And if that diamond ring don’t shine: Incredibly Strange Bo Diddley cover…


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This came in a collection of 45s I recently picked up. If ever there was a “Golden Turkey”, it is this. An instant classic.

“Bo Diddley” is a rhythm and blues and rock and roll song first recorded and sung by Bo Diddley at the Universal Recording Studio in Chicago and released on the Chess Records subsidiary, Checker Records in 1955. It became an immediate hit single that stayed on the R&B charts for a total of 18 weeks, 2 of those weeks at #1, and seven more weeks than its flipside (the B-side, “I’m a Man”). It was the first recording to introduce African rhythms into rock and roll directly by using the patted juba beat. It was Bo Diddley’s first recording and his first hit single. The song is featured on many of Bo Diddley’s compilation albums including His Best.

In 2012 the A and B-side pair were added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry list of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” American sound recordings.

The song is rhythmically similar to hambone, a technique of dancing and slapping various parts of the body to create a rhythm and song. It is lyrically similar to the traditional lullaby “Hush Little Baby”. When Bo Diddley started playing with it, his electric guitar amplified the patted juba with his backup musicians on maracas and drums unifying the rhythm. This combination of rock and roll, African rhythms and sactified guitar chord shouts was a true innovation and is often called a Bo Diddley Beat.

He first titled his version “Uncle John” but before he recorded it, he changed the title to his own nickname Bo Diddly, with an “e” added to the song’s title and his professional name by one of the Chess brothers.

Other Cover Versions:

.Buddy Holly: Single by Buddy Holly from the album Reminiscing
B-side “It’s Not My Fault” Released 1963. Recorded 1956 and 1962 at Norman Petty Recording Studios in Clovis, New Mexico. Buddy Holly recorded the song in 1956, but it was not released until the LP Reminiscing in 1963 and later became a single release. Buddy Holly on vocals/guitar and Jerry Allison on drums recorded “Bo Diddley” at one of their earliest sessions with producer/engineer Norman Petty at his recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico sometime in 1956. In 1962 Norman Petty overdubbed the demo of “Bo Diddley”, as well as others, with the Fireballs.

.The Shadows did a (vocal) cover version on the album Out of the Shadows (1962).

.It was also covered by The Animals in 1964.

.Bob Seger performed the song in a medley with Who Do You Love?, another Bo Diddley song, under the title “Bo Diddley.” The original studio recording, backed by Teegarden & Van Winkle, opens Seger’s 1972 album Smokin’ O.P.’s, and a live version with the Silver Bullet Band appears on his 1976 live album, Live Bullet.

.An energetic version by Janis Joplin is available on the 1999 box set Box of Pearls.

.More recently, steel guitar great Robert Randolph has covered the song at some of his live shows.

.The song was performed by a supergroup consisting of Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters and Little Walter on Super Blues in 1967.

.The Grateful Dead performed it with Bo Diddley himself at the Academy of Music in New York City, March 25, 1972. They went on to perform it by themselves, May 23, 1972 at the Strand Lyceum in London, England, the third to last show in their 1972 European tour. See the officially released Steppin’ Out with the Grateful Dead.

And in case you have never heard the original, here it is, played out on youtube on an original 78 RPM from 1955 on the Chess Records subsidiary, Checker Records.

Big Ten Inch: A Letter To Elvis Presley

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Using samples in pop music is not something that appeared with the emergence of digital technology. Pop music in the 1950’s witnessed DJs and studio wizards of the time creating what became known as “Break-In” records, where snippets of well know pop songs were dropped into recited narratives to add a tongue-in cheek, ironic element to the telling of the story. Made famous first by Dickie Goodman and the famous “Flying Saucer” records, this tape-splicing tehnology spawned a rush of similar break-in records. The same tape-cutup technology was used to create Goodman’s hit “Mr. Jaws” in the mid-1970s.

Of course, established publishing houses were furious, and coyright infringement debates began flying. The more controversy, the more records were made. Sound familiar? In an attempt to limit the production of new “break-in” records, the publishing houses demanded an increase from the standard two-cent royalty for each song used, quadrupling it to eight cents per song from each of the new “break-in” discs.

One of the rarest and most and strangest of these break-ins is “Dear Elvis”, told by a mysterious teenager named Audrey. This ‘madrigal with mimicry’, which contains snippets from Elvis Presley’s ‘Baby let’s play house’, ‘Milkcow blues boogie’ and ‘I don’t care if the sun don’t shine’, peaked at #87 on the Billboard hot 100 on September 22, 1956. Variety reported that Plus Records, who pressed 53,955 copies of this ‘break-in’ record, sold only 30,000 copies before the increased royalty rate was assessed. As part of a settlement agreement, Plus Records turned over the master of ‘Dear Elvis’ to the publishing houses, who promptly destroyed it. Regarding the composer credits, ‘C B Samuel’ is believed to be a pseudonym for the Plus Record label’s owner Samuel Kaufman.

The best part of this is the last 30 seconds…

Big Ten Inch: Bobby Sue and the Freeloaders

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I originally bought this record for its A side, “It Takes A Lot of Love”, which features one of the best vocal groups ever, The Empires, whose “Corn Whiskey” single rocks like nobody’s business. Morty Shad was the owner of New York City’s Harlem label. The Empires were available in the studio, because they were recording their own “Magic Mirror”/”Make Me Or Break Me” released in 1955 on Harlem 2333, Morty recruited them for back up vocals on “It Takes A Lot of Love” as well as another blues rocker, “Ragged and Hungry” on Harlem 2334, backing an artist called Lightning Junior – whose real identity was none other than Champion Jack Dupree.

Here is a great blues number, with no backing vocal group, with Bobby Sue lamenting her empty-handed mailman. Released in 1955, and only available in this format. Fabulous.

Big Ten Inch: Dorothy Logan

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Some fine Chicago post-war blues tonight on Jukebox Heart. In the Big Ten Inch category, we take an old musty 78 RPM slab out of the stacks and play it for you. Click on the arrow above to hear it.

The story of this song begins in early 1950’s Chicago with a vocal group called the Gems. The Gems began around 1952, in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois. The five neighborhood friends, in their early twenties, were: Ray Pettis (tenor lead), Bobby Pee Wee Robinson (first tenor and guitar), David “Moose” Taylor (second tenor), Wilson James (baritone and bass), and Rip Reed (bass).

After a couple of years of practice, they met up with Paul King, one of the owners of Drexel records (at 7319 South Vernon Street). Another partner was Les Caldwell, but there seemed to be a third party, hidden in the shadows. Even the company itself was shadowy. The Gems never saw the company’s headquarters, because there never really was one; the address seems to have been that of Paul King. They rehearsed at a friend’s house and recorded at Universal Recording Studios, legendary for producing the earliest recordings of the Moonglows and Flamingos.

Considering that Drexel was a small label, it’s difficult to tell if songs were recorded at the same session based on the master numbers. Their first four songs have consecutive numbers, so it’s possible that they were recorded on the same day. At any rate, the tunes were: ‘Deed I Do,’ ‘You’re Tired Of Love,’ ‘Talk About The Weather,’ and ‘Ol’ Man River.’ All four were led by Ray Pettis.

There was a blurb in the trades, dated June 5, 1954 announcing the formation of Drexel. Of course, in true music business style, they also announced that two releases were already on the market. President Paul King was described as a “Chicago businessman” and Les Caldwell (general manager and head of A&R) was ‘a former salesman for King’, the well established blues and R&B label.

On this later release, the Gems backed up Dorothy Logan on a throaty version of ‘Since I Fell For You,’ the A Side of this record, competing with the Harptones version [a very weak competitor…] on New York’s Bruce Records imprint. This old standard penned by Buddy Johnson would be immortalized in the sixties by Lenny Welch, still in rotation today on many EZ listening stations. On this sexy blues track presented here, Dorothy Logan warns of the perils of bringing your sexy stud hard-workin backwoods boyfriend into the city of slick-chicks and stud-stealing good-for-nothing floozies. It’s this song that should have been the A Side!

The Gems themselves were a spectacular group who remained hopelessly obscure because Drexel, like so many currently sought after labels, totally sucked at promoting their records and artists. It wasn’t until the first rock n roll revival of the early sixties that collectors really picked up on this stuff. As such, the Drexel releases are exceedingly rare.

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Big Ten Inch: The Real Hound Dog

Named after the famous song by BullMoose Jackson, Big Ten Inch is the category where we pull a great old dusty shellac 78 RPM record from the vault and present it here on Jukebox Heart. This time, it’s the original version of Hound Dog, in all its nasty glory. Can you imagine the mess in CBS studios if Elvis sung *these* lyrics in front of all those teenage girls???

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Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton only notched one national hit in her lifetime, but it was a true monster. ‘Hound Dog’ held down the top slot on Billboard’s R&B charts for seven long weeks in 1953. Alas, Elvis Presley’s rocking 1956 cover was even bigger, effectively obscuring Thornton’s chief claim to immortality.

That’s a damned shame, because Thornton’s menacing growl was indeed something special. The hefty belter first opened her pipes in church but soon embraced the blues. She toured with Sammy Green’s Hot Harlem Revue during the 1940s. Thornton was ensconced on the Houston circuit when Peacock Records boss Don Robey signed her in 1951. She debuted on Peacock with ‘Partnership Blues’ that year, backed by trumpeter Joe Scott’s band.

But it was her third Peacock date with Johnny Otis’s band that proved the winner. With Pete Lewis laying down some truly nasty guitar behind her, Big Mama shouted ‘Hound Dog,’ a tune whose authorship remains a bone of contention to this day (both Otis and the team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller claim responsibility) and soon hit the road a star.

Many thanks to Brad Rogowski for pointing me to the following Youtube clip:

But it was an isolated incident. Though Thornton cut some fine Peacock follow-ups — ‘I Smell a Rat,’ ‘Stop Hoppin’ on Me,’ ‘The Fish,’ ‘Just like a Dog’ — through 1957, she never again reached the hit parade. Even Elvis was apparently unaware of her; he was handed ‘Hound Dog’ by Freddie Bell, a Vegas lounge rocker. Early-’60s 45s for Irma, Bay-Tone, Kent, and Sotoplay did little to revive her sagging fortunes, but a series of dates for Arhoolie that included her first vinyl rendition of ‘Ball and Chain’ in 1968 and two albums for Mercury in 1969-70 put her back in circulation (Janis Joplin’s overwrought but well-intentioned cover of ‘Ball and Chain’ didn’t hurt either). Along with her imposing vocals, Thornton began to emphasize her harmonica skills during the 1960s.

Thornton was a tough cookie. She dressed like a man and took no guff from anyone, even as the pounds fell off her once-ample frame and she became downright scrawny during the last years of her life. Medical personnel found her lifeless body in an L.A. rooming house in 1984.

Jukebox Heart has a Big Ten Inch…

…Record of your favorite blues.

Today, another new category launched in Jukebox Heart. These new categories are intended to add some depth to the already diverse music presented and discussed here in Jukebox Heart, and the upcoming months will see a burst of new categories introduced as I continue to spin out my monthly signature hour-plus continuous mix podcasts. But the two most recent categories, this and the recent Lost 45s, have been specifically conceived to celebrate the Jukebox in all its glory. Whereas the 45 RPM record appeared at the dawn of the Atomic Age and the early jukeboxes which housed them exploited the streamlined modern designs, this category, Big Ten Inch, features the 78 RPM disc, the large ten-inch diameter unwieldy fragile discs that preceded the 45 as the vehicle for the single record. These records have received a lot of attention in recent years and have come back into fashion among collectors now that high-fidelity turntables are available equipped with the 78 RPM speed. Back in the early 70s, when I had my first job in a doo-wop collector’s record shop in NYC, 78s were largely viewed as disposable and uncollectable, and my boss elected to pay me for my time with box loads of these records rather than the hourly wage I was supposed to be getting. For him it was a coup. He got to clear out his warehouse of “junk” and it cost him virtually nothing to pay me to clean it out for him. And I would happily lug as many as I could carry on the bus home. I’ve continued o collect these records ever since.

“Big Ten Inch” is the fabulous innuendo taken from Bullmoose Jackson’s famous record “Big Ten Inch Record”, covered later by Aerosmith. Racy lyrics of the day could have only been published by an independent label:

Got me the strangest woman
believe me this trick’s no cinch
but I really get her going
when I whip out my big 10 inch

Record of a band that plays the blues
well a band that plays its blues
she just love my big 10 inch
record of her favorite blues…

…and it continues from there. Delicious. I don’t have a copy of this wonderful record on 78, otherwise it would have been most fitting to kick off with that. But when I do obtain one, it will certainly make an appearance.

So we’ll start this off with one of my favorite records ever, a gorgeous Chicago Ballad from 1955 by The Orchids:

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As I said, this is one of my favorite records of all time, on the incredibly rare Parrot label out of Chicago, 1955. Parrot and Blue Lake were seminal blues and R&B labels at the time, owned by Al Benson. Many fine artists got their start or spent the early parts of their careers on this label. Most of the masters were sold to the Chess brothers, and many of the acts went over to chess as well when Parrot folded. For an exhaustive history and discography of Parrot, one of the most important labels in history, go here.

The Orchids, in the eight titles they cut for Parrot, have to rate as one of the best doowop groups to come out of Chicago. All of them were from the South Side. Gilbert Warren was the principal lead and composer; bass Buford Wright wrote and sang lead with the group; second tenor Robert C. Nesbary also played piano for the group. Apparently there was just one more, recalled by some as ‘Charles,’ because in September, 1955, the group appeared as the Four Orchids on a Benson-sponsored packaged show at the Regal Theater with LaVern Baker, the Spaniels, the Four Fellows, J. B. Lenoir, Lou Mac, and Buddy and Ella Johnson. The previous spring, the Orchids put down two amazing tracks in ‘You’re Everything to Me’, presented here, and ‘Newly Wed,’ the flipside, which is more rock ‘n’ roll-oriented.The sax break on this song is one of the best. The band, “Al Smith Group”, not credited on the record, consisted of Red Holloway on tenor sax, probably Norman Simmons at the piano, Lefty Bates on guitar, Quinn Wilson on bass, and Vernel Fournier on drums.

Jukeboxheart 005: A Good Shellackin'

Jukebox Heart 005:
A Good Shellackin’
72.98 MB | 1:17:50

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This week’s Jukebox Heart podcast is all about the blues. Postwar blues and R&B specifically,and all presented in the period media format of choice: the 10″ 78RPM shellac disc. Each track is culled from a record from my own personal stash of these priceless wonders, 27 of them in all. It’s all about the surface noise, baby. Actually, I’ve cheated a little; these 78’s have been played back on my modern turntables, equipped with 78 RPM, so the sound in some cases rivals vinyl records.

Below are some thumbnail images of the labels on these priceless records. Right click on any of them for a larger image.

The playlist is found after the cut.

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