James Luther Dickinson 2

A Young Jim Dickinson (is this an Eggelston photo?)

Video for Down In Mississippi

Muscle Shoals, 1969, listening to the playback of Wild Horses, Dickinson is seated to Keith’s left on the couch.

As an addendum to Aug. 18th’s post concerning the death of Jim Dickinson, here is the JD & the Hoods version of Rumble issued by the Memphis based Barbarian Records in 1980. It’s an amazing record, there’s all sorts of stuff buried in the mix, and it takes the swagger of Link Wray’s original version and adds a real Memphis feel to it.
It was already rare when I made my first visit to Memphis in 1981 and I’ve never been able to find a copy. This version was dubbed by Jim’s son Luther of the North Mississippi All-Stars. The flip is a version of the old Freddie Slack/Ella Mae Morse tune House Of Blue lights which I’ve never heard. Barbarian also issued a Dickinson produced 45 by pro-wrestler Jerry Lawler, best known for giving Andy Kaufman a real life beating on the David Letterman Show. The Lawler record is a cover of the Jesters’ Cadillac Man (Dickinson sang and played piano on the original Sun version).
A full Jim Dickinson discography can be found here. He also has a new CD out on the Memphis International label (his third) called Dinosaurs Run In Circles, which I haven’t heard yet but am expecting in the mail any day. His other two MI discs– Jungle Jim and the Voodoo Tiger (2006)
and Killers From Space (2007) are both excellent as is the 2002 Artemis release Free Beer Tomorrow which I think is still in print, or at least easy to find. Anyway,thanks to Luther Dickinson for the download of Rumble, it may be the only way you’ll ever hear it.
MORE RIP’S: John Carter, lead singer of the Dells (and also the original lead singer of the Flamingos, on their early Chance and Vee Jay sides) passed away last week. Ellie Greenwhich, songwriter (usually with Jeff Barry) whose classics include Be My Baby, Leader Of The Pack, Hank Panky, and a thousand other classics went over the weekend.

Gillian’s Found Photo #23

This week the Fang comes up with a photo from a collection of Polaroids taken at Stevensville Prison, which I think is in Maryland. Polaroids are popular in prisons, getting a good photo of yourself with a big time shot caller can be just the thing to let others know just who they’re dealing with. These two? Just some righteous, meth tweakin’, scooter ridin’,
bad ass white folk, doin’ their time. Either that or Three Dog Night got themselves locked up.
Outlaw pride indeed!

Why Blues Singers Should Be Named After Presidents….

I don’t have anything to say today, except blues singers were better when they named ’em after presidents— as seen above, we have Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield)
and Howlin’ Wolf (Chester Arthur Burnett). If you plan on raising a blues singer, here’s a good formula for naming the little bugger— part one: a physical deformity or
handicap, part two: something to eat, part three: the name of a president. For example, Bowlegged Potato Carter. Or how about Ugly Pumpkin Adams. Anyway, the above clips are from the footage D.A. Pennebaker shot at the Newport Jazz Festival, I think the Muddy clip was ’62 and the Wolf was shot in ’66, but don’t quote me on that, I’m too lazy to look ’em up. Just enjoy ’em…..

Larry Knechtel Dies

Larry Knetchal 1940-2009

Kip Tyler- Will His Story Ever Be Told?

Studio keyboard player and bassist Larry Knetchal died of a heart attack last week. Knechtel was a member of LA’s session players loosely known as the Wrecking Crew as well as a former member of Duane Eddy’s Rebels and Kip Tyler and the Flips. He was born in Bell Garden, California in 1940. He also played on the Elvis ’68 Comback (Singer Special) TV Show, played organ on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, played bass on the first Doors and Byrds albums (that’s him on Mr. Tamborine Man). As the original members of the Flips die off (sax player Steve Douglas died in recent years)a great story is rapidly being lost to time, that is the story of Kip Tyler & the Flips. Still living members include Sandy Nelson, Jim Horn, Kip Tyler, Mike Bermani, Mike Deasy and Jimmy Troxel. Anyone out there got Kip’s phone #?

Bobby Lee Trammell

How come no one makes a scanner that fits a 12 x 12 LP?

Bobby Lee Trammell rocks out.

Bobby Lee Trammel, 1958.

Bobby Lee Trammell (b. Jan. 31, 1934) was crazy. Born in the country outside of Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a pair of cotton farmers (he father Wiley played fiddle, his mom Mae played organ in church, his little sister played on the linoleum) he had a typical upbringing of singing in church and listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio. The young Trammell had aspirations as a country singer, until one day, in 1956, a package tour hit Jonesboro, the headliners were Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, and the ever affable Perkins allowed young Bobby to join his band onstage for a song, Perkins even recommended that Trammell try his luck in Memphis and talk to Sam Phillips. This Bobby Trammell did, only to be told to come back in a few weeks when Sam wasn’t so busy. Not exactly the patient sort, Trammell headed for California where he landed in Long Beach and took a job in the Ford plant. He also found a gig singing at the Jubilee Ballroom in Baldwin Park. He attracted enough attention to get a record deal with the tiny Fabor label, run by Fabor Robinson. His first single– Shirley Lee b/w I Sure Do Love You Baby was recorded using Bob Luman’s group– the Shadows as his backing band. The Shadows featured a young guitarist named James Burton who would soon leave Luman for the greener (as in money) pastures of Ricky Nelson’s band (with whom he would re-cut Shirley Lee with Ricky Nelson on his second LP). Shirley Lee was a minor, regional hit. Fabor leased the master to ABC-Paramount, and it was off to the races for Bobby Lee Trammell. Unfortunately he placed out of the money.

In March of ’58 Trammell cut his second single, this time Robinson issued it first on Fabor then re-issued it on the Radio subsidiary shortly after. Both sides are excellent–You Mostest Girl b/w Uh Oh, the a side being the more rocking of the two. So far, so good, and soon Bobby Lee Trammell was booked on the Louisiana Hayride, the regional radio show broadcast from Shreveport, Louisiana, where Elvis got his start. Unfortunately the Hayride hated him, booking agent Tillman Franks called him “downright vulgar” and “ten times worse than Elvis”. His stint with the Hayride was cut short. When Farbor Robinson sold Trammell’s contact to the Warrior label– his next disc– Woe Is Me b/w Open Up Your Heart was issued in 1959, rockabilly was not longer tearing up the charts back then but Trammell was not the type to give up easy. He returned to Arkansas and began recording for Terry Gordon’s small group of label, highlights include Hi Ho Silver b/w Been A Walking (Vaden) in 1960, and a re-recorded version of You Mostest Girl that appeared on Skyla.
1961 saw two singles on the Alley label– Arkansas Twist b/w It’s All Your Fault
and Come On Baby b/w I Tried Not To Cry. The a side was a twist version of Arkansas Stomp, the b-side a Jimmy Reed style rocker. The second single featured a Chuck Berry type rocker on the top deck and a “crying” ballad (i.e., Bobby breaks down in sobs at the end) on the flip. Neither met which much success, even when Bobby took to climbing the tower of the radio stations that refused to play his records. Atlanta even issued an LP–Arkansas Twist.
At one point in Arkansas he destroyed Jerry Lee Lewis’ piano which resulted in being black balled from the southern rock’n’roll touring circuit.
He kept cutting records, for smaller and smaller labels. 1962 saw a good one called – Sally Twist b/w Carolyn on Atlanta.
Rockabilly was way past its heyday but Trammel kept plugging, donning a Beatle wig he took to calling himself “the first American Beatle”. Desperate for a hit, he cut some truly strange and wonderful discs– Bobby Needs Love from the Arkansas Twist LP is an excellent What’d I Say style rocker. Toolie Froolie from ’66 on the Hot label is a whacked out Surfin’ Bird take off. The crazed New Dance In France was issued twice in 1966- first on Atlanta, then on Sims, both versions sunk without a trace, but a great record it is.
Bobby Lee Trammell kept plugging away, he cut country discs, including a remake of You Mostest Girl, then moved into an even sleazier branch of show business when he ran for and won a seat in the Arkansas State Senate. He developed a following in Europe among Teddy Boys and collectors and in the 80’s he toured Europe where, ever the excitable performer he broke his wrist jumping on the piano (and missing). Back in the Arkansas, he served in the State Senate until 2002. At this point he’d given up singing, afraid it would ruin his career in politics.
He passed away on Feb. 20. 2008, in Jonesboro, his hometown.

James Luther Dickinson

James Luther (“Jim”) Dickinson died last Saturday (Aug. 15) of a heart attack. His loss to the world of rock’n’roll cannot be understated. He was one of a kind. The good kind.

He was born in the countryside outside of Memphis where he moved as a tyke. His father was a repair man and once he followed his father into a studio where Howlin‘ Wolf was doing a radio broadcast. Needless to say, this was a life changing moment. He played piano in dozens of teenage bands, put in a season at Baylor college then returned to Memphis to work as a studio musicians for Bill “Raunchy” Justis, for whom he cut his first single, a quasi- jug band thing called You Do It All The Time.
He sang on the Jesters’ Sun classic– Cadillac Man b/w My Babe the last good Sun 45 (even though he wasn’t even in the band). Another early killer 45 appeared on the Southtown label– issued as by Jim Dickinson & the Katmandu Quartet, one side was a an organ driven frat party raver– Monkey Man, the flip,a blues shuffle called Shake ‘Em On Down (1966). A good start in the biz if there ever was one, he was batting 1000%.
In Memphis he worked as session piano player, put together various bands, got into production, and ended up as a member of the Dixie Flyers, the rhythm section put together by Jerry Wexler to replace the Muscle Shoals players whom he’d had a falling out with. With the Flyers, relocated to Miami, he played with Aretha (Spirit In The Dark), Wilson Pickett, Duane Allman, even put in an appearance on the FlaminGroovies Teenage Head (Kamu Sutra), all this as well as recording a killer solo LP– Dixie Fried (Atlantic, 1970) from which Wine, and Louise, are highlights (I’d post the whole LP but it seems to get pulled down whenever it’s posted). Another great record is Flash and the Memphis Casuals, a great garage rocker that Dickinson appeared on in ‘ 67— Uptight Tonight.
In the 70’s he formed a group called Mudboy & the Nuetrons, who made three great LP-‘s– Known Felons In Drag (New Rose, 1986), Negro Streets At Dawn (New Rose, 1993) and They Walk Among Us (New Rose 1995). My favorite cuts are Codine, I Can’t Feel At Home Anymore, Power To The People, I’ve Got A Secret (Shake Sugaree). The other band members included Lee Baker, Sid Selvidge, and Jimmy Crosswaite. All three LP’s are worth hunting down.
Dickinson stayed busy as a producer– working with the Replacements, Mudhoney, Big Star, the Panther Burns and his sons’ band– the North Mississippi All Stars.
Another great record Jim Dickinson steals the show on is the Johnny Burnette Trio re-union LP, issued in the early 80’s on Paul Burlison’s Rockabilly label (the Burnettes were all ready dead), but Dickinson appears with Burlison, Eddie Bond, James Van Eaton, Johnny Black and others, and his two tracks– Rooster Blues and Ubangi Stomp are killers. He also cut a one off backed by the Cramps which appeared on a Big Big (U.K.) sampler, where he tears through Red Headed Woman like there’s no tomorrow.
He played piano in Ry Cooder’s band (and on the Stones’ Wild Horses, Ian Stewart couldn’t play in minor keys)
As a producer he produced the best Alex Chilton LP’s (Like Flies On Sherbett), Big Star (Sister Lovers), not to mention hits by the Replacements and Mudhoney. After nearly thirty years since Dixie Fried he returned to the studio to record two excellent LP’s
Free Beer Tomorrow and Jungle Jim and the Voodoo Tiger (both Memphis International)
As a bar owner one of my proudest moments was having Jim Dickinson appear at the Lakeside Lounge with a band that featured my partner Eric “Roscoe” Ambel on guitar.
One of the best shows I ever saw, I wish I had a tape. I think it was his New York debut (I can’t remember the year, 2003?), Oddly enough his sons the North Mississippi All-Stars made their NYC debut at the Lakeside also.
Dickinson also did some field recording around Memphis, three volumes of these sounds– Beale St Saturday Night (Memphis Development Foundation) for years was available only at the drug store on Beale St., two volumes of Delta Experimental Projects Compilation: Down Home (New Rose) later appeared in the 80’s and are well worth hunting down. Another killer 45 issued in ’77 on the Barbarian label under the guise of JD & the Hoods– Rumble is one I’ve been looking for for ages, anyone got one to sell or trade?
Dickinson was something of a musical philosopher, see the interview above. He never minced words. On Chuck Levall, the Stone long time piano player– “that cocktail lounge playing mother fucker….”. He never got to produced Dylan or the Stones, the two acts that needed him most.
Such is life. I suggest you get yourself a copy of Dixie Fried (Atlantic), and Known Felons In Drag (New Rose), sit back and and enjoy what was one of America’s last great rock’n’roll characters.
We won’t see the likes of him again.

Les Paul

Les Paul died yesterday, age 94. It seems for as long as I remember he held down a Monday night gig someplace in NYC, I saw him many times, he was always great. I love his old Capitol records with Mary Ford, they sound like they were recorded in outer space. I thought as a tribute I’d thrown in a couple of long excerpts from their 50’s radios show (here and here),
they’re quite amusing. I’m sure there’ll be obits in every paper and magazine in America, I don’t need to go into his history here, but take a listen to those airchecks, they’re a hoot.

Gillian’s Found Photo #22

It’s July ’57 and according to the scribble on the back of this photo it’s Elvis Presley night at the Variety Show at Kingsway, so says David, whoever that is. Can anyone identify the hot boppin’ hepcat in the white bucks? Did he cut any records? There’s something familiar looking about this guy. The piano player seems lost, is he about to sit down and start playing? Can the audience hear the unamplified guitars? Who knows, but the Fang surely came up with a good photo this week, no?

It’s A Nugget If You Dug It….

I’ve always loved the Music Machine’s Talk Talk, dig those get ups!

From the TAMI Show, the Barbarians featuring Moulty.

The Count Five’s Psychotic Reaction- When this came out we thought it was a new Yardbirds record….

The Preachers version of Who Do You Love, I heard this on the radio exactly once.

The 13th Floor Elevators’ You’re Gonna Miss Me, a huge hit where I grew up in S. Florida.

In 1972 Lenny Kaye compiled the Nuggets compilation for Elecktra Records, it was subtitled “Artifacts from the first psychedelic era”, but the music was soon dubbed punk rock, probably by Greg Shaw, although Dave Marsh seems to think it’s important for the world to know that he coined the term. Actually the first use of “punk” in music writing was by Nick Tosches who described Ed Sanders of the Fugs as having a “punk muse”. No matter, the sound of these one-hit, teenage American bands was soon changed from punk rock to garage rock to distinguish it from the safety pin through the face variety of 70’s punk. What I find so interesting is Lenny Kaye’s vision in excavating the past. The music was only six years old (using 1966 as the banner year for American garage), yet Kaye understood it’s importance at a time when most rock writers were busy analysing Bob Dylan’s lyrics (or digging through his trash), or heralding the coming revolution, which was to be led by the Jefferson Airplane or Abbie Hoffman or whom ever. Only two of the above tracks made it onto Nuggets (Talk Talk was short listed but was unavailable due to legal problems, the Barbarians were represented by the song Moulty, not their best record, but surely a first class “artifact”). The Preachers track appeared on the first Pebbles album (Greg Shaw’s bootleg continuation of the Nuggets concept). There was something in the air, for that same year, Mark Shipper released the first Sonics re-issue Explosive (Buckshot), sold through an ad in Who Put The Bomp fanzine. This was followed by the aforementioned Pebbles series which kicked off in 1976 and opened a floodgate. Soon every collector of garage 45’s had their own compilation album on the market. My favorites: Hipsville 29 B.C., three volumes (Kramden), What A Way To Die (Satan), Open Up Yer Door (Frog Death) Off The Wall, two volumes, (Wreckord Wracked) The Chosen Few, two volumes (A-Go Go) and of course Back From The Grave nine volumes (Crypt), which was legally done unlike the others which were bootlegs. All of these can be downloaded from various blogs, try looking via Chewbone or Captain’s Crawl (new URL). Soon there would be similar comps by every style, region, and/or label configuration possible, sometimes it seems like there were more comps than their were original 45’s. The Droogs issued their first 45– He’s Waitin’ b/w Light Bulb Blues (Plug’n’Socket), the first “new” group to revive the sound of ’66. By the mid-70’s more bands appeared like the Fleshtones, DMZ and the Chesterfield Kings to play much in the style of these (not very) old records. This caused much confusion as to what “punk” was or should be. I bring this up because the world seemed so much bigger and more mysterious back then, when everything hadn’t been re-issued. The fans themselves were able to grasp control of the music for the first time ever. It really did change history.
Garage rock is a genuine marketing term nowadays, and nothing seems very special at all. In fact garge rock had little to do with Lenny’s original concept for Nuggets, he wanted each new volume to cover a different musical style (ie–a girl group Nuggets, a surf Nuggets, etc.) but alas, Nuggets lasted only one volume (although Rhino revived the title for two box sets, one of US and one of UK era sides).
I don’t listen to this type of music much in my old age, but it’s fun to see these videos, and to pull out the records once and awhile. It’s a Nugget if you dug it.
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