Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day from ol' ET

I originally had a more elaborate post planned for today, but in observance of Memorial Day, I thought it best maybe just to feature a song in tribute instead. I hope you enjoy Ernest Tubb's "Soldier's Last Letter" from January 1944.

Now go start your summer...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Three Demos

Willie Nelson

Not sure yesterday's post resonated all that well, but I've decided to make today's post a follow up regardless. Today we have demo versions of three of the songs that were featured yesterday. It's an interesting trio as you'll hear three pretty different kinds of production here. "Crazy" is a fully arranged recording. As pointed out yesterday, the 4-hour session that Owen Bradley produced on Patsy Cline yielded just that one song. It seems they knew it was something special given that they spent a full session on it. Willie's somewhat sparse, but more fully realized demo might indicate that he (or his publishers) knew it was something special too. The song was reputedly written for Billy Walker, but he passed on it. It would be interesting to hear a Billy Walker version, but history might best have been served by his turning it down. "Three Days" is just Willie on guitar, and the demo for "Undo The Right" adds some nice, bluesy pedal steel. As far as I know, these recordings are all from 1961. One source shows "Three Days" as 1962, but given that his Liberty version was recorded at the September 1961 date, it seems unlikely he would have done a simple guitar demo after the fact. As I mentioned yesterday, this period of Willie Nelson is my favorite. I hope you all enjoy this further exploration into early Willie.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Classic Recording Sessions - Three Days

Patsy Cline
Monday, August 21, 1961 (7:15 pm - 11:15 pm)
Bradley Film & Recording Studio, 804 16th Ave. South, Nashville 3, TN
Patsy Cline: vocal; Harold Bradley: guitar; Grady Martin: guitar; Randy Hughes: guitar; Walter Haynes: steel guitar; Bob Moore: bass; Buddy Harman: drums; Floyd Cramer: piano; Jordanaires: backing vocals.
Producer: Owen Bradley
11037 Crazy

Willie Nelson
Tuesday, August 22, 1961
Nashville, TN
Willie Nelson: vocal, guitar; other personnel unknown

Tuesday, September 12, 1961
Nashville, TN
Willie Nelson: vocal, guitar; other personnel unknown

Three days for Willie Nelson:
Yesterday: Patsy Cline recorded "Crazy." Willie's big break as a songwriter came earlier in the year with Faron Young's recording of "Hello Walls." Now, Patsy Cline records what proves to be a
signature song both for her and for Willie.
Today: Willie is recording his first session for Liberty Records. "Touch Me" is recorded this day and
will ultimately prove to be his first solo hit - #7 on the Billboard country charts in 1962 (he
had a #10 hit with then-wife Shirley Collie earlier that year).
Tomorrow (well, three weeks later): Willie has his second session for Liberty that yields 10
wonderful songs that would be a big part of Willie's first album And Then I Wrote.

"Crazy" by Patsy Cline is an undisputed classic. It's here today more for context. The real focus of
today's post is Willie Nelson. Having Patsy record "Crazy" was obviously a huge break for Willie. It
would seem that Owen Bradley had high expectations for the song for Patsy as it was the only
song recorded on that Monday. I suppose it's doubtful that Willie was in attendance at the session,
but I'd like to think he was at least aware that it was happening. What's kind of incredible is that
the very next day was another pretty important career day for Willie - his first session for Liberty
Records which were his first significant commercial recordings. He had recorded several demos
in Nashville, some of which have been issued over the years, but aside from a few sporadic small
label records, this is pretty much where Willie sprang forth as a recording artist. As much as I
appreciate and respect Willie's later recordings that he's primarily known for, this early Liberty
stuff is definitely my favorite Willie material. The recordings were done on a somewhat limited
budget, so the arrangements are pretty sparse, but direct and full of feel. Willie's got his
incredible phrasing even this early (in fact, pronounced in more interesting ways at this point,
I think) and the end result is so cool it makes me want to light up a cigarette and slick back my
hair with Brylcream, or Pomade or whatever Willie was using on his hair back before it was
braided. I hope you enjoy these recordings as much as I do.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Coming back, again...

After reading Don's comment where he mentioned the Greenbriar Boys and Jimmy Martin versions of today's Charlie Monroe song, I thought it might be nice to add them as a little bonus post for today. So while I was at it, I decided to throw in a classic Country Gentleman version and another Jimmy Martin version, this time with Ralph Stanley.

Keep comin' back!

"I'm Coming Back But I Don't Know When"

The Country Gentlemen (1961)

The Greenbriar Boys (1961)

Jimmy Martin (1965)

Jimmy Martin & Ralph Stanley (1980)

I'm coming back, but I don't know when...

Charlie Monroe
Today's post is a reflection of how I was feeling last night after all the technical difficulties of yesterday. But I'm back, so I guess I do know when.

But let's not be dismissive about this wonderful song! I was listening to this last night and really loving it (and blowing off a post for today after yesterday's frustrations) when it occurred to me how fitting it was for today's post. Not bad as a Memorial Day post either.

So, here you go. We'll be back tomorrow with a more substantive post.

And as always, keep those cards and letters coming, folks!
(read: "please comment!")

Charlie Monroe & The Kentucky Pardners
"I'm Coming Back But I Don't Know When"
Tuesday, March 25, 1947 (9:15 am -12:15 pm)
RCA Victor Studio A, 443N Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL
Charlie Monroe: vocal, guitar; Larry Isley: guitar; Ira Louvin: mandolin; Robert Lamber: bass; James Martin: fiddle.
Producers: Charles Grean & Stephen Sholes

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Classic Recording Sessions - Bluegrass, Fall 1949

The argument over what is the true beginning of rock and roll will forever be debated. It largely depends on what you consider "rock and roll." The case of bluegrass is a little easier. While it's origins and contributers are cause for some minor quibbling among aficionados, it's pretty safe to safe that the musical approach that became known as "bluegrass" began with Bill Monroe's classic Blue Grass Boys line up that included Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, and Chubby Wise. Their influence was enormous. As has been stated by Neil Rosenberg and others, "bluegrass" as a genre (though yet to be known as that for some time) really began when that original musical approach began to be emulated by others, with the Stanley Brothers recording of Monroe's "Molly And Tenbrooks" as the first significant example. Around the same time that the Stanleys made that record, Flatt & Scruggs left Monroe's band to form their own.

And that brings us to today's post. By the fall of 1949, Flatt & Scruggs had been on their own for more than a year-and-a-half and with their own radio show and records on the Mercury label. They were becoming quite successful and significant rivals to Monroe. The Stanley Brothers were gaining in popularity and about to record their second session for Columbia. This was also a point of contention for Monroe as he was also still recording for Columbia and was less than pleased they had signed the Stanleys,who Monroe at the time considered to be stealing from him. Monroe hadn't recorded since his last session with Flatt & Scruggs almost exactly two years previous on October 28, 1947. This would be Monroe's last session with Columbia, as he was to leave for a lifelong deal with Decca shortly after largely because of the signing of the Stanley Brothers. It's also his only session with singer/guitarist Mac Wiseman, who had previously been part of the initial Flatt & Scruggs session in the fall of 1948.

So, if the Flatt & Scruggs-era Blue Grass Boys are the beginning of the style, and the Stanley Brothers Rich-R-Tone recording of "Molly And Tenbrooks" is the beginning of bluegrass as a genre, then certainly these recordings in the fall of 1949 are the dawn of bluegrass emerging by the three original major forces after the settling of the dust of the bluegrass big bang.

Bill Monroe & The Blue Grass Boys
Saturday, October 22, 1949
Castle Studio, Tulane Hotel, 206 8th Ave. North, Nashville 3, TN
Bill Monroe: vocal, mandolin; Mac Wiseman: vocal, guitar; Rudy Lyle: banjo: Jack Thompson: bass; Chubby Wise: fiddle.
Producer: Art Satherley

The Stanley Brothers & The Clinch Mountain Boys
Sunday, November 20, 1949
Castle Studio, Tulane Hotel, 206 8th Ave. North, Nashville 3, TN
Carter Stanley: vocal, guitar; Ralph Stanley: vocal, banjo; Darrell “Pee Wee” Lambert: vocal, mandolin;
Ernie Newton: bass; Les Woodie: fiddle
(3:30 pm - 6:00 pm session)
(9:00 pm - 11:00 pm session)

Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs & The Foggy Mountain Boys
Sunday, December 11, 1949
Cincinnati, OH
Lester Flatt: vocal, guitar; Earl Scruggs: vocal, banjo; Benny Sims: fiddle; Curly Seckler: vocal, mandolin; Howard Watts: bass
(Session K 24)
(Session K 25)

Special thanks go to Harlan Taylor for the germ of this idea. Be sure to look for titles in his Warped Records series by each of these artists. Available at all VMIMC blogs in the greater music city area.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Classic Recording Sessions - On This Date (5/26)

Lefty Frizzell - 50 years ago
Thursday, May 26, 1960 (7:30 pm - 11:00 pm)
Bradley Film & Recording Studio, 804 16th Ave. South, Nashville 3, TN
Lefty Frizzell: vocal, guitar; Grady Martin: guitar; Harold Bradley: guitar; Don Helms: steel guitar; Joseph Zinkan: bass;
Buddy Harman: drums; Floyd Cramer: piano; unknown: vocal chorus.
Producer: Don Law

Lefty Frizzell - 40 years ago (10 years later)
Tuesday, May 26, 1970 (6:00 pm - 9:00 pm)
Columbia Recording Studio, 804 16th Ave. South, Nashville 3, TN
Lefty Frizzell: vocal, guitar; Fred Carter: guitar; Walter Haynes: guitar; Weldon Myrick: steel guitar; Billy Linneman: bass;
Jerry Carrigan: drums; Johnny Gimble: fiddle; Jerry Smith: piano; unknown: vocal chorus.
Producer: Don Davis

Here are two 3-song sessions from Lefty that are exactly 10 years to the day apart. I guess you couldn't say either of these are exactly "classic" Lefty sessions, but the man never did anything not worth listening to. So while these aren't hits, they're still mostly enjoyable tunes, and we even get one song from the legendary Harlan Howard in "Watermelon Time In Georgia." It's an interesting comparison to hear the difference not only in Lefty in 10 years passage, but in country music in general. The '60s were an incredible period of change in all of music, but here you can hear the progression of the Nashville Sound over a full decade. The 1960 session is a snapshot of what was happening in country music in the wake of the rock and roll boom. These aren't the kinds of songs that we know Lefty for, but this kind of material was not uncommon for many artists of this era. By the 1970 session, country has gotten a little more comfortable with itself again, although the strings and vocal choruses are a far cry from the hits that made Lefty a star in the '50s.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Classic Recording Sessions - On This Date (5/25)

The Carter Family - 79 Years Ago
Monday, May 25, 1931
Hotel Charlotte, 237 W. Trade St., Charlotte, NC
Sara Carter: vocal, autoharp; Maybelle Carter: vocal, guitar, steel guitar; A.P. Carter: vocal

The Louvin Brothers - 55 Years Ago
Wednesday, May 25, 1955
Session #3759: Castle Studio, The Tulane Hotel, 206 8th Ave. N., Nashville 3, TN
Charlie Louvin: vocal, guitar; Ira Louvin: vocal, mandolin; Chet Atkins: guitar; Ray Edenton: guitar; Lightnin Chance: bass.
Producer: Ken Nelson