthur Sizemore & Bernie Grossman." After some sleuthing it turns out he's not so anonymous: "Just found out that the singer is Norman does anyone know the guitarist?" He only recorded four sides for Columbia under this name. I'm just a sucker for songs about the river.

#95 Al Jolson, Back to the Carolina You Love, (Little Wonder 34, 1914) 100 year old 7" disc..

#94 Jack Shea, Lovesick Blues, (Vocalion 14333, 1922) Covered later by Hank Williams. Dig the red shellac. Early blues, more like crooning blues. Lovesick Blues is a show tune written by composer Cliff Friend and co-lyricist & producer Irving Mills. It has become a pop standard and an even more popular country song since it helped make Hank Williams famous in the 1940s.  Published through Tin Pan Alley in 1922, the song was first recorded by the popular contralto Elsie Clark. Later that year, it was recorded by Jack Shea (not the 1932 Olympic medalist speed skater) on Vocalion 14333. This recording contains a verse that no later versions include

#93 "Hot Lips" Page I've Got the World On A String (Melrose 1402, 1946)

Anybody who has backed Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Ida Cox deserves a spot on this list. Hot trumpeter and band leader; a founding father of rhythm and blues."Hot Lips" joins us later for a couple of great tracks with Pearl Bailey.

#92 Jerry Jericho, I'm A Hopeless Heartless Fool, (4 Star 1382, 1949)
A little jumping country music. 

#91 Nan Blakstone, Blakstone's Torch Song (Hush Hush HH3, 1927)
A sassy lady. Jazzy and salacious novelty song.

#90 Joe Lutcher's Jump Band, Be Bop Blues, (Capitol Americana 40071, 1947) A fixture on the LA jazz club circuit in the 1940's supporting Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr and the Mills Bros.  In 1953 he got religion and quit the game.

#89 Kate Smith, River, Stay 'Way From My Door (Clarion, 5423-C, 1931)  This  is way different than the gig she had with the Flyers.

#88 Pearl Bailey and Hot Lips Page, The Hucklebuck (Harmony, 1049,1949)

#87 Billy Murray, The Alcoholic Blues (Columbia, A2702, 1919)

#86 Fats Waller, I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter (BRS 1013, 1935)

#85 Eartha Kitt, Two Lovers, (RCA Victor, 20-5284)

#84 Blind Johnny Davis, Walkin' and Talkin' (MGM, 10574)

#83 Guy Mitchell, Singing the Blues (Columbia, 40769)

#82 Lonnie Johnson, Working Man's Blues (King, 4212)

#81 Larry Williams, Short Fat Fanny (Specialty 608, 1957 )

#80 Whispering "Ed", She Knows Her Onions (Domino 3799, 1926)

#79 Romeo Nelson and Tampa Red, Head Rag Hop (Brunswick 80021, 1929)

#78 Annette Hanshaw, Nobody Cares If I'm Blue (Velvet Tone 2196, 1930)

Gotta love her sign-off at the end of the song. It was her trademark.

#77 Count Jim Moriarty with Graveley Stephens (Pharmacological Pianist) and the Massed Alberts, You Gotta Go, OWW!, (Parlophone R4251, 1956)

You have to listen only because of the bands name. This is Spike Milligan in character as Count Jim Moriarty of The House of Roland from the 1950's BBC comedy, The Goon Show.

#76 Sheb Wooley, The Purple People Eater (MGM 12651, 1958)

When he wasn't busy appearing in High Noon, The Outlaw Josey Wales or Rawhide, Sheb did some country and western novelty songs.

#75 Bobby Pedrick Jr, Pajama Party (Quality 1855, 1959)

This is a 13 year old kid out of Brooklyn. After reaching #74 with his initial release (White Bucks and Saddle Shoes) this song failed to make it into the Top 100. That's about as rare as they come. Had a Lieber and Stoller song though. Rockabilly.

#74 Maggie Jones, Good Time Flat Blues (HRS 28, c1925)

This is a wonderful early blues song with Louis Armstrong backing her up.

#73 Big Mama Thornton, Nightmare ( Peacock 1612, 1952)

#72 Luther & Little Eva, Ain't Got No Home (Regency 570, 1957)

Not the locomotion girl, this was well before that.

#71 Monkey Joe, Rabbit Foot Blues, (Vocalion 04471,1938)

Pre-war blues as they like to advertise.

#70 Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys, Footprints in the Snow, (Columbia 37151, 1945)

#69 Big Bill Broonzy, You're In The Army Now ( Okeh 06601, 1941)

#68 Tommy McClennan, Shake It Up & Go, (Bluebird 34-01716, 1942)

#67 Jerry Lee Lewis, It'll Be Me, (Quality 1621, 1957)

#66 Robin Luke, Susie Darlin' (Dot 15781, 1957)

A true one-hit wonder, although he kept recording until 1962 when a little ditty called "Foggin' Up the Windows with My Guy" ended his recording career. A little ahead of his time.

#65 Les Paul & Mary Ford, Bye Bye Blues (Capitol 2316, 1952)

#64 Big Bill Broonzy, Preachin' the Blues (Vocalion 05056, 1939)

#63 Tommy McClennan, I Love My Baby (Bluebird 34-0716, 1942)

#62 Foy Willing and the Purple Sage, Ghost Riders in the Sky (Capitol ?? 1950)

#61 Ethel Waters, I'm Gonna Stop Myself From Worrying Over You (Bluebird B-11284, 1939)

#60 Bumble Bee Slim, Ease Me Down (Decca 7232, 1936)

Amos Easton was born in Brunswick GA in 1905, and he soon picked up the local Piedmont style of guitar playing that would serve him well throughout his wanderings. Joining a travelling tent show as a teenager, Amos worked all over the south in circuses and vaudeville acts until he made his home in Indianapolis in the late 20s.  Arriving in Chicago in 1931, Amos made the acquaintance of Tampa Red, Memphis Minnie and Big Bill Broonzy, and soon his first records began appearing on the Bluebird label, with his new friends backing him up. His nickname probably came from a recording he did of Memphis Minnie's song. (See #9)

#59 Wilbert Harrison, Don't Drop It, (Quality 1307, 1958)

You might remember Wilbert from his 60's hit, Let's Work Together.

#58 Pearl Bailey and Hot Lips Page, Baby It's Cold Outside (Harmony 1049, 1949)

This song is a testament to one of the best things in 78 cuts. A little improvisation has Pearl mentioning the record label early in the song. Great back and forth between the two artists. Should I Stay or Should I Go...from another era.

#57 Lavern Baker and the Gliders, That Lucky Old Sun (Atlantic 1075, 1955)

#56 Little Rita Faye, Rock City Boogie (MGM 11505, 1953)

#55 Chuck Berry, Drifting Heart (Quality 1503, 1956)

#54 Little Richard, Slippin' and A-Slidin' (Specialty, ?? 1956)

#53 Hank Williams, Mind Your Own Business (MGM 10461,1949)

#52 Fats Domino, I'm Walkin' (Imperial 5428, 1958)

#51 Johnny Ace, Never Let Me Go (Duke 132, 1954)

#50 Luke the Drifter, I've Been Down That Road Before (MGM 11017, 1951)

#49 Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two, Ballad of A Teenage Queen (Quality 1692, 1958)

#48 Nervous Norvus, Transfusion (Dot 15470, 1956)

Before Dead Mans Curve, Last Kiss, Tell Laura I Love Her and Warm Leatherette there was Transfusion!

#47 Big Bill Broonzy, Keep Your Hand On Your Heart (Vocalion ??, 1942)

#46 Louis Armstrong, All of Me (Okeh 3125,1932)

#45 Billy Ford and the Thunderbirds, The Monster (Quality 1855, 1958)

#44 The Midnighters (formerly The Royals with Hank Ballard), Sexy Ways (Federal 12184, 1954)

This was before Hank Ballard, writer of the Chubby Checkers career, The Twist, had his name in front of the bands. First black rock n roller, precedes Little Richard. This was banned in Boston.

#43 The Drifters, Honey Love (Quality 1076, 1954)

Early version of The Drifters with Clyde McPhatter (Lover Please) on vocals.

#42 Lizzie Miles, He May Be Your Man (But he Comes To See me Sometimes) (Okeh 8037, 1932)

We had this song on last years list, by Annette Hanshaw. Lizzie has the same kind of 'flapper' voice and affectations.

#41 Sonny Terry, Harmonica Blues, (Vocalion 05453, 1940)

Check out the reference to Blind Boy Fuller on the label.

#40 Ethel Waters, Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor, (Columbia 14125D, 1926)

#39 Buddy Holly, Everyday (Coral 61885, 1957)

#38 Luke the Drifter, Be Careful of Stones You May Throw (MGM 11309,1952)

#37 Clara Smith, Deep Blue Sea Blues (Columbia 14034D, 1924)

Out of South Carolina she worked in  NYC in the early '20's. No relation to Mamie or Bessie. Queen of the Moaners she recorded 122 songs for Columbia's race label and died too young at the age of 41 in 1935.

#36 Larry Williams, High School Dance (Specialty 608, 1957)

Now this guy had an interesting life. Long time friend of Little Richard, was instrumental in getting him to quit drugs, after pulling a gun on Richard over a drug debt. He penned some great hits, including my favorite Beatles tune, Bad Boy. Also on his list; Bony Maronie, Slow Down and Dizzy Miss Lizzy. Apparently Lennon was very fond of him. Couldn't escape the drugs though and was found dead, shot in the head in 1980.

#35 King Cole Trio, You Don't Learn That In School (Capitol 393, 1946)

#34 Tommy McClennan, Whiskey Headed Woman (Bluebird B-8373, 1939)

The real deal. Delta blues.

#33 Tommy Edwards, It's All In The Game (MGM 12688, 1958)

#32 Blind Johnny Davis, No Mail Today (MGM 10574, 1949)

BJD was born in Hattiesburg MS in 1913. His family moved to Chicago when he was 2...well before the Northern Migration of 1940 that followed International Harvesters exhibition of their cotton picking machine at the Hopson Plantation. No Mail Today was a minor hit for the man who spent much of his career providing boogie-woogie piano for the likes of Lonnie Johnson, Tampa Red and Big Bill Broonzy, with whom he toured Europe in 1952. He continued to perform into the 1980's.

#31 Fats Domino, Blue Monday (Imperial 5417, 1956)

Fats Domino's refurbished home in the lower 9th ward, New Orleans.

#30 Bessie Smith, Reckless Blues (Columbia 14056D, 1925) 

The original Columbia race label designation...the suffix D.

#29 Little Brother Montgomery, Louisiana Blues Pt 2 (Bluebird B6697, 1936)

#28 Elvis Presley, Baby Let's Play House (RCA Victor, 20-6383,1956)

#27 Monkey Joe, Taxes on MY Pole (Vocalion 04471,1938)

Jesse Coleman was most likely born in Mississippi, and though the year of birth is not known, he was probably born around 1906.[1] He worked locally in Jackson, Mississippi in juke joints in the 1930s, and recorded with Little Brother Montgomery in 1935 on Bluebird Records. He began using the moniker "Monkey Joe" in that decade. Late in the 1930s he worked as a session musician for Lester Melrose, and recorded under his own name with Charlie McCoy, Fred Williams, Big Bill Broonzy, and Buster Bennett as backing musicians. Coleman also appears to have worked under several other names, such as "Jack Newman" at Vocalion Records and "George Jefferson" as an accompanist on recordings for Lulu Scott. He also recorded on Okeh Records for a time.

#26 Tennessee Ernie Ford, Sixteen Tons (Capitol 3262, 1955)

Great voice. The booming baritone voice of Tennessee Ernie Ford was best known for this cover of Merle Travis' grim coal-mining song "Sixteen Tons," watered down by the syrupy strains of a Hollywood studio orchestra but retaining its innate seriousness thanks to the sheer power of Ford's singing.
The booming baritone voice of Tennessee Ernie Ford was best known for his 1955 cover of Merle Travis' grim coal-mining song "Sixteen Tons," watered down by the dulcet strains of a Hollywood studio orchestra but retaining its innate seriousness thanks to the sheer power of Ford's singing. - See more at:

The booming baritone voice of Tennessee Ernie Ford was best known for his 1955 cover of Merle Travis' grim coal-mining song "Sixteen Tons," watered down by the dulcet strains of a Hollywood studio orchestra but retaining its innate seriousness thanks to the sheer power of Ford's singing. - See more at:

#25 Son House, The Jinx Blues (Herwin 92401, 1942)

#24 Roy Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys, This World Can't Stand Long (Columbia 20454,1947)

#23 Ethel Waters, Stormy Weather (Columbia 36329,1933)

Born as the result of a rape, married to an abusive husband at 13 yrs old, working for $4.75 a week at the age of 15, she went on to star at the Cotton Club, where, according to her autobiography, she "sang 'Stormy Weather' from the depths of the private hell in which I was being crushed and suffocated."

#22 Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Why Do Fools Fall In Love? (Gee1802, 1956)

They peaked with their first record. Frankie died at age 26 in his grandma's bathroom from a heroin overdose. 

#21 Sonny Boy Williamson II, Ninety-Nine (Checker 883, 1957)

#20 T-Bone Walker, Mean Old World (Capitol Criterion 10033,1941)

One of Rolling Stone's Top 100 Guitarists of All Time. Born in Texas, learned his chops in LA and by 1942, with his second album release, Walker's new-found musical maturity and ability had advanced to the point that Rolling Stone claimed that he "shocked everyone" with his newly developed distinctive sound upon the release of his first single "Mean Old World", on the Capitol Records label.

#19 Sonny Boy Williamson II, I Don't Know (Checker 864,1957)

Sonny Boy II wall mural in Tutwiler, MS.

#18 Jerry Lee Lewis, Breathless (Quality 1710,1958)

#17 Conway Twitty, It's Only Make Believe (MGM 12677, 1958)

Straight out of the heart of the Mississippi Delta, Friar's Point, where Muddy Waters remembered seeing Robert Johnson playing outside Hirsberg's Drugstore...Country Music Hall of Famer, Conway Twitty.

#16 Sonny Boy Williamson I, Sonny Boys Cold Chills (RCA Victor 20-2184,1947)

Wicked song. I got coooollllllddddd chills, runnin' all over me. Buried in a small town in the hills of Eastern Mississippi, he was outshone by the bombastic harp player who stole his monicker, but he was the real deal. Mississippi blues.

Mississippi road marker for Sonny the First.

#15 Pearl Bailey, 15 years (and I'm Still Serving Time) (Columbia 3687, 1945)

 Love this song. So much joy. Highly recommended. While she's known mostly for her stage and TV work and reviled for her politics, before all that she could sing a song.

#14 Bessie Smith, You've Got To Give Me Some (Columbia 14427-D, 1929)

#13 Hank Williams and His Drifting Cowboys, Your Cheatin' Heart (MGM 11416,1952)

 Visited Hank's grave in Montgomery AL.

#12 Little Rita Faye, Wait A Little Bit Longer, (MGM 11505,1953)

This 9 year old has a powerful voice. As a grown up she's backed Neil Young.

#11 Bill Haley and His Comets, Shake, Rattle n\and Roll (Decca 29204,1954)

#10 Lead Belly, Rock Island Line (Capitol Criterion 10021, 1944)

#9 Memphis Minnie, Bumble Bee (Vocalion 1476, 1930)

Minnie's record is on the wall. Only a G sound rating but still a special disc of shellac.

 Have been by Minnie's grave outside Walls, MS.

#8 Little Richard, Long Tall Sally (Regency 501,1957)

Is that some powerful stuff, or what?

#7 Rosetta Howard, If You're A Viper (Brunswick 03467,1937)

This one's for Mary Jane. A lesser know artist, most of her career was spent in Chicago. This is a great song more swing than blues but it'll please you.

#6 Billie Holiday, Strange Fruit (Commodore 526,1939)

Certainly wish I had a better copy of this record. For now it's a place-holder.

#5 Johnny Cash, I Walk The Line (Quality 1492, 1956)

Quality records in Canada released the SUN catalogue.

#4 Elvis Presley, All Shook Up (RCA Victor 1956)

Having us a bit of a run on SUN recording artists, not done yet.

#3 Jerry Lee Lewis, Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On (Quality 1621, 1957)

Straight outa Memphis. Sounds terrific.

#2 Son House, The Pony Blues (Herwin 92401, 1942)

The second part of the Holy Trinity of Blues. Got my RJ, still looking out for a Charley Patton record. This is a vinyl 78, released in the early '80's during some retro phase. It captures Son House's recording in the '40's for the Library.

#1 Sonny Boy Williamson II, Fattenin' Frogs For Snakes (Checker 864,1957)

Sonny Boy has vaulted to the top of my playlist this year. Robert Johnson is still the King but this guy has a ton of great songs. On the day I retire I will be playing this song in my head.

Here's a picture I took of Alec Miller's grave outside Tutwiler MS

Now let's recap.
While there may have been songs on this list you checked out because you were familiar with the artist or their place in The Tower of Song, I've got some recommendations in case you skipped by them.

Maggie Jones Good Time Flat Blues...defines an era and a genre.

Pearl Bailey and Hot Lips Page, Baby It's Cold Outside...great chemistry.

Tommy McClennan, Whiskey Headed blues blues.

T-Bone Walker, Mean Old World...the guitar will make you cry.

Sonny Boy Williamson I, Sonny Boys Cold Chills...more authentic delta blues blues.

Pearl Bailey, 15 Years (and I'm Still Serving Time)...a heartwarming love song.

Rosetta Howard, If You're A Viper...stoner music for a distant generation of libertines.

Top 100 78 RPM's of 2013 in case you missed it.