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.
Great Gosh found its way on a Belgium bootleg compilation LP called “Rock´n´Roll Collection Vol. 15″ in 1986. The generic cover of the series simply donned a Confederate Flag indicating to what type of listeners the bootleggers had in mind. Apart from this appearance the song has never been reissued legally and hence is not to be found digitally anywhere either.
After 57 years it´s about time…
Bill Ramsey´s German cover version Wumba-Tumba Schokoladeneisverkäufer vom andern Stern of Sheb Wooley´s Purple People Eater reached #4 in the German Charts in 1958. On Thursday I found a budget version of that song, released by the Opera label out of Stuttgart, in a nearby thrift store. I had seen a copy of the record on Ebay before, but since I don´t buy stuff on the Internet, I had to wait until I came across it by coincidence. On Ebay it probably wouldn´t have been 50 Cents either.
No info about Trio Sorrento on the Internet but contrary to many budget artist they were a real group, who´s music however did also appear on cheapo labels like Opera, Neckermann and Baccarola. An article in Spiegel from January 1954 about East German restrictions on “decadent” western musical styles, like the Boogie Woogie, also mentions the trio:
On October 6th 1953 four stocky soviet directors ejected Trio Sorrento (formerly with Berlin radio station Rias) from a cultural center in East Berlin, because the group´s musical repertory (“Junge,Junge, Junge”, “Mäcki-Boogie”, “Schaschlik-Boogie”) had caused the attending young workers to applaud demonstratively. (Spiegel, Jan.1954, “Barrieren um Boogie Woogie”)
This version of Wumba-Tumba Schokoladeneisverkäufer vom andern Stern was made to sound almost identical to Ramsey´s version. It´s still quite different, but since I won´t post Bill Ramsey´s version, just take my word for it…
Jody Reynolds song of teenage tragedy Endless Sleep reached #5 in the Billboard Charts in 1958. Reynolds follow-up Fire of Love from the same year, only went to #66, but achieved cult status 25 years later when The Gun Club covered it.
The original German version of Endless Sleep was recorded by the James Brothers (Schlager singers Peter Kraus and Jörg Maria Berg), who were put together to emulate the Everly Brothers. In true budget manner the Opera label producers simply called their brothers the Johnson Brothers.
The two-colored illustration on the back of the sleeve should have been on the front. The drawing is what´s remarkable about this record. Why is the illustration on the back then? I can only imagine how the story must have been, but from my experience as an illustrator, it´s always the same thing. Regular Opera releases only had writing on the back. Because they had two rock´n´roll songs on the record, the record label people must have had the feeling that they should give the teenagers a little more to look at. They liked the commissioned drawing, but still decided against putting it on the cover, because they couldn´t depart from their concept that all their sleeves in this series needed to have the bland purple design!
“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.
With this short little rock´n´roll song I´d like to celebrate the birth of my “new” blog! Just saw this hanging on the wall of a antique bookstore in my neighborhood last week and took it home for a measly 2 euros and fifty cents.
By coincidence it exemplifies the sort of copyright friendly material I was writing about in #2 of the blog ethics. The cardboard record was issued by a defunct “record company” and recorded by anonymous artists. There is no mention of copyright anywhere on the card either and it is definitely more than fifty years old, because it runs on 78 rpm, a format discontinued in most western countries by 1960.
The perfect birthday song for rockin´and rollin´teenagers! And old geezers too…
“Hep-Heppy Birthday to you!”
“Hep-Heppy Birthday to you!”
You ain´t no square! And I know that!
Let down your hair! You´re the coolest cat!
Push back the chairs! Get yer carpet rolled!
Just ROCK!. . . . . And you´ll never grow old!
Since I´ve bought this record some years ago, it has puzzled me. I always wished Juan Belgado´s upbeat rock´n´roll version of Les Paul and Mary Ford´s hit song Vaya Con Dios, was a unique product of the Favorit budget label, but it seemed very unlikely. It´s just too good. Most German budget labels just didn´t come up with original stuff, let alone rock´n´roll instrumental versions of Vaya Con Dios. Their objective was not to be creative, but to supply consumers with cheaper hit records than those of the bigger labels – 2.85 instead of the average 4 Deutschmark. That´s why the label´s catalog is largely comprised of schlager stuff like the A-Side of this record, a boring version of Vico Torriani´s Café Oriental. More likely Juan Belgado´s version of Vaya Con Dios was also copied from another already existing instrumental version.
ORCHESTER JUAN BELGADO, Vaya Con Dios, 1960
Today, after yet another Internet search, I finally found the answer. A fan of instrumental rock´n´roll could have probably told me right away. This German budget version is a pretty faithful copy of Vaya Con Dios by The Virtues from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania! Their only hit record, a rock´n´roll reworking of Arthur Smith´s Guitar Boogie hit #5 in the Billboard 100 in 1959.
Now that I´ve solved this mystery, it´s still pretty cool that a tiny German budget label chose to copy an obscure version of a hit song by The Virtues.
The question of Juan Belgado and his band´s true identities still remains. The name “Juan Belgado” was obviously chosen to sound like Roberto Delgado, an alias of successful bandleader Horst Wende. His band featured Ladi Geisler, at that time one of Germany´s best rock´n´roll guitarists. Their Polydor EP Heiße Gitarren is early German instrumental rock´n´roll similar to Johnny & The Hurricanes. But who played that throbbing tremolo guitar in Juan Belgado´s band?
The history of pop music is full of false identities and endless copying. The beauty is that some of those mysteries will never be solved.
Quelle was widely known as Germany´s most successful mail order company but until the 1980s they were also one of the five biggest chains of department stores. Established in 1927 the company declared bankruptcy in 2009 and the rights to the name were bought up by Otto, formerly their biggest rival in the mail order business. In the 1950s Quelle tried to grab a slice of the booming record market with their own short lived Quellux label, of course in true budget style issuing cheap flexible records. Quellux records were sold solely in their own Quelle department stores.
Hula Baby is a German version, first recorded by Peter Kraus in 1958, of Buddy Knox´ hit record Hula Love, that was likewise a version of Hawaiian Song, written and recorded by Leadbelly in 1948.
Baby, ich schiess dir einen Teddybär , a cover version of Perry Como´s “Kewpie Doll”, was first recorded by Austrian pop singer Jörg Maria Berg. Four years ago I posted another fine version of that song by Francesco Barini on the local Berlin budget flexi disc label Rondo here.
I have no idea who is behind Joe Wilkens and his Rockies and as usual both versions have never been reissued in any format.
Helmy was a cool cat! Local Berliner Helmut Zacharias could have had a huge career as a classical violinist but instead he chose to a be a giant German pop fiddler! As a teenager in the 30s he was a swing and jazz fan and first recorded in 1941. Some of his early material is fast and furious and pretty close to that of Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt:
Now the title of this particular song seems almost cynical, because “Gut gelaunt” translates to “In a good mood”. In 1942 that was certainly not the prevalent feeling of a lot of people in Germany and Europe. Some might disagree, but to me German swing music, like all of the culture that was produced in Nazi-Germany, no matter how sophisticated, will always feel stained. Simply because it wasn´t a threat to the dictatorship and it was made while millions of people were expelled, tortured and killed.
But what were you to do if you were a very talented 22 year old swing musician living in a dictatorship? Zacharias chose to stay and keep playing and playing until Berlin was in ruins. And then he still kept playing. In this picture he is shown with his wife Hella and his friend, guitarist Coco Schumann, circa 1947 in front of a sign that says: “Long live the SED” (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands – Socialist Unity Party Of Germany).
Coco, a Berlin jew, had come back from Auschwitz and Dachau and immediately started to play with Helmut again, like they had done before 1943. The two swing enthusiasts, bound together by their love for the music, were now performing for Berliner Rundfunk, the first Berlin radio Station run by the Soviet military government. Into the late 40s they recorded together for Odeon, Amiga and Polydor.
Hemut Zacharias´ career really took off in the 50s and he remains one of the few German pop artists that reached a worl-wide audience. Despite the bias of German cultural circles towards more vulgar styles he held on to his true swing spirit: “It ain´t what you do. It´s the way that you do it.”
Naturally he didn´t shy away from Rock´n´Roll either. Henry Cording (aka Henry Salvador, the name is a word play: re-cording) recorded “Rock and Roll Mops”, one of the first French rock´n´roll songs in 1956. The lyrics were written by Vernon Sinclair, a pen name of Boris Vian. Vian, an accomplished jazz trumpeter, published his first poem in 1943 in the bulletin of the Hot Club de France, the association of lovers of authentic jazz. In the 30s and 40s Hot Clubs spread all over the world.
Rock´n “Roll-Mops” plays with the words Rock´n´Roll and Rollmops. A Rollmops is a rolled pickled Herring fillet, a particular specialty of Berlin. Somehow Helmut Zacharias´ instrumental version has never been re-released, or at least I couldn´t find it anywhere. Check for yourself, if you´ll only find this post, I´m probably right.