I got an e-mail from Eddie Gordetsky the other day. He said something that really struck me.
He wrote– “having everything available at your fingertips is the same as having nothing”, of course he was talking about music and record collecting and the sense that we’ve lost the mystery of it all. There are very few mysteries left out there. I have met and broke bread with Hasil Adkins, picked Andre Williams up off the floor, snorted dope with Esquerita, bar-b-q’d with Ronnie Dawson, carried Cordell Jackson’s amp, shook the hand of T. Valentine, and so many others whose very existence seemed so unlikely a few short decades ago.
When I started record collecting you literally had to dig through garbage dumpsters to find an Elmore James 45 (as I did once on Broadway at Waverly Place, a whole dumpster full of Fire/Fury/Enjoy 45’s….those were the days). Now you can hit a button and have three box sets containing every second of music he ever recorded delivered to your door in 48 hours. I’m not sure that’s a good thing, and I can’t explain why. Actually I could, but it doesn’t really matter.
There are a few real mystery discs left out there, and one of them is this one, one of my very favorites– Blowin’ Through Yokahama Part I b/w Blowin Through Yokahama Part II
on the Munro label, of Saginaw, Michigan. Year unknown, but I’d say around ’62-3.
The song itself, a version of Bo Diddley’s Hush Your Mouth which was part of so many bands repertoire around that time (I always loved Dick Dale’s version which he called Surfin’ Drums)
revved up and given a quasi-exotica treatment, along the lines of another favorite (and mysterious) disc– Ward Darby & the Raves– Safari (Petite) mixed with the sort of high energy guitar workouts that Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks’ where adding to their Bo Diddley covers around the same time (here’s their version of Who Do You Love with a young Robbie Robertson
shrieking out the blues, he’d go on to learn the value of publishing copyrights at Albert Goldman’s elbow and virtually steal the Band’s entire catalog from the guys he describes in the Last Waltz as his “brothers”, for more on this check out Levon Helm’s hysterical book This Wheel’s On Fire, William Morrow & Co. 1993).
The Medallions you say? Anyone with the slightest interest in Rhythm and Blues or early Rock’n’Roll has heard of the Medallions. They even had a hit, the greaseball classic– The Letter
with it’s incredible spoken part (“with sweet words of pismotology and the pupituits of love….”).
Released on Dootsie Williams L.A. based Dootone in ’58 in never charted but was a strong seller and can still be heard on L.A. radio stations that cater to Low Riders. They made other great records too– like the flip of the Letter– Buick ’59, Behind The Door, Edna, My Pretty Baby (with Johnny “Two Voice” Morrisette taking over the lead vocal from Vernon Greene), Rocket Ship, and Speedin’ amongst them. For the easily confused here’s one of Vernon Greene’s pre-Medallions records, another of my all time favorites, recorded with the Phantoms on Specialty in ’55– Sweet Breeze, man that one is unearthly. Well, to my ears there’s no way the group that recorded Blowin’ Through Yokahama is the same as the one that recorded The Letter.
In fact, I think the Medallions on Munro where white. Maybe they still are. When I helped compile an early black rock’n’roll compilation for the Atomic Passion label (called oddly enough Blowin’ Through Yokahma, issued only on shiny black vinyl, you can buy it from the good folks at Norton Records) it was reviewed in several magazines, including Blues & Rhythm: The Gospel Truth (maybe the best music mag left, of course it has no longer has a U.S. distributor) who all identified the group as being the west coast Medallions, but one careful listen will easily refute such mis-information.
I know of no other discs on the Murno label, it’s not even listed in Bob McGrath’s incredible four volume discography The R&B Indies (Eyeball Productions, 2006), one of the greatest works of musical scholarship in the known world. If anyone out there is in the Saginaw, Michigan area drive by 608 N. Oakley and tell me what’s there now. Maybe there’s a pile of Munro 45’s somewhere on the premises. I’m not sure I’ve even seen another copy of this disc, which I picked up at a used record store in Pittsburgh in the late 80’s. Anyone out there ever seen one?
Anyone know anything about a Medallions from Saginaw? Did they make any other records?