Bo Diddley Goes Guitar Shopping

The neck’s a bit small, but I can get a job in Blue Oyster Cult with this one….

Maybe it’ll sound better in color?

Eureka! This is the one!
I’ve posted on Bo Diddley several times last year (here, here and here) as well as directed you all to the great privately pressed Bo Diddley Live at a Frathouse in 1959 LP at WFMU Rock’n’Soul Ichiban blog (if you missed it, get it here) but when Santa left these photos under the Christmas tree I couldn’t resist posting them.

Also, I couldn’t resist posting my ten favorite Bo Diddley covers:
*Ronnie Hawkins & the HawksWho Do You Love b/w Bo Diddley (Roulette) Yes, that’s Robbie Robertson on guitar, a huge hit in Windsor, Ontario where it was played constantly on CKLW where it was heard in Detroit and was a seminal influence on the young James Williamson and Wayne Kramer.
*Dick DaleSurfin’ Drums (Deltone) American royalty: The King of the Surf Guitar, and a great guy, and still a great guitar player. He speaks of himself in the third person.
*Rolling Stones- Crackin’ Up (Live BBC version) I know it’s not as good as their version of Mona (I Need You Baby) on their first LP (UK) or Now (U.S.) or Please Go Home (Between The Buttons, UK, Flowers, U.S.) but it’s a lot rarer, and long out of print. Dig Brian and Bill’s off key harmonies. No wonder they took the mikes away from them soon after.
*Pretty Things- Road Runner (Live BBC version) Captured at their peak. What can I say? Tortured and beautiful.
*MedallionsBlowin’ Through Yokohama pt. 1 and pt. 2 (Munro) A real mystery disc, from Saginaw, Michigan.
*Link Wray & his Raymen- Bo Diddley (Swan) The evil genius!
*Captain Beefheart & his Magic BandDiddy Wah Diddy (A&M) Produced by David Gates, of Bread fame!
*Mac Rebbenack (Dr. John) (Rex)- Storm Warning Mac was a helluva guitar player until he got one of his fingers shot off, he’s still pretty great, and plays this one at the Ponderosa Stomp every year. He was booed by Bon Jovi fans at Jazz Fest last year.
*Mickey & SylviaDearest (Vik) Written by Bo (who also wrote their big hit Love Is Strange) who also plays rhythm guitar on it, here’s an alternate take. This was Bob Quine’s all time favorite guitar solo (courtesy of Mickey Baker).
*Freddie CannonBuzz Buzz A Diddle It (Swan) Not strictly a Bo cover, but Kenny Paulson’s guitar is savage, anybody got any info on him?. Freddie, if you want me to pull this, just e-mail me directly through this site and I’ll yank it.
Plus, I gotta add this one:
*CrystalsI Love My Baby (Aladdin) Not the Phil Spector group, but a Teen Queens inspired L.A. high school group issued in ’57. It’s not a Bo cover, but he’s named checked (along with American fascist Henry Ford) and it seems to be about Bo, and I love the tune.

HELP THE PEOPLE OF HAITI! To make an emergency donation click here. These people have been through so much, from the slave revolt in the late 18th century to years of Papa and Baby Doc to the four hurricanes of 2007, and now a 7.0 earthquake. Please help.

While I’m on the subject of Haiti, the best books I’ve ever read on the Haitian slave revolt (the only successful slave revolt in history) are Madison Smart Bell’s trilogy: All Soul’s Rising (Penguin, 1995), Master Of The Cross Roads (Pantheon, 2000) and The Stone The Builder Refused (Pantheon, 2004). He followed them up with the definitive biography of Toussaint Louverture, the black Napoleon (Pantheon, 2007). For the best look at what went wrong in Haiti during the Aristide years, Michael Deibert’s Notes From The Last Testament (Seven Stories Press, 2007) is essential reading. For an interesting account of Iggy Pop and Haiti, see Paul Trynka’s Open Up and Bleed (Broadway Books, 2008) pages 265-269. Iggy keeps a studio in Miami’s little Haiti neighborhood to this day.

Addendum: As suggested by Wes Smith’s comment I’m adding this tune by the Saturday Nights who backed Freddie Cannon on Buzz Buzz A Diddle It– Texas Tommy (Swan).

Jackie Wilson

Jackie Wilson, giving the women what they want….1963.

I love these pictures of Jackie Wilson. They really give you the feeling of just what an incredible performer he was. He was one of a kind. His career was controlled by a syndicate of Detroit and New York mobsters including Nat Tarnopol and Tommy “Corky” Vastola aka The Gahloot (the Hesch character on the Sopranos is a sanitized composite of Vastola and Morris “Moishe” Levy). Both would later be convicted of crimes related to their music biz dealings. On one FBI wiretap you can hear John Gotti and Sammy Gravano discuss killing Vastola. Gotti wasn’t such a good judge of charachter, Gravano ate cheese, while Vastola kept his mouth shut and did his time. He’s still alive today, which is why I can’t really write much more about him, other than most artists he dealt with speak very highly of him. At least the ones I’ve spoken to. You can’t say the same for Edgar Brofman. I’d rather go back to the days when the mafia ran things than the current system of mega-corporate oligarchy, but that’s a whole ‘nuther posting, one I’ve been working on for a while.

Getting back to Jackie Wilson, who began his career as Clyde McPhatter’s replacement in the Dominoes, then went on to stardom at Brunswick Records. He had a tragic ending, suffering a stroke onstage in ’75 at an oldies show in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He spent his final years paralyzed while various women fought over his half dead body (woman often fought over Jackie, he was shot by a spurned lover in ’61). He finally died in 1984 after nine years sitting in a chair vegetating. The best source on the subject, in fact, a must read for any R&B fan is Jackie Wilson: The Man, The Music, The Mob by Tony Douglas (Mainstream, UK, 2001). Jackie didn’t trust banks, or the IRS, so he kept his money in safe deposit boxes in the diamond district (48th Street) in New York. Where did it go? I wouldn’t want to speculate in public.
He never made a great live album, although their may be tapes out there like similar to the Sam Cooke one cut in Miami at the Harlem Square Club in ’63 that surfaced in the 80’s. It would be nice to hear the real Jackie Wilson, without the corny productions that mar many of his recordings. Still, he did make some great records– Reet Petite, Baby Workout, Whispers, etc. No point in posting them and risk getting my legs broken. The above clips are killer, and those pix tell the story in a way words just can not.
Addendum: In the comments section Barry Soltz mentioned the X-rated outtake of Think Twice, on which Jackie and Lavern Baker trade insults in a most profane manner. So, for those who haven’t heard it, I’ve added it, thanks for the reminder Barry. Dick Dale also refers to himself in the third person.

Mark Your Calender! Andre Williams/Nick Tosches Reading!

This should be a historic event, Friday, Feb. 5th Andre “Mr. Rhythm” Williams and “Nitro” Nick Tosches will be reading from their latest books at the Poetry Project at St. Marks Church (corner of E. 1oth Street & 2nd Ave, in Manhattan).

The last time Nick read there I met the woman I would later marry, good fortune is sure to shine on all who attend. More as the date approaches. Nick’s latest– Never Trust A Living God can be found here. Andre’s first book– Sweets & Other Stories (with a forward by Nick Tosches) can be found here.

Blues Busters

In November I wrote about the Jiving Juniors, one of my favorite pre-ska Jamaican R&B groups.

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled onto this clip of their main competition– the Blues Busters on Youtube. I believe the group was a duo– Lloyd Cambell and Phillip James, and they are not to be confused with Prince Buster’s backing group with whom they share a name. This clip, I believe it comes from a documentary called This Is Ska (1964) so obscure it isn’t even listed on the Internet Movie Data Base. If I was home in NYC I could add some of my favorite records of theirs like Little Vilma, in fact, keep an eye on this spot, when I get back next week I’ll post a few of their tunes. Meanwhile, dig this clip!
Addendum: Here’s a few early singles by the Blues Busters for your listening pleasure, these are all early Trojan sides from 1961-4: Lost My Baby, Early One Morning, I Need Some Loving,
I Need Your Loving, Pleadin’ For Mercy, Sweet Dreamin’, Little Vilma. Enjoy. I’ll be back in action soon as my brain thaws out a bit….

Gillian’s Found Photo #34

copyright G. McCain Archives

We’re still away (in sunny F-L-A, where it’s actually pretty cold) but took the time to scan Fang’s latest found photo before we left. I’m even not sure if it’s a man or a woman, but I am sure that it’s wearing a wig on its head. I’m leaning toward thinking it’s a woman, or else the prototype for Flip Wilson’s Geraldine character (whom I believe was the first black drag queen on prime time TV, boy, the Flip Wilson Show was great; funny, and with excellent musical guests, why doesn’t BET re-run it?).

That’s getting off the track, as I’m apt to do, but this gal is almost like the black equivalent of the glam rock queen in last week’s found photo. Long live the orange, crushed velour mini-dress! Notice the Christmas gifts in the right corner…. I wonder what s/he got?
BTW: Best WTF moment during this years holiday TV watching had to be the “Bootie bump” panties ad that we saw four or five times during a 2Pac documentary!

The Standing Babas

This is a bit off of the usual scope of this blog, but since I’m away, far from my records, photo files, scanner and the various crap I use to produce these entries, I thought this subject might interest a few of you. Most especially those with sore feet.
I first became aware of the Standing Babas through Gregory David Roberts’ incredible novel Shantaram (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2003), an autobiographical novelization of his life story.

In a short, an Australian junkie takes to armed robbery, goes to prison, escapes, makes his way to Mumbai (Bombay), ends up living in a slum then falls in with a faction of one of that town’s many organized crime gangs. At one point in the book, new to Mumbai, his friend and guide takes him to the temple where the Standing Babas live, worship, and sell hashish.
The Standing Babas are a Hindu holy sect, often men who are retired business men, military officers, politicians, etc. who have taken a vow to stand for the rest of their lives as a sort of pre-death penance. They even sleep standing up, in a type of sling that looks like a playground swing. To support themselves they sell hashish, which they smoke constantly. From Shantaram:
“The Standing Babas were men who’d taken a vow never to sit down, or lie down, ever again, for the rest of their lives. They stood day and night, forever. They ate their meals standing up, and made their toilet standing up. They prayed and worked and sang standing up. they even slept while standing, suspended in harnesses that kept the weight of their bodies on their legs, but prevented them from falling when they were unconscious.
For the first five to ten years of that constant standing, their legs began to swell. Blood moved sluggishly in exhausted veins, and muscles thickened. Their legs became huge, bloated out of recognisable shape and covered with purple varicose boils. Their toes squeezed out from thick, fleshy feet, like the toes of elephants. During the following years, their legs gradually became thinner, and thinner. Eventually, only the bones remained, with a paint-thin veneer of skin and the termite trails of withered veins.
The pain was unending and terrible. Spikes and spears of agony stabbed up through their feet with every downward pressure. Tormented, tortured, the Standing Babas were never still. They shifted constantly from foot to foot in a gentle, swaying dance that was mesmerising for everyone who saw it, as the sound-weaving of a flute player for his cobras….
…the Babas were also comprehensively, celestially and magnificently stoned. They smoked nothing but Kashmiri– the best hashish in the world–grown and produced in the foothills of the Himalayas in Kashmir, And they smoked it all day, and all night, all their lives”.

The rest of Shantaram is as equally colorful, and I recommend it highly. India is a funny place,
and sometimes not such a funny place. Were else can you find eunuchs (called hijaras) with a union? For more on that subject may I refer you to Zia Jaffrey’s The Invisibles: A Tale Of The Eunuchs Of India (Vintage, 1996). But the story of the Standing Babas really sticks in my mind.
The above clip, from a U.K. tv show called Culture Shock and the scene in Shantaram at the Standing Babas’ temple, immediately worked its way into my subconscious, the end result being some very disturbing and also some very funny (and sometimes both) dreams.
Next time you can’t find a seat on the subway, or get stuck in line at the Post Office, don’t allow yourself to get angry or well up with self pity, just think of the Standing Babas.
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