The story of Afro-Caribbean artists working in Germany in the 1950s, has not been written yet. After the second World War, musicians like Roberto Blanco (Cuba), Mona Baptiste (Trinidad), Billy Mo (Trinidad) and Jack Finey (Curaçao) helped to transform German culture and society. From a despised and isolated country, that had caused the worst crimes of the century, back into the civilized world. Germans simply couldn´t have lifted themselves out of their misery. As you will hear, they needed the help of some spirited Caribbeans desperately.
Unfortunately, information about Jack Finey is scarce. At least, the trusty German Rock´n´Roll-Schallplattenforum, collected a bit:
Jack Finey (born Jakob Frerian Christian Schreuder) was born in Amsterdam in 1928. He grew up in Curaçao and returned to Amsterdam when he was 14 years old. He appeared on Broadway. In 1959 he first recorded in Germany for Electrola and later Decca, also for the Austrian Amadeo label in 1962 and for German Vogue label in 1967. In 1960 Jack Finey appeared in the German musical comedy “Meine Nichte tut das nicht” with his song Schade um die Rosen.
In 1959 Jack Finey recorded this fine two-sider for Electrola, containing German versions of Louis Prima´s “The Closer To The Meat” and Lloyd Price´s “Stagger Lee”.
Like other popular American folk songs, such as Delia Gone, Stagger Lee is a song about an actual murder case. In 1895, “Stag” Lee Shelton, a black pimp, shot Billy Lyons in St. Louis, Missouri, over an argument about politics. Lyons snatched Shelton´s hat from his head. Stagger Lee demanded it back. When Billy refused, Stagger Lee shot him, took his hat and walked away. Shelton was arrested and convicted of murder in 1897. The crime quickly entered into American folklore and became the subject of songs.
In 1928, Mississippi John Hurt recorded the most well-known blues version of Stagger Lee. Twenty-two years later, New Orleans rhythm & blues pianist Archibald wrote and recorded his own version of Stack A Lee. It´s a New Orleans boogie in an easygoing, rocksteady rhythm, that is very well worth listening to on Youtube. The Imperial 45 has two parts. In Part 2, Stagger Lee dies and goes to the devil. Lloyd Price covered Archibald´s “Stagger Lee Part 1″ and turned it into a # 1 hit on the Billboard charts in 1959.
Whereas the lyrics of German versions of US hits were usually changed completely, and left only the melody intact, the German lyrics to “Stagger Lee” are unusually faithful to the original. They´ve got pretty much the exact meaning and content, down to naming the song ” Die Geschichte von Stagger Lee” (The story of Stagger Lee). The German writer Nicolas sure had a good instinct for teenage subjects. Whereas Dick Clark reportedly had Lloyd Price change the lyrics to a fight over a woman and a happy ending, to appear on his show, the German lyrics keep the bloody ending.
Just for comparison, I transcribed the lyrics. The lines change from German to English, to make the song more authentic. Note the Dutch accent in “He´s real danger!”:
“Ich stand müde an der Ecke,/ doch ich bin dann plötzlich aufgewacht./Auf der Strasse würfelten zwei Männer in der Nacht./ Da war Stagger Lee, da Billy,/ da die Würfel, um Mitternacht./ Stagger Lee warf eine Sieben,/ Billy schwor, er habe acht./ Stagger Lee sagte heiser,/ lass das Zeug , Mensch. Ich habe ´ne Wut./ Du hast all mein Geld gewonnen/ und auch meinen neuen Hut./ Stagger Lee ging nach Hause,/ schob ´ne Kugel in den Lauf./ Sagt, die Schuld muss ich begleichen/ und entsicherte darauf./ Watch out! Watch Out, Billy! Watch out for Stagger Lee, man. He´s real danger, man! He´s real danger! Be careful, Billy! Run, Billy, Run! That´s the only thing you can do!/ Zu der Bar ging er heimlich,/ und dann stand er grinsend in der Tür./Zog den Colt und sagt zu Billy:/ “Büssen musst du mir dafür!”/ “Stagger Lee!”, rief Billy./ “Schon mein Leben. Nehm´ es nicht./ Denk an meine kleinen Kinder./ Meiner Frau, das Herz zerbricht.”/ Stagger Lee schoss auf Billy./ Nahm ihm alles, was er besass./ Und die Kugel flog durch Billy/ und zerbrach ein Whiskeyglas./ Run, run, Stagger Lee, lauf! That´s the only thing you can do. Lauf, Stagger Lee! You´re a bad boy! You´re really bad, man! Look at that poor Billy, laying on the floor, guy. Oh, he´s dead. Billy is dead.You´re bad… Run, run...“
“Betty Bones” is the German version of Louis Prima´s saucy The Closer To The Bone, of his 1959 album “The Call Of The Wildest”.
“Now she’d make a good thermometer/ If she drank a glass of wine/ She’s built just like a garter snake/ She climbs up like a vine/ My friends tell me I’m a fool/ To love a girl like that/ Here’s the reason I like ‘em slim/ Instead of big and fat/ ‘Cause closest to the bone/ Sweeter is the meat/ Last slice of Virginia ham/ Is the best that you can eat”
Bony Moronie. Long Tall Sally. Skinnie Minnie. The list of songs about skinny girls is long in pop music, from the 1920s into the 1960s, equally long as the list about fat girls. Today they would be considered rude, except in rap songs. Now, in the German version, only the title “Betty Bones”, touches on the subject of skinny girls. “Sie heisst Betty Bones” is about a girl with a cold heart, or at least she´s not into Jack, until she get´s jealous of another girl…
Side note: When I bought this 45, last week in a local second-hand record store for four Euros, I didn´t see that the record was autographed.Until I scanned the record and suddenly saw the label in high-resolution. Compared with the signatures on these two autographed pictures that are currently offered on Ebay, they look pretty similar. That little loop over the F gives it away.
In the 1950s, Rock´n´Roll was a force. Some brave accordionists were still holding their ground, not ready to give up the fight. But it was a losing game, loud electric guitars were taking the world by storm. Since then, they have more or less replaced acoustic instruments like accordions, recorders, zithers, cazoos and washboards in popular music.
The Accordionnaires, on the other hand, tried to go with the times…
Found this Rose Records 45 in Vienna a couple of weeks ago. No idea when or where it was published. No trace of it in the digital world either. Obviously it´s never been reissued. About the only thing that popped up, when I searched for The Accordionaires on the Internet, was this music book.
More Blockflöten-Rock. Here´s one more version of a rock´n´roll instrumental by Johnny and the Hurricanes that uses a recorder to simulate the band´s trademark Hammond Chord organ, played by Paul Tesluk. Lothar Nakat´s arrangement of the Hurricanes 1960 hit Beatnik Fly was initially released by the small indie Starlet. Apparently Starlet regularly licensed Nakat´s recordings to a couple of dozen other budget labels like, in this case, Deutscher Schallplattenclub, out of Stuttgart, a record club like Bertelsmann, Opera and Jazztone,
Lothar Nakat´s happy “recorder rock”-version of Beatnik Fly might not sound as dangerous as the original, but I think it´s really sweet! It´s a shame that it has not been reissued in more than 50 years.
Heinz Wolf; Soprano saxophone
Hans Etzel; Trumpet
Photo credit: Rainer Fichel
Fred Jasper was a Dutch Singer from Den Haag. According to the Netherland Discography Site, he also operated a record shop in Leyweg 535b, Den Haag. Jasper started his recording career with three Rock´n´Roll 45s for the German mail-order company/department store label Qellux. I posted another rockin´ Quellux 45 a while back.
In 1962 Fred Jasper recorded a fine version of Tommy Roe´s Sheila in German for Electrola and in 1968 an even nicer version of Tom Jones´Delilah in Dutch. The same site states that he made his last record in 1980. Apparently Fred Jasper died at an unknown date. If that is true, I assume it was before the advent of the Internet, because there is no info at all to be found.
Otherwise, the songs have all the usual blog requirements: not available in digital format elsewhere, artist dead or no longer active, no reissue in 50 years.
Another Oriole 45 and it´s a rocker for a change. Somebody already posted Countdown on Youtube, but to my knowledge it´s not commercially available anywhere. There are a few nice comments about how Phil Tate and his orchestra were regulars at the Streatham Locarno in south-east London.
Considering that Countdown was made by a regular big band for stuffy dance schools to teach teenagers how to dance the Jive, it´s pretty rockin´, in a Joe Meek kind of way.
Released in the “Strict Tempo Dance Series”: Tempo as laid down by the Official Board of Ballroom Dancing!
This is a Samba!
Leo Martin (1924 – 1993) was a Flemish comedian and musician, most famous for being one part of the comic duo Gaston & Leo.
In the late 50s Leo also recorded some rock´n´roll songs. Strangely this one about Cleopatra, sung together with actress Chris Sent (1922-1989), is neither in Flemish or French but German.
Now on the flip they don´t even sing in a real language. Or is it?
And then communication deteriorates even further…
Leo Martin in a short wordless sketch from the 1980s:
This Belgian 45 is centered around Kom van dat dak af, the first and most famous Dutch rock´n´roll HIT song, written and recorded by Peter Koelewijn en zijn Rockets in 1959. If you do not know the original version I urge you to go find it. It´s one of my favorite European rock´n´roll songs. By the way, just want to point out that the Twist and Frit´blog still offers a lot of thorough information, very nice record sleeves and even some cool tunes of Belgian guitar groups of the 1960s.
When it came to real rock´n´roll screaming, none of the European rock´n´rollers came close to the likes of Little Richard in the 1950s. Except maybe the ones who just tried to parody rock´n´roll, like Wim and his Krafties, who recorded for the cheapo label Kraftone. Kraftone, a division of the Kraft cheese company, operated from 1960 to 1963 and was a typical variety label.
Anyway, both songs on this 45 are hilarious! The anonymous vocalist can´t sing and he doesn´t even try. He simply shouts at the top of his lungs in a wild approximation of rock´n´roll!!!
Now get outta your bed!
And get off the roof!
Neh, neh, neh, neh, neh, neh, kom van dat dak af
‘K waarschuw niet meer
Just because this sleeveless 45 doesn´t offer much visual stimulation I add this totally unrelated comic strip from 1964. It is also from Belgium though! And it is from my collection and drawn by my favorite Belgium cartoonist Marc Sleen.
I think the story pretty much explains itself…
Grady Martin (January 17, 1929 – December 3, 2001) is in the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame. As a session guitarist he worked with anyone who had a name in the country and rock´n´roll field. Today he´s mostly known for the recordings he did with Johnny Burnette. It´s actually his guitar playing that can be heard on most of the recordings of Johnny Burnette´s Rock´n´Roll Trio.
But Grady Martin´s own instrumental records with the Slew Foot Five were equally excellent. Side By Side, with vocals by Dottie Dillard and Jack Shook, was originally recorded in 1953 in Nashville. This German EP from 1958 collects four tracks that also appeared on Martin´s Jukebox Jamboree LP (1956).
Surprisingly the song has never been re-released in digital format and can currently not be purchased anywhere.