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.

Follow Ups To Past Posts…

A Good Spot For A Gratuitous Photo Of Jane Birkin Who Is Not Mentioned In This Posting

Some follow ups to past Houndblog postings: Last December was a posting about Sun Ra’s rock’n’roll output, well my pals over at Norton Records have just released three volumes of the stuff, most of not on the Evidence Saturn 45’s box. The first is Rocket Ship Rock which features the most incredible Yochanan, including his masterpiece Hot Skillet Mama b/w Muck Muck as well as the previously unheard Rocket Ship Rock and more. Also represented are Lacy Gibson’s insane verion of I Am Gonna Unmask The Batman, and Ebah’s un-issued rendition of the same, and the ultra rare Pink Clouds disc Space Stroll by Don Dean. The second two volumes Interplanetary Melodies (Doo Wop From Saturn Beyond Vol. 1) and The Second Stop Os Jupiter (Doo Wop From Saturn and Beyond Vol. 2) have classics by the Cosmic Rays and Juanita Rogers, and lots of recently unearthed (or un-Saturned) rehearsal tapes from the Nu Sounds, the Qualities, Crystals (Sun Ra does Don & Dewey!) and Sunny his bad self with Stuff Like That and Tony’s Wife. Great liner notes by Miriam Linna and Michael D. Anderson make these essential.

Andre Williams was the subject of a posting last Nov. and earlier this month, his first novel (!)
Sweets and Other Stories (Kicks Books) is out, I just read it, and it’s a doozie. If you like Donald Goines, Iceberg Slim, Robert Deane Pharr, Herbert Simmons and that sort of ultra realistic ghetto fiction, than this is for you. He’ll be doing a reading from it in Chicago on November 14th, at Phyllis Musical Inn, 1800 West Division St., 8 PM. While on the subject of Mr. Rhythm, his version of the Stones “The Spider & The Fly”, issued by Norton as part of their ongoing Stones’ cover 45’s series is one of his best recordings in years. My other favorites in the series are the Church Keys’ “Who Driving Your Plane” (best Stones b-side ever), and the Dirt Bombs’ No Expectations. The entire series is worth owning.
While you’re over at the Norton site the two volumes of early Kim Fowley productions– One Man’s Garbage (Lost Treasures From The Vaults 1959-69) Vol. 1 and ...Is Another Man’s Gold (Lost Treasures From The Vaults 1959-69) are indispensable, containing, just as described some of the best and worst from the king of the Hollywood hustlers. Great notes by the man himself (as a non-drug user, he has an incredible memory, the Library Of Congress should sit him down like they did Jelly Roll Morton to get an entire oral history of the L.A. scene from Kip Tyler & the Flips to Hanson, since Fowley saw it all). Both discs come in deluxe fold-out sleeves. It’s nice to have some actual new records to play around the house again.
In May, I wrote about John Gilmore’s eye popping Laid Bare, well Gilmore has a new novel out, his second– Crazy Streak (Scapegoat Publishing). It’s sort of a white trash take on the Lolita theme set in the part of Southern California that sees more trailers than limos, and Gilmore captures that world with an unflinching eye. Gilmore is his own genre, and this book is well worth searching out.
Last April I wrote about William Lindsay Gresham, his classic noir novel Nightmare Alley is being re-issued in the spring with a forward by, but of course, Nick Tosches. There’s also a musical with book and songs by Jonathan Brielle, directed by Gilbert Cates that will open at the Geffen Playhouse in L.A. on April 13 and run until May 23 (my birthday). I’d like to see
an amusement park ride based on Nightmare Alley myself. And perhaps a movie version of Monster Midway. There’s other doings in the world of Gresham but I’m not sure if I can divulge the info yet or not, keep an eye on this space.
Bill Wyman turned 73 last week, he’s still on tour and he’s still ugly.
With the demise of The Wire and The Shield (best cop shows ever), TV’s been pretty lame as of late, the best show on right now is in an awful time slot (Sunday at Midnight, AMC) and not available on In Demand, but Breaking Bad, the best TV drama about Meth chefs ever, is worth setting your Tivo/DVR/whatever your cable company calls it. It’s nice to see Bob Odenkirk revive the character he played on the Larry Sanders Show– Stevie the agent, this time as a sleazy drug lawyer, also named Stevie.
I love reference books, especially slang dictionaries, and Stephen Calt, whose previous books were biographies of Charlie Patton and Skip James (both great and both sadly out of print, the latter is one of the most telling books ever written about “the blues” and it’s not a pretty picture) has put together Barrelhouse Words: A Blues Dialect Dictionary (University Of Illinois Press, 2009). If you need to know what “Polack town”,”bug juice”, and to “dust one’s broom” mean, this is the book to find it in.

Andre Williams– Bacon Fat and other delights….






On Nov 1st Zephyr Andre Williams will be 72 years old. Or 74, or 76, or maybe 70.

Math isn’t Andre’s best subject. The first time I heard him was on an R&B station out of Miami when a DJ named Butterball who would come on at midnight played “Cadillac Jack” every night for a week. I bought the single, on Chess which I loved, along with it’s b-side “Girdle Up”. Later as I got caught the dreaded disease called record collecting I became familiar with his earlier sides on Detroit’s legendary Fortune label– “Bacon Fat“, “Greasy Chicken“, “Pass The Biscuits“, “Andre Is M-M-Movin‘”, “Jailbait“, “Going Down To Tia Juana” and the rest. These were life defining records, the reason why a person spends their life digging through piles of dusty old records at flea markets, junk stores, and yard sales, loses their eye sight reading auction lists. They were rock’n’roll in it’s purest, greasiest, and most unadulterated form. Everything about them was perfect from the sly lyrics to the distorted guitars, the primal slop beat, the guttural saxophones. Andre became an obsession and not a week went by when I didn’t spin one of his records on my radio show. In the late 80’s I met Andre for the first time, this was in Miami where he had holed up briefly. He was drunk and not in the best shape. I attempted to interview him for Kicks magazine, he spent most of the evening passing out in his rum and coke.  I didn’t see Andre again until the late 90’s when courtesy of the folks at Norton Records Andre staged one of the greatest comebacks in history.
     History, Andre’s got one, to say the least. Born in Bessemer, Alabama, probably in 1936 his family relocated to Chicago. His mother past away when he was six leaving the kids to live under a stairwell until they were taken in by various aunties. By age sixteen Andre was in Detroit where he joined his cousin Little Eddie Hurt’s vocal group the 5 Dollars who had cut such classics as “So Strange” and “Doctor Baby” for the incredible Fortune label, perhaps the most unique of all the “indies”. Soon Andre was leading his own group– the Don Juans and was given top billing, his first Fortune release, or more aptly escape, was called “Put A Chain On It”,
then recording the aforementioned classics records, they were too raw for the top forty, soon they were too raw for the record business in general and as the fifties became the sixties Andre was on the move.
     The sixties saw Andre hustling back and forth from Chicago where he scored big hits with the 5 Du-tones “Shake A Tail Feather” (a tune that would go on to be recorded by Ray Charles, Ike and Tina Turner and Hanson) and “Twine Time” by Alvin Cash and the Crawlers, back to Detroit where he cut some sides with the Contours for Motown (Andre would be hired and fired by Berry Gordy over twenty times), to Houston where he produced sides by Bobby Bland at Duke. He still recorded under his own name, now adapting a boog-a-loo style best exemplified by “Pearl Time” on Sport and “Sweet Little Pussycat” on Wingate. After a brief stint and some minor hits at Chess (see above) Andre hit a dry streak, broken only by Bull & the Matadors’ “Funky Judge”, a minor hit covered in the 70’s by the J. Geils Band. By the 1980’s Andre was living on the streets of Chicago, smoking crack and living the life of a derelict.
I think it was George Paulus of St. George Records who first brought Andre back into the studio to cut a CD (Norton issued a much different version of the sessions on the LP Greasy) backed by a band that featured the Pretty Things’ Dick Taylor on guitar and the Eldorados on backing vocals. Andre came to New York in 1997 to promote Greasy a trip that would do Homer’s Ulysses proud (he would return home many years later, after many adventures and many countries, circumcised). In what would become one of the most unlikely comebacks of the century, Andre would tour the world, using various back up groups and sometimes pick up bands, building an audience amongst hepsters who hadn’t been born when “Bacon Fat” was released. This is about the time me and Andre became reacquainted. It started with Andre recording a station ID for my radio show (“anything with an antenna is important”). I began booking Andre to play in New York at the Lakeside Lounge (it started as a Camel cigarette sponsored one nighter, he ended up playing a dozen shows including a New Year’s Eve blow out that was probably the only time I really had fun on a NYE). We also booked him into the Circle Bar in New Orleans (we had a great backing band for one of those shows with Mr. Quintron on organ and the Royal Pendletons’ Mike Hurt on guitar). Hanging out with Andre was always a blast. Once at the Lakeside he invited his new wife (a Jewish, New York lawyer, hence the circumcision, he never bothered to divorce the first wife in Chicago) and her old aunties. Andre decided he was going to do the whole set without cursing. It got off to an auspicious start with the opening number “Pussy Stank” when on the P in “pussy”, Andre’s dentures came flying out of his mouth, ever the pro he caught ’em on a bounce and had ’em back in his kisser in time to come back in on the “stank”.
     Once in New Orleans, at Mardis Gras time the 9th Ward Marching Band decided to make Andre it’s grand marshall. I was up on the balcony over the bar when they came marching down St. Charles Ave, Andre seated on a float like a Sultan. The entire marching band, bass drums, tubas, everything, took a right turn and marched into the bar, still playing (the Circle Bar is tiny, like a half of a subway car with a 10′ x 10′ room off to the side). When I got downstairs they whole band was inside, still playing, marching lockstep as Andre was carried in over their heads. I’ve never seen him happier.
     On the day George W. Bush was elected (or whatever that was) Andre and I flew from New Orleans to New York City. First we had to stop at a liquor store to get a bottle of rum to stop his DT’s (it was 8:30 am). When we got to the airport Andre dropped the bottle, leaving a pile of broken glass and Bacardi all over the floor. The bar was closed. Andre soon found the woman with the keys to the bar and sweet talked her into selling him a new bottle. On the flight ‘Dre soon had made friends with everyone else on the flight. It was the only time I’ve ever flown that I would describe as fun. He predicted Bush would steal the election, predicted 9/11 and the war in Iraq, and predicted the financial meltdown– eight years before it happened. This guy doesn’t miss a trick. Our fellow passengers were bemused but time has proved Andre a keen observer of things and the way they work.
     For the last twelve years Andre’s toured the world, gotten involved with countless women, many a third his age or less, recorded for a bewildering variety of labels including Norton (Bait & Switch is my favorite of all his post-comeback discs, Robert Quine plays on two tracks, it was one of his proudest moments), In The Red. Bloodshot, St. George, and others I can’t remember. He’s also seen his sixties sides re-issued by Night Train (Rib Tips and Pig Snouts is a must), and many
bootlegs of his Fortune sides (the offspring of Jack and Devora Brown, known as the “Wig Brothers” because of their ill fitting hair pieces, being too stupid to do the job themselves and unwilling to lease the stuff to those more competent than them, although before she died Devora issued an LP of Andre’s stuff– Jailbait that featured some great unreleased stuff like “Is It True” and “Tossin’ & Turnin’ and Burnin’ All Up Inside“), leaving the field wide open to bootleggers.
     The past few years have been rough for Andre. His wife (the real one) passed on and he’s been in and out of public housing and cheap flop houses. He had to quit drinking due to some serious health problems. Yet good things are happening too. Tricia Todd’s documentary– Agile, Hostile, Mobile: A Year With Andre Williams played at SXSW to great acclaim and should have a distribution deal soon. The trailer can be seen here. You can’t keep a guy like Andre Williams down for long. At 72, despite the hard miles he’s put on his body, he’s still better looking (and better dressed) than Bill Wyman. I hope he lives to be a hundred. Friendship with Andre isn’t always easy (or cheap) but I’m honored to know the guy. 
Captions for the above photos from the top:
top) Fortune Records poster that’s a bit too big for my scanner. 2nd down) Note from Andre for you handwriting analysis freaks. middle) Outside the Lakeside Lounge, summer 2000 (left to right): Hal Wilner, Anita Pallenberg, Andre Williams. 2nd from bottom) Andre steals a kiss from the late Bill Pietsch. bottom)  Andre with the 5 Dollars, 1956.