Musician, singer-songwriter and conductor Eddie Vartan ( 1937-2001) is the brother of French pop star Sylvie Vartan, father of actor Michael Vartan and uncle of David Hallyday. As a bandleader he was the mastermind behind his sister´s early success. He also composed many songs for her and a dozen titles for his friend and brother-in-law Johnny Hallyday. Eddie, Sylvie and Johnny were certainly at the top of the yé-yé game. They sold a ton of records and the teen magazines were full of their antics. In the early 60s you couln´t be cooler than these three.
Surprisingly though, when I searched for “Eddie Vartan” on Amazon/Itunes/Spotify only one song popped up. Considering the celebrity status of Eddie Vartan and his family, it´s a real shame that his whole solo instrumental works of the 1960s, especially the early twists, have never been reissued in 50 years. If it wasn´t for a handful of people who put his music on Youtube, it could not be heard at all. The two instrumental twist songs from other EPs on the Twist label, the mid-tempo Salut les copines and the hectic S.L.C.Twist, are both similar in style to the tracks I present here. Then there is his version of Telstar in a weird Scopitone film that you´ve got to see to believe. Eddie himself even appears playing the guitar while following a female astronaut, surrounded by his band all dressed in lab coats like a bunch of Joe Meeks. All these songs would sure make a nice Eddie Vartan Twists compilation LP.
Eddie Vartan died in 2001 following a brain hemorrhage in Paris at the age of 64. Shortly after Sylvie Vartan recorded Réponds moi, a wonderful tribute to her brother. Again, it was a fan who made an effort to put the song together with some collected images of Sylvie, Eddie and Johnny.
At least seven EPs by Eddie Vartan were released by the small Twist label, that was distributed by Decca. A bunch of other artists also recorded for the Twist label, but not as many as Eddie Vartan. Of all the Twist label releases, this one has by far the most boring sleeve design. It´s probably because I´m a cartoonist that I feel that all-typo designs look dull. The hand-made Twist logo is cool though. This EP was very cheap, but unfortunately when I got home I discovered that my copy was sun damaged and warped at the sides. Two of the tracks are completely unplayable.
Your Ma said You cried In Your Sleep Tonight was first recorded in by Kenny Dino and reached #24 in the Billboard charts in 1961. Kenny recorded a number of demos for Elvis, including the song Good Luck Charm, so it is no surprise that he is pretty much imitating Elvis on Your Ma said. Compared to Kenny Dino´s original version, Eddie Vartan´s instrumental version is pretty heavy…
One Track Mind was recorded by Bobby Lewis in 1961 on the Beltone label. Eddie Vartan´s instrumental version copies the Sheb Wooley-style sound of a toy saxophone that is also in the Bobby Lewis original.
“WTF! Are you kiddin´”? That´s what I thought today when I heard this song for the first time. But somehow it also made perfect sense. So much sense that I wondered if I had ever really listened to the original version of Red River Rock. I mean really really LISTENED closely. Because on this version, the famous melody is played on a Blockflöte - a recorder. And it just sounds right. Was that a recorder, that I had never noticed, in the original version, too? This little school kid instrument? I actually immediately went to check…
Of course in the Johnny and the Hurricanes version its a Hammond organ! Played by Paul Tesluk on a Hammond Chord Organ. Pfff, I was worried there for a short time…
On this German flexible budget 45 the recorder, according to the label played by a certain Fred Brass, aptly mimics a Hammond organ. Sweet!
The other side is Dixieland. German budget Dixieland and I´m pretty confident, that the people who recorded this song and the people who bought the record didn´t have any idea what they were playing and listening to. In the 50s Germany was just too far away from Dixie. Nevertheless this version is not even so bad. It´s a pretty carefree trad-style jazz song, including nice trumpet, clarinet, banjo, saxophone, even a short drum solo! There is a lot of music out there that is way worse…
I don´t know anything about the Heinerle label, but I´ve noticed that it had a knack for recording original material along with the typical budget versions of hit songs. Limehouse Dixie is credited to M. Bender and Moro, whoever they are, and doesn´t sound like Limehouse Blues, the jazz standard. So maybe it was a Heinerle original:
In Motril is a silly song (poem?). It´s got nothing to do with the Spanish town of Motril on the Mediterranian coast. Tommy Stone is a pseudonym and I don´t know who he is behind it, but I´ve written about Kid Orbis before. This is what I wrote:
The name Kid Orbis can be found on quite a few cheapo releases on various German labels like Delta-Ton, Opera, Tip Top and Universumin. Likely chosen to sound like legendary jazz trombonist Kid Ory, the man behind the pseudonym Kid Orbis was actually Wolfgang “Wolf” Gabbe. According to Wikipedia Wolf Gabbe, born April 28, 1924 in Berlin, first worked as an auto-mechanic before taking evening classes to become a drummer. After 1945 he started to play in swing and dance bands and made his first recording for the East-German Amiga label in 1948. Gabbe´s “Radio-Star-Band” remained a fixture in Berlin into the 60s. By the way, you might want to check out another Wolf Gabbe advertisement record that I posted some years ago here: “Hully-Gully-TÖFF-TÖFF” released in 1961 on the local Rondo-Exquisit label.
Getting bored already? I am. Yea, that how it is sometimes… I start out with one cool song and then I add all the others that I have by that artist/label and they just are not as good. “Our love awakened tonight at the Rio Grande…” Yawn…
Perfect if you´re from somewhere on the other side of the world and are really curious about German Schlager music. And for some reason you´ve never heard the original version of Kriminaltango. Or you like Tango. Or Criminal stories.
This is the other EP by Jean-Claude Pelletier that I have in my collection. My French is rather limited so this is what I could grasp from the liner notes on the back of the sleeve. It´s probably all wrong, so please correct me: Jean-ClaudePelletier was born in Paris in 1928, started to go to conservatory in 1936 and won a first prize for his piano playing and graduated in 1946, met Benny Vasseur, Pierre Braslowsky, René Franc and their group ended up in the finals of the Hot-Jazz contest in 1946. Jean-Claude then joined the orchestra of Alix Combello and stayed with them for five years. In 1954 he started to play in smaller groups together with Bill Coleman, Albert Nicholas, Buck Clayton, Jonah Jones James Moody, Sidney Bechet and Lionel Hampton. In 1955 he performed together with Claude Luter at the Vieux Comombier, the famous Paris jazz club in the basement of the Vieux Colombier Theatre.
Jean-Claude Pelletier is seen pointing to a sign of the Paris metro station Peletier (pronounced just the same but spelled differently) on the front cover of the record. On the back of the sleeve two more EPs are listed in the Columbia Jazz Stars series by the Pelletier Trio and the Pelletier Sextett. I would sure be interested to hear them, but, just like this EP, they have never been reissued. All of the songs were written by Jean-Claude Pelletier.
The personnel of the Pelletier orchestra is:
A. Renard – P. Sellin – V. Cassino (tp) B. Vasseur – Ch. Verstraete (tb) – H. Jouot (bs) – G. Grenu (as) – G. Lafitte – R. Simon (ts) – R. Bianchini (b) – Ch. Garros (dm) – J.C. Pelletier piano and leader
Pelletier was not only well-versed in traditional jazz but could also really swing. The liner notes mention his ability to play the blues: “a rarity among pianists of the new generation”. Now some purists might argue that the only good swing music is from the 1930s and 40s but by now you should know what I think of purists. I think this is excellent French 1950s big-band swing…
One last 7″ from the Swedish Gala record club. This EP by 1964 by Jean-Claude Pelletier & les Fans was another takeover from the Gala de Variétés label, originally titled Beat Time!. The same eight songs were also released by the British Pop Parade/Concert Hall record club (as Dale Adams & the Pelletier Rhythm Boys) and the Dutch Populaire Platen Kring record club (as Pelletier Rhythm Boys). Compared to the British and Dutch issues this Swedish one, titled It´s Almost Tomorrow, has a rather plain and unimpressive sleeve. But I´m not complaining because I´m sure that the unassuming sleeve was the reason why I only paid 1 Euro for it in Stockholm last month. The seller must have considered it worthless. Never judge a record by its sleeve…
Jean-Claude Pelletier, born August 11, 1928 in Joinville le Pont, France is a French jazz pianist, composer, arranger and conductor. Along Claude Luter, Pelletier was one of the big names in French jazz in the post-war era. He made a ton of records in the 50s, 60s and 70s, strangely none of which have ever been reissued or are currently available. Solely one of his more outstanding funk/jazz works, the Streaking Lp from 1975 has been reissued last year on CD and LP by Vadim Music who call it: “A somewhat perfect hybrid of American soul’s energy and the science of French pop.”
Pelletier´s early works have not earned such praise. I´ve only got one of his first French jazz EPs from the 50s in my collection and it definitely deserves a future post. To prove that JC Pelletier delved heavily in pop/jazz fusion way before his “rare groove’s holy grail” LP in the mid-70s, here´s his swingin´ Beat Time! EP:
A couple of years ago I found two 78s by Joe Dixie in a little thrift store in the street where I live. When I recently found two more records that had his name on it, it was time to do some research. Unfortunately there is very little information about pianist, arranger, band leader and songwriter Joe Dixie on the Internet. Not even his real name is known. His music seems to be forgotten. Although clearly jazz tinged, it is too commercial for hardcore jazz fans and too obscure for everybody else to ever be reissued. A good starting point for a very small portrait.
In 1946 a group of young jazz fanatics who had survived the chaos of the last years of World War II were determined to establish a jazz scene in the ruins of Dresden. Among them was a 22-yer old pianist who called himself Joe Dixie, because crazy English-sounding nicknames were customary among German jazz fans. Spurred by his love for real Jazz, Joe Dixie founded one of the first big bands in post war Germany, the Original Dixies – Dresdner Tanzsinfoniker. The group fused jazz and dance music and even had a string section. Although popular locally they did not record, which they most probably would have, had they been based in Berlin. In 1951 the young ambitious bandleader left the group and Dresden for the Western part of Germany to pursue a professional career in music. Throughout the next decades he would keep his moniker “Dixie” from his early life in Dresden.
When exactly Joe Dixie recorded these songs for the West Berlin record label Metrophon is not known, but it was definitely prior to his leaving East Germany, because the little annex on the side of the label Hergestellt unter der Zulassung Nr B-511 der Nachrichtenkontrolle der Militärregierung (made by permission Nr. B-511 of the surveillance of the military government) was only used until the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. Cultural transfer between the two Germanys was still relatively common, before the Berlin wall was built in 1961. While the borders were transparent, it might have been decisive that it was a West Berlin label that released Dixie´s first records. It mustalso have been obvious to the young musician, that in the long run an artist going by the name of “Joe Dixie” would not fly with the communist East German regime. Nor would a song about springtime in Texas and the cowboys having a ball with no cops and no tax authorities around…
I already posted these songs two years ago, but back then I did not know how to record them properly, so now I did it again and though there are still ticks and hisses to be heard, the files sound much better than before…
Eins, zwei, drei kleine Mädchen is a German version of The Trolley Song performed by Judy Garland in the film ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’, from 1944. The German lyrics are credited to Joe Dixie so I suppose this was his unique version. The Ping-Pongs were an East German girl group very much like the Andrew Sisters.
Louise was composed in 1929 with music by Richard Whiting and lyrics by Leo Robin for the film “The Innocents of Paris”, Paramount´s first musical picture, starring Maurice Chevalier. The song became a swing favorite recorded by many groups.
After Joe Dixie escaped from communist East Germany, he settled in a small village, tellingly called Freiheit in Osterode, Lower Saxony. By 1952 he had established himself as a songwriter and even started his own small publishing company for sheet music issuing songs like: Der Lange Jan Aus Amsterdam, Die Fahrt zum Mond, Fritzchen pfeift fabelhaft, Sieben Tage keinen Kuss von dir, Canzonetta d`amore, Prego, prego, Gondoliere (together wit Fred Oldörp, die drei Travellers)
In the late fifties he led groups of various sizes (Joe Dixie Swingtett, Joe Dixie Und Sein Tanzorchester, Joe Dixie Und Seine Instrumental-Virtuosen, Joe Dixie Und Seine Solisten) and recorded for Telefunken, Baccarola and Ariola but also for the small indie label Jupiter from Munich. Jupiter released two 45s by Mona Baptiste backed by Joe Dixie and his orchestra.
This EP, released in 1957 on the Opera label out of Stuttgart (and also on Donauland 1563), really does have extended playtime, with each side being around six minutes long. Though burdened by the fact that these tracks are not only medleys, a particularly weak format, but also medleys of German schlager songs from the 1930s and 40s, Joe still manages to fill in quite a few jazz licks on his piano.
By the mid-60s Joe Dixie stopped performing and moved towards songwriting and arranging. But I´m pretty sure there´s more Joe Dixie solo material out there that I´ve never heard of.
I´m not going to DJ these songs. I´m not going to play them on the radio. I will not even play them for anyone at home. The only communication I will have about this record is here. Like some crazy person talking to myself…
There is a reason why nobody wants to listen to these songs and why they have not been reissued in over fifty years. Real 1930s/40s swing music is still in high demand today, but not this type of goofy 1950s retro swing music with a harmonica theme. Despite the cover showing some teenagers draped around a French hot rod, this music was not made for teenagers. It was for old people, guys like me. Today the equivalent would be a no name band playing slightly spiced-up 1980s hit songs. Ted Morris sounds very much like a pseudonym. I suspect the group to be German, but I don´t know anything about them, there is no information on the Internet.
These expendable type of records are why I started this blog. What I find endearing, is that nobody needs them. Nobody wants them. They´re lost. But if you´ll listen, there´s a lot happening in these songs…
Really… totally crazy, these teenagers…
This record was in the same 50 cents bin that the Trio Harmonie 45s came from. After I enjoyed jazz played an the harmonica I thought I might also give the zither a chance. The zither is mainly associated with traditional folk music, but the most famous and commercially successful zither song is still a pop song : The Harry Lime Theme, also known as The Third Man Theme, written and recorded by Anton Karas for the 1949 film The Third Man.
Toni Sulzböck led his own group in the 60s and 70s and regularly appeared on German television accompanying various artists. Although as a zitherist Toni primarily played traditional material, he also wrote and produced more pop oriented songs for other artists. This medley record, probably one of Toni Sulzböck´s first, is surprisingly swingin´, because, the medleys are based on swing songs from the 1930s and 40s. Obviously influenced by Les Paul´s innovative production techniques, Dieter Resch experimented with his guitar tricks in East Germany, while Toni Sulzböck tried the same on his zither over in Bavaria. I think he displays an unusual pop sensibility on these two sides. This is zither music for dancing.
Sadly it appears that very few of his songs have ever been reissued, certainly not these two. So, here´s Toni Sulzböck and his swingin´ trickzither:
A couple of month ago I found this 45 by Harmonika-Trio Harmonie in the 50 cents bin of a local second hand store. The record didn´t have a sleeve and was lumped together with a bunch of other sleeveless 45s. It looked pretty scratched up and dirty. However the titles Get Up On The Stairs and June Night sounded promising, like they might be some kind of jazz. So took it home, cleaned it and it didn´t sound so bad. And once you get behind the harmonica sound, the songs are great too.
Apparently Trio Harmonie was a top German jazz group in the late 40s and early 50s. As I will show in the next couple of posts, all sorts of groups used to be very comfortable playing the current hits of the day with their unlikely instruments. It was this sort of diversity in styles and adaptions that made jazz so popular. Groups like the Harmonica Rascals and the Harmonicats and dozens of others were a regular part of the entertainment business in the 30s and 40s. In Europe one of the most popular harmonica groups was the Dutch Hotcha Trio who started as a five piece group in the mid-30s.
In Germany harmonica groups were especially active in the post war era. One of the first outings of Harmonika-Trio Harmonie (with members Rolf Balschun , Günter Koerber and Max Fricke) was a version of St. Louis Blues , recorded in Berlin, October 1948.
No information about the group on the Internet and no full reissues either, but their very nice up-beat harmonica version of Don´t Be Cruel has been featured on a compilation of German cover versions of Elvis songs.
Last week I went back to the same second hand store and found two more 45s by Trio Harmonie in the same bins. Back home I realized that all three were from the same collection as the numbers on the small record album stickers indicate. These records have probably been sitting in those boxes for years, ignored by both jazz fans and record collectors.
None of them have been reissued in 57 years, so I think they do deserve to be listened to once more…
All the way from Austin comes this image and two more tracks from Mundharmonika-Trio Harmonie, taken from Die Illustrierte Schallplatte 2. Folge (Telefunken LA 6125).
Thanks a lot Austin!