Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Recorded at Sam Phillips' Studio in Memphis and produced by Alex Chilton (the Box Tops' former Big Star), Songs The Lord Taught Us fries the brain cells like nothing under God's holy firmament.

The album recalls every forgotten sleazy diner, every stinking bus terminal, every weather-beaten drive-in you've ever been in or dreamt of. It unleashes a noise so loud, so uncontrolled, so jittering and shivering with the nightmares of a thousand-and-one restless nights, that one may be moved to run in panic, switch on the lights, and cower in the nearest closet.

If the B-52's seem attuned to the camp of Cat Women of the Moon and other sci-fi trash, the Cramps have mastered the aesthetics of horror schlock (It's Alive, Last House on the Left). With his two-tone hair and a face that looks like it's been gnawed on by rats, guitarist Bryan Gregory undoubtedly eats gore for breakfast. The band's other guitarist, Poison Ivy (Rorschach), possesses a frigid-and-frizzly grace that bears a striking resemblance to a dead-and-buried Jane Fonda.

Along with their image, the Cramps' musical carnage is explicitly concerned with horrific content. What could be more frightening than an album which begins with these lyrics – "Baby, I see you in my TV set/I cut your head off and put it in my TV set/I use your eyeballs for dials on my TV set/I watch TV since I put you in my TV set..."? Or, consider the horror story of ‘Zombie Dance’, a ghastly event (unlike the B-52's wild beach parties) where nobody moves.

Although they do have a grisly and gruesome ability to strike terror in our hearts, that isn't the Cramps' forte. What's so captivating about this band is their willingness to junk everything (musical ability, the record's mix, fame and fortune) in favor of the elusive shudder of primitive rock and roll. With the discernment of genuine trash aesthetes, they combine the sloppy ineptitude of a mid-'60s garage band with the mental derangement of an American rockabilly Dixie-fryer.

The intent of their commitment to garbage is quite clear: It's truly the only way to topple the current hegemony of art-rockers strangling us with their thin neckties and boring us to tears with their clean-cut rhythms.

Amidst the sound of flushing toilets and rumbling garbage trucks on "Garbageman," the Cramps' message manifests itself as plainly as the untuned guitar reveal the band's impulsive nature. "You ain't no punk, you punk!" rants vocalist Lux Interior, baring his fangs while foam collects around the corners of his mouth. "Ya wanna talk about the real junk?!"

Yet the Cramps ain't just talking trash. Their album may not contain faithful renditions of the classics, but there's a muddled nobility in what the band does choose to recreate. The material ranges from Dwight Pullen's rockabilly obscurity, "Sunglasses After Dark," to the Sonics' deadly explosion, "Strychnine." In between, the band bombards us with musical salutes to the immortals – Count Five ("I'm Cramped"), The Trashmen ("The Mad Daddy"), and Link Wray (every cut). The album even concludes with a spooky interpretation of Little Willie John's "Fever," dramatically transformed into the mumbo-jumbo of a pyromaniac.

On Songs The Lord Taught Us, the Cramps ask the profound question that we must face to overcome our present spiritual malaise: "Louie, Louie, Louie, Loui-i-I...the bird's the word, and do you know why?" Clearly the Cramps do, for not since the Hombres' Let It Out has there truly been a more authentic album expressing the American punk sensibility.


Saturday, September 26, 2015


If you can imagine it, there once existed a bizarre cross between American punk's Legendary Stardust Cowboy, the author of the histrionic "Paralyzed," and rockabilly's the Phantom, who won our hearts with the mysterious "Love Me."

His name was the Dootz, and he singlehandedly created a stylistic blend that can only be described as mutant American primitivism. This radical sound, born in the early '80s, was downright psychotic to the point of being transcendental.

It was the creation of one David Frey Johns, who had spent most of his life singing to records in his room and wailing in friends' showers, hoping one day to be heard in a social context. As a child David Johns was called "Duke" by his father, a nickname that eventually evolved into "Dootz."

"My dad and I used to sing together when we went to church," the Dootz once told me, "but we had our own version of 'Onward Christian Soldiers.' Everybody else was singing it the right way."

Johns' earliest musical influences were typical--Elvis, the Beatles, Buddy Holly--but he was especially devoted to James Brown and Jackie Wilson, two performers who possessed an intense emotional style both on record and in performance. At times, the future Dootz even considered himself more of a soul singer because he could reach deep down and pour himself inside out with feelings from real-life experience.

In the '80s, the Dootz began making tapes at the Sonny Huckle Studio in Falls Church, Virginia (in actuality, a mildewed basement, stocked with a jukebox and cases of cheap beer, and far more degenerate and danker and grungier than the French villa where Exile on Main Street was recorded).  Those underground recordings (not available online, but you can find them on broken cassettes) still bear witness to the Dootz's commitment to the tradition of getting gone. Included are uncontrolled, battered versions of Bill Parsons' "The All American Boy," Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash," the Troggs' "Wild Thing," Doctor Ross's "The Boogie Disease," and the Standells' "Dirty Water."  Further, as if defying the ever-impending Apocalypse, the Dootz performs the craziest cover of "Train Kept A-Rollin'" ever conceived by any mortal.

Two songs were eventually culled from these landmark sessions and released as a single on the Sky label (named in reference to the Sun label, not Sky Saxon, bless his soul)--"A.C.N.E. (I've Got Acne)" and "I'm the Dootz." Both are original songs recorded in one take and composed on the spot.  On both songs, the Dootz shouts and howls from the pit of his soul, revealing a naked hysteria and an unrehearsed moment of being.

"I'm the Dootz" is a reworking of Bo Diddley's "I'm a Man" with a sense of spontaneity rarely heard on recordings, now or then. "A.C.N.E" is an astonishing garage-novelty performance, so powerful that it qualifies as the "Louie, Louie" of the '80s. The Dootz told me back then that he hoped "A.C.N.E." would become a million-seller--but he would gladly settle for a regional hit.

Most rock 'n' roll singers don't use their whole body as effectively as the Dootz once did. For him, music meant a kind of spastic catharsis. His conviction was real, his emotions genuine. Having spent most of his employed life back then working in a gas station or delivering auto parts, the Dootz's personal goals was to shape a rock 'n' roll sound (and I quote)--"a million times weirder than anything anybody's ever seen, done, heard or performed."

The Dootz's music was primitivism of the highest, or rather, lowest order. To this day, those-in-the-know eagerly await his version of "Mystery Train."

Friday, September 25, 2015


On April 9, 1988, on "Dolly," a variety program for the whole family, the irreverent Jerry Lee sang "Meat Man" for his hostess with the mostest.

Dolly introduces the rock 'n' roll pioneer thusly: "When he's around there's a whole lot of shaking going on, but it's not an earthquake, so don't's Jerry Lee Lewis!"

Lewis leered, and Dolly did not conceal her cleavage, and God saw that it was good.

Jerry Lee's cousin, Rev. Jimmy Lee Swaggart, was not present at this momentous event, but he was there in spirit -- eating his heart out.


Thursday, September 24, 2015


Below is an excerpt from an article by GREG BEETS that appeared in The Austin Chronicle on May 4, 2001, entitled "Explosive Dynamic Super Smash Hits!," in which I'm interviewed.

R.I.P., K-tel...we all miss you madly!
Until its stateside demise, K-tel was best known for jam-packed compilations of both past and present hits direct-marketed to consumers via garish, cheaply produced TV ads. Although K-tel's buffet-style MO seems quintessentially American, the company was actually founded in Winnipeg, Ontario, by Phillip Kives in 1962 before moving to Minneapolis in the early Seventies.

Having cut its teeth selling items like non-stick pans on TV, K-tel released its first album, 25 Polka Greats, in 1971.

K-tel wasn't the first label to specialize in compilations. California disc jockey Art Laboe pioneered the practice of licensing material from several labels with his Oldies but Goodies series in the Sixties. Ron Popeil's Ronco (immortalized in "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Mr. Popeil") sold plenty of compilations alongside useful products like Mr. Microphone and the Record Vacuum. However, it was K-tel that truly cultivated the form into a pop culture institution ripe for parody.

During the Seventies, K-tel's marketing ploys had the same seedy appeal as a carnival barker's come-on. The pitch was fast and furious, with deftly spliced snippets of music, song titles rapidly scrolling across the screen, and an overcaffeinated announcer imploring you to order now. Some aficionados swear the ads said K-tel albums were not available in stores, even though they were -- at unhip outlets such as drug and discount stores.

You won't find a much better snapshot of pop music in the early Seventies than 1972's Believe in Music. Named for Gallery's "I Believe in Music," the album kicks off with the 1-2-3 feel-good punch of "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" by Looking Glass, "Beautiful Sunday" by Daniel Boone, and "Sunny Days" by Lighthouse. Throw in Donny Osmond, the O'Jays, and a few more weird obscurities like Mouth & MacNeil's "How Do You Do?" and Bulldog's "No," and you have a bass-ackwardly definitive compilation rivaled only by Nuggets.

Maybe K-tel butchered art for profit. But even if that were true, does it make K-tel any worse than a record company padding a marginal artist's album with filler? Though it came at the expense of artistic vision, K-tel's Seventies output was nothing if not value-driven. Where else could you get up to 25 hit songs for the low, low price of $5.98 ($7.98 for 8-track)?

That said, the sonic quality of vintage K-tel albums is truly awful. You'll find better low end on a distant AM radio station, and the flimsier-than-Dynaflex vinyl ensures quick scratches if you so much as breathe too hard on it. And no discussion of K-tel would be complete without mentioning the blinding colors and screaming fonts utilized in the subtle-as-a-meat-cleaver cover art. But, as the tired old saying goes, that's part of the charm.

"Respectable" artists such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones never showed up on K-tel. Although Eric Clapton and the Who made appearances, Elton John was the only megastar who appeared on K-tel albums with regularity. As a result, many K-tel albums portray an alternate musical universe that seldom crosses over into the mainstream pantheon advanced by today's classic rock and oldies stations.

Robert Hull is an executive producer at Time-Life Music, a label that produces compilations of popular music direct-marketed through TV. Hull is also a founding member of cult avant-garage band the Memphis Goons (as Xavier Tarpit) and a veteran of the Lester Bangs era at Creem (as Robot Hull). For Hull, the emergence of rock as a "serious" art form systematically eliminated a wide swath of music from the discourse of so-called tastemakers.

"In the late Sixties and early Seventies, Rolling Stone created the notion of the counter-culture," Hull says. "When I was working with Lester Bangs at Creem, we countered this with the idea of the counter-counterculture."

"In our pantheon were the garage groups, one-hit wonders, soft pop bands, bubblegum cretins, etc., that the 'serious' writers for the RS-type rags were dismissing because they didn't follow the 'auteur' concept of the singer-songwriter model."

"So, in essence, this type of music fell out of favor because of so-called rock journalism:  Rock began taking itself too seriously, even though there wasn't any real difference, in terms of motivation, between, say, Moby Grape and the Archies."

Monday, September 21, 2015


Frederick Knight's only album for Stax is one of the loneliest albums ever made. It speaks of failure, the sense of loss, and solitude. Of these things, Knight knew a great deal.

Knight was born in Bessemer, Alabama, in 1944, and spent years visiting record companies to land a contract. Joe Tex's manager, Buddy Killen, helped Knight obtain an advance from Mercury for "Throw the Switch," but the single was never released. Capitol issued "Have a Little Mercy," but it went nowhere. Knight looked for a career in New York, but had no luck.

Eventually he returned to Alabama to work as an engineer at the Sound of Birmingham Studio.

Knight's first hit, "I've Been Lonely For So Long," was written by Posie Knight, his wife, and Jerry Weaver (although they had someone else in mind when they wrote the song). Released in April 1972, the single was a unique, almost bizarre, example of Southern soul, its sound gentle and resigned, not over-the-top or too deep. Knight's falsetto suggests Al Green's, but it's more whining, less serene.

Unlike most soul recordings, the passionate tirade of a preacher is not at the heart of the performance. Instead, Knight's voice knows the value of keeping the peace. No drums were used on the recording session; the rhythms were made by tambourine and a stool hit with slats of wood. There is, in a sense, a silence imbedded even in the percussion work.

Recorded at Sound of Birmingham Studio, the album was engineered and produced by Knight, with most of the songs written by him. It is practically a self-made work. Even though the album was not created in Memphis, Stax's influence is clear in the use of the fuzz guitars often heard on Isaac Hayes' recordings as well as in the sloppy but pleasing group harmonies which recall the Mad Lads and the Temprees.

Knight's album is downhome, dependable, and devotional.

Every song on the album is a companion to the next, each in search of a friend. The misery of covering up of one's feelings is explored on "Take Me on Home Witcha." "Friend" is about the troubled times when there is only yourself, but when the trouble's over, there's a stampede to your door.

Sounding similar to the album's only hit single, "Now That I've Found You" is an unusual moment of Southern soul transmogrified into doo-wop. Knight's second single, "Trouble," bears the thematic weight of this sad, determined album:  "No matter how good you be doing, Old Man Trouble just out there laying, waiting on you."

The whole thing is held together by inventive percussion, sincere spoken introductions and interruptions, gospel calm, and a quiet vision.

There is a happy ending to Knight's tale. In 1979, he wrote and produced Anita Ward's disco smash, "Ring My Bell," for T.K., recording it at the Malaco studio in Jackson, Mississippi. Because of the single's success, Knight moved from his native Birmingham to Jackson, and settled in at Malaco, where the work was steady.

If he is still a lonely man, we have not heard tell of it.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


While in college at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, I would often break away from the college library and head downtown to explore urban squalor -- and to look for records. 

In the early '70s, Providence was quite a funky place to be, and I loved it.

Downtown at his modest record shop is where I met the legendary Big Al Pavlow, one of the greatest record collectors of all time. He taught me many things about collecting, but mostly he introduced me to the entire history of recorded sound. 

I would go sometimes go over to his house, and he would play me records that I'd taken for granted (usually big band or doo-wop or novelty).  Any record he played me was like an explosion -- and an honest gesture against the tide of mediocrity known as the recording industry.

 Big Al spoke the truth -- and he played the music that supported his mission of integrity.

Back in 1983, the Rhode Island record store owner and record collector put out a truly amazing book called  Big Al Pavlow's The R and B Book: A Disc-History of Rhythm & Blues.This incredible book tried to list the "biggest" R&B hits for each year from 1943-1959, added lists of not-quite-as-popular-but-"representative"-in-some-fashion records for each year, and then tossed in lists of some "representative" race (blues) and jazz records for each year from 1920-1942.


It's is one of the greatest music reference books I own -- and straight from a different planet -- early '70s Providence, Rhode Island, the pit stop between Boston and New York.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


I wish I'd kept all the cardboard discs containing music that came with cereal over the years.  It was a great marketing strategy. I can remember playing the things and hearing lots of snap, crackle, and pop, and yet, transfixed by the very fact that a piece of cardboard held voices, sounds, melodies.

I have not heard this one. Elton John and Aretha Franklin are on it so that's enough for me.  There's a mystery involved -- there is often a mystery involved with cereal -- but I don't know what it all means.

I just remember the days when you sat at your table for breakfast facing the cereal box hoping that it might have some entertainment value.

Thankfully, the marketing and packaging folks didn't let us kids down.

Further subjects for research: cereal boxes, cereal collectibles, cardboard recordings, cereal memorabilia

Friday, September 18, 2015


What is a hippie band exactly?

These days it seems like all the real hipster bands are what we used to call "hippie" bands--with long hair, scraggly outfits, meandering melodies, and good vibes. 

But the Incredible String Band were the real thing. Begat by two Scottish eccentrics, Mike Heron and Robin Williamson, this group made up a string band that was indeed incredible.  Between them, they played sitar, hammond organ, dulcimer, all kinds of musical exotica, as well as the standard guitar, bass, and drums.

Their voices hum and slide through melodic shifts and bends that often seem entangled and then suddenly coalesce into primordial awe. The topics of their music range from witches to the daughters of fire kings. It is music steeped in mythology and ritual and community.

The great rock music writer Lillian Roxon in her sacred Rock Encyclopedia said it best: "It's a hundred acts for the price of one. There is something occult and mysterious and unexplained about the Incredible String Band, as if it were conjured out of nowhere with a magic spell--and perhaps it was."

Pictured here is the best guide about these great creative souls, which will help weave you through their complex recorded works.

I love this band!

Thursday, September 17, 2015


 "We want more!" begged the Swiss at the Boogie Woogie and Ragtime Piano Contest of November 27, 1977. And indeed, they got more – a veritable bargain of interpretive dexterity as James Carroll Booker III, the self-dubbed "Piano Prince of New Orleans," let what seemed like 88 fingers fly across the 88's.

New Orleans Piano Wizard: Live! is an impromptu delight. It will (and does) stand with the very best of the rhythm and blues LPs from the Mardi Gras homeland – Chris Kenner's Land of 1,000 Dances, Ernie K-Does's Mother-In-Law, Aaron Neville's Tell It Like It Is and Like It 'Tis, Professor Longhair's Crawfish Fiesta and the numerous collections of Fats Domino and Huey Smith.

The truth is that Booker had, at one time or another, studied under, tutored, performed or recorded with most of New Orlean's finest musicians; they, in turn, still confer upon this Merlin of the Keys the usual titles – "legendary," "genius," "prodigy."

But while Booker was well-known among his colleagues, he is all but forgotten beyond the narrow and dusty corridors of rock history. Up to this point, his chief claim to fame was the fact that he introduced the organ to Bourbon Street, which resulted in a minor national hit in 1960, a rather average organ instrumental called ‘Gonzo’.

But they ate him up in Europe, as evidenced by this recorded performance. Overseas, Booker had had at least three LPs available (all live recordings) long before the release of this Rounder album (itself a reissue of one of the imports).

After hearing Booker hang his head 'on "Come Rain Or Come Shine," or sharing with him the tragedy of loneliness on two Percy Mayfield songs, you recognize that he doesn't deserve this ill fate of obscurity – not just because of the sensitive touch of his omnipresent hands, but more because of a soul that can transform any material, however bland (an amazing example – Frank and Nancy Sinatra's "Something Stupid") into a sheer ecstasy of eccentric entanglement.

As he walks through the mist on "Black Night" or bounces into a brothel on Joe Tex's "Come In My House," Booker brings with him the atmosphere of a magical place and the consciousness of an era that perhaps he feels, has not vanished.

This desire – this carnival of dreams– does not get lost in translation. The Swiss audience responds deeply to Booker's sense of loss and renewal -- they, in fact, go crazy throughout the entire recording.

What the audience hears is indeed absolute wizardry: a strange man, wearing a black eyepatch with a gold star imprinted on it, far removed from the city where he was classically trained, having long ago abandoned that formal background for the love of the boogie-woogie beat and now pouring out that love in a time and place alien to his magical homeland.

Such a magnificent exchange between audience and performer is certainly rare, and such a perfect performance even rarer.

Pour the bourbon and sip slowly.

Monday, September 14, 2015



Andrea "Bunky" Skinner, an attractive black woman from Brooklyn, and Allan "Jake" Jacobs, an aspiring white male bohemian, met between brush strokes at New York's School of Visual Arts in 1962. In high school, they had both sung on street corners with a cappella groups--Bunky with the Mello-Larks, Jake with Claude and the Emeralds.

Eventually they began to be influenced by the folk music coming from the coffeehouses of Greenwich Village. Bunky and Jake, who had first met to rap about the old vocal groups they adored, put an act together and played the folk clubs, singing of being hip in New York City. The duo even appeared at The Bitter End on a bill with Joni Mitchell.

In 1965, Jacobs had been a member of the folk-rock band, The Magicians, which gained a following in New York and released some interesting folk-garage singles, and even had served as the house band at the Night Owl Cafe after the Lovin' Spoonful left the gig.

When the Magicians disbanded in 1967, Jacobs and Skinner signed with Mercury Records as a simple folk duo, releasing their 1968 debut album, Bunky & Jake. It was followed a year later by their masterpiece, L.A.M.F, also on Mercury.

Like a good-natured jam, the duo's second album, L.A.M.F., is an eclectic blend of musical influences, a record that's funkier and more rooted in traditional rock than the average folk record of the period. Their first album for Mercury, Bunky and Jake, though pleasant enough, was too pop, marred by corny string arrangements.

In contrast, L.A.M.F. sounds like music made on a sunny rooftop among neighborhood friends.  Bunky and Jake are backed by a competent bassist and drummer, and their sound is filled out by various instruments:  organ, vibes, clarinet, piano, conga, and sighs.  The overall feel is of being amiably zonked.

In an interview in Hit Parader, the rock zine of its day, Jake once labeled the tunes on L.A.M.F. as "songs of lament," and most of the tunes do refer to other times, other places, other artists.

"Uncle Henry's Basement" could only have been made after the release of the great Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful (John Sebastian is clearly one of Jake's heroes); "Girl from France" reworks the harmonies of a the 1954 hit, "The Wind," by the a cappella group, Nolan Strong and the Diablos; and, the transcendent "I Was a Champion" is the result of an infatuation with a James Cleveland album.

But Bunky and Jake don't just stop at referencing their musical heroes. What keeps L.A.M.F. really hopping are the lively renditions of Reverend Gary Davis' "I Am the Light," the Olympics' "Big Boy Pete," and Chuck Berry's "You Two" and "Jaguar and Thunderbird." It's no coincidence that on "Cadillac Bleu" Bunky's voice sounds remarkably like Dionne Warwick's or that Jake's guitar playing often echoes Django Reinhardt's.

But despite the assorted references -- or probably because of them -- this album is a smooth and mellow get-together, a reminder of what the Village scene once could offer.

Jake continued to work in the hip-folkie tradition with a band called Jake and the Family Jewels.  They released two LPs on Polydor, one self-titled plus some kind of thing called The Big Moose Calls His Baby Sweet Lorraine.   For two good reasons, these albums were mediocre at best:  Bunky was not on them, and Jake was standing in that ever-growing and tiresome next-Dylan line.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


Downhome Southern music is where it's at. Clarence Carter. J.J. Cale. Tom T. Hall. They all sound laid back to me, and they are artists who can be extremely addictive.

Like immersion baptisms. See, someone ducks your head underwater and the water gets up your nozzle and you try to get out of it but the preacher won't let you so you give in and eventually you are drowning for your sins. But you come back for more. You steal an automobile and you're right back there next Sunday afternoon standing with the rest of the congregation on the banks of Honey's Pond. You are there because it has become a home for you – you feel secure in the hands of the Lord.

Tony Joe White would know what I'm talking about. All his songs sound the same. But when you hear that gruff voice of his pouring out of the radio talking 'bout the gator gettin' your granny you kind of slide back and scratch your stomach and your eyelids go ping! Tony Joe White has that much power.

Right now, I'm looking at his picture on the back cover of The Train I'm On and good god if he don't look like a bear. He's got some grizzle on his face and he's carrying a secret under his upper lip. He's the sort of guy who would never even think of using nosedrops, and could tear you limb from limb if he'd a mind to.

I once heard him on a radio show in Memphis where he preached his gospel and played "Polk Salad Annie" for 20 minutes. You got so caught up in it that you fell asleep, but to hear that voice rattling your speakers (his voice is even grittier when he speaks) is frightening. This is a big clumsy ox who is actually a sensitive little dutch boy. He smirks. He smirks at your cynicism. He smirks at your criticism. He smirks at your intelligence, your ambitions, your zest and zeal. Don't it make you wanna go home.

The radio show was a gas because Tony Joe kept playing with us, stopping and false-starting, rearranging and writing new songs as he went along, and when the disc jockey insisted on asking irrelevant questions like "who put the stomp in your music" and "what swamp produced you," Tony Joe just sat back and smirked. You could hear his smirk coming over the airwaves. It sounded like a melted fart but not nearly as weak. It was all taped, so somewhere in a vault there is stored the perfect Tony Joe White performance, but for right now we've got this album on Warner's and perhaps that's all we really need.

I guess the first song is the album. It's the catchiest song since "Layla" but a lot more fun and lot more profound. Besides Tony Joe grunts on it and breathes real heavy for all his fans. All young rising folksingers will want to do it. I particularly liked "The Family," even though Tony Joe didn't write it. "Heaven help the ties that bind the family." It's touching, without bordering on mushy sentimentality. You'll like it. You'll also like every cut on this album. I don't see any point in going down the list; the title cut clues you in on where this stuff is coming from.

It's a lazy song. You ain't supposed to get excited. Frequently when listening to this song, you start looking out the window and you catch sight of a scissor-tailed flycatcher and you yawn. There are strings somewhere on the cut but you don't mind. It's all a part of the plan. Then suddenly Tony Joe spurts out something like "even trolls like to rock'n'roll," and he begins one of those autobiographical ramblings he's so famous for. The song isn't funny but you'll remember it after listening to the album even once, even if it's not as authentic or clever as "300 Pounds of Hungry." But both songs will let you in on the mysteries concealed on the riverbanks of the Tri-City area in Alabama.

I mean, in these days of desperation – you owe yourself something, and this is it. I don't know if it's gonna be your all-time favorite album or anything, but it'll make you dream. It'll make you run away from home and go South. It'll make a man out of you. It'll make you cry and then it'll wipe away the tears.

Friday, September 11, 2015


I can’t remember the exact date, but it was after one of those Nashville Fan Fairs that I used to attend each year in early summer. My cohorts in product development for Time Warner were with me. I know that much.

We were heading north of Nashville to find this barbq truck we’d heard about.We found the thing, actually, and there is a great picture of the three of us–Joe, Charlie, and me–with the sauce dribbling down our swag T-shirts (on mine, it looked like Merle had blood dripping down his face).

Anyway, after the food break, we decided to locate this guy Freeman Kitchens, who had been contacting Charlie for awhile to see if our repackaged oldies biz would release a Carter Family set for TV direct-response sales.

Of course, the sound of ancient Carter Family recordings on a television commercial would have put us out of business -- not to mention the fact that there wasn’t any real footage. I mean, A.P. wandering the Virginia hills with a handheld camera behind him, wobbling as his depressed thoughts meandered, would have been great, but…..(that’s the real problem with the media overload: all the good stuff was long before YouHooLookAtMeTube even existed).

And so, we find Mr. Freeman, who turns out to be a great host, and he’s surrounded by reel-to-reel and cassette tapes of the Carter Family with tons of memorabilia and stuff all over the place. He sure had focus.

He was a really kind and thoughtful gentleman, and we stayed for an hour or so, but didn’t really promise him anything. Nevertheless, we came to believe in the Carter Family even more.

But not enough to put them on TV, mind you.

Freeman’s documentation was undoubtedly central to all of the scholarship that has gone on over the years in creating the CDs, books, etc. for one of America’s greatest wonders of musical outpourings.
Here's the great man himself in a much more organized environment than when we met him—as if he had come to rest in the heaven of his accumulated desires. Of course, you can see A.P. peeking over his shoulder.
God bless you, Mr. Kitchens.

To learn more about Mr. Kitchens and his work, go here and here and here and here


Thursday, September 10, 2015




I absolutely LOVE the Chuck Wagon Gang!!

I first heard their recordings on Rev. Mull's Singing Convention on his flagship station WJBZ in Knoxville.  On this praise station, Rev. Mull and his wife hosted the show and taught Bible prophecy.

My father was a Presbyterian minister in Knoxville at the time, but this program had music that was somewhat rawer--more heartfelt, it seemed--than what I was hearing at my father's church.

The Chuck Wagon Gang sang everything, every sacred song you could name. Formed in 1936 by founding member D.P. Carter with his son Jim and daughters Rose and Anna, the Chuck Wagon Gang eventually signed with Columbia Records and remained with the label for over 40 years.

At one time, the Chuck Wagon Gang were Columbia's NUMBER ONE selling group. In my opinion, they are the greatest Southern Gospel musical group ever.

Growing up in Tennessee in the '50s and '60s, you could hear the Chuck Wagon Gang on the radio consistently every Sunday morning.  It just wasn't Sunday without 'em.

The above image shows one of their sacred songbooks, a true treasure from the folks downhome, which is always the place to be---if you can ever get there.

  The Chuck Wagon Gang Sings "Echoes from the Burning Bush"
The Chuck Wagon Gang were the best when it came to singing the old hymns. They were the other Carter Family. Based out of Fort Worth, Texas, you see them heresinging one of their most requested songs. Along with sisters Anna Gordon and Rose Karnes, is their brother Jim Carter singing bass. Also is Anna's husband Howard Gordon on guitar with that unmistakeable Chuck Wagon Gang Sound and tenor singer Pat McKeehan. The man asking the questions and requesting the song is Wally Fowler.


The Nightcrawlers Little Black Egg album cover

Judging from appearances, the Nightcrawlers' album, released on the Kapp label in the midst of the colorful late '60s, seems like a psychedelic throwaway, its cover a dreadful painting of a black egg surrounded by yellow and red, engulfed by a purple amoeba.  No personnel listing, background information, or photographs of the group clutter the LP jacket.  In 1967, this enigma was worth a few stoned conversations.

The Nightcrawlers were a garage group from South Florida unfortunate enough to have their first single, "Little Black Egg," debut on the national charts over a year after it had been a regional hit on the Lee label. The song is minimalism at its most polished, catchy and mysterious.

Like "Louie, Louie" or "96 Tears," you want to figure it out, play it yourself, repeat the magic opening riff. Like the drums on "Wipe Out," the guitar on "Little Black Egg" directs the action of the song, which is about nothing more than an egg found in a tree, or, Dadaism in the guise of stupidity.

All of the ten songs here are originals, most composed by vocalist Chuck Conlon, but beyond this fact, the band's identity remains elusive. They are versatile, possessing no discernible style, recalling at different moments the Byrds, the Beau Brummels, the Monkees, Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly, even Del Shannon.  "If You Want My Love" is especially strange, an elaborately produced teen-idol tearjerker that echoes Gene Pitney's melancholia and pain.

The band's sound carefully walks the line (it's as if they actually knew what they were doing!) between the two types of garage music--the folk-rock of Los Angeles and the American punk shaped in defiance of the British Invasion.  Sometimes the band snarls ("Who Knows"); other times, with a harmonica and tambourine, they quietly protest ("Show Me the Way").

As if drawing a circle, the band returns to the riff of "Little Black Egg" for the LP's final song, "Washboard."  The song is a game, a chant, a singalong that Tommy James and the Shondells should have recorded.  "Wash clothes everyday, no work or no play, everybody--washboard, washboard."  The sun's beating down, there's no time to dance, but the rhythm of complaining and scrubbing gives the singer pleasure:  Holy moly, he's discovered bubblegum music!

In the middle of 1967, the Nightcrawlers' fourth and final single, "My Butterfly," was released.  When their album was issued, it was already too late:  the band had ceased to exist. Perhaps for this reason, not the band's faces but a psychedelic egg graces the cover of the album.  Nevertheless, despite the band's breakup, the LP, which includes the band's A-sides and B-sides, works remarkably well.  It remains a minor miracle embodying the garage sound of an era--and continues to be a subject for stoned dialogues late into the night.

FOOTNOTE:  One of the great wonders of the modern mystery known as the Internet is the obsessive nature of its die-hard inhabitants. Here's the link to a remarkable blog inspired by "Little Black Egg" called The Little Black Egg.  Devotion this pure needs to be celebrated.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


The Birchfield family of Carter, Tennessee, learned old time mountain tunes and ballads that their father and uncles played as part of the local mountain culture. Joe and Creed were born in the early 1900s and raised on Roan Mountain in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Guitar-player Bill played the guitar upside down and backwards. Joe’s wife Ethel traveled with group telling Appalachian stories and singing ballads.

Creed and Ethel are gone now and Joe is no longer playing but, you can still see Bill and Janice. Bill is doing the fiddling now with Janice still on the washtub.

Janice remains nonplussed about the day the Sex Pistols spent at her family’s homestead in Roan Mountain, Tenn. She still feels that Johnny Rotten, the late Sid Vicious and company were just nice boys. (The same goes for Boy George, who, according to Birchfield, just showed up in the driveway one day.)

The above-mentioned flock of British bad boys became aware of the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers when punk icon Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols’ infamous producer, sampled some of the mountain band’s music on his own 1982 hit, “Buffalo Girls.” (The song held fast on Billboard’s Top 10 list for months, and was even re-sampled by Eminem on his 2002 recording “Without You.”)

“We had a pig roast and a dance,” Birchfield remembers of the Sex Pistols’ visit to Roan Mountain. “They loved it. They wanted us to teach them how to dress like mountain people, with coonskin caps and so on.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Harold Lloyd Jenkins–or Conway Twitty, the name WE knew him by–was one of the America’s most successful country music performers. Until 2000, Twitty held the record for the most Number One singles of any country act, with 45 Number Ones on all the trade charts!

Twitty lived for many years in Hendersonville, Tennessee, just north of Nashville, where he built a country music entertainment complex called Twitty City. It was famous for its lavish Christmas decorations and display of lights, and included the Conway Twitty Mansion and Memorial Garden. Conway and his wonderful tourist attraction were once even featured on the then-popular program “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”

Sadly, Twitty City is no more and now called Trinity Music City, USA. Since the great country singer’s death, it has been converted into a Christian music venue owned by the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Perhaps you have seen their TV programs while channel surfing.

Me, I went to Twitty City once on one of my many sojourns to Nashville (next to Memphis, the holiest of all cities). There the wind whipped through the cultural debris of the once mighty fortress of a country legend, and I stood in memory, waiting for the ghost of Conway. It ws my last journey to Twitty City.

Things happen. Heroes die and fade.

Maybe you can still look at this great tourist brochure and dream of things gone by.

Monday, September 7, 2015





--Thurston Moore, guitarist for Sonic Youth

Sales Handle
Media maven The Memphis Goons share a lifetime of hard-earned rockin’ noise experience and reveal the secrets to being youthful, spiritual, healthy and absolutely beautiful—both inside and out—as they embrace their senior years.

About the Band
The Memphis Goons came of age 10 years after the American garage-rock phenomenon and 20 years before grunge. Recording between 1968 and 1974, The Memphis Goons were largely ignored by their fellow Memphis musicians, and likewise The Goons ignored their neighborly influences of the timeElvis, Al Green, Alex Chilton. They were indeed a clump of crabgrass sprouting in America‟s rich musical soil.
The Memphis Goons recorded in the garages and basements of its membersXavier Tarpit, Wally Moth [Vanilla Frog], Jackass Thompson, and Rover Rolloverliterally one mile from Graceland. After “successful” recording sessions, the band members would often frolic at the entrance of Elvishumble abode to piss on its gates.

The Memphis Goons managed to ingest all that went down in the „60s and subsequently infuse it with the nervous propensity of a youth culture run amuck.  Influenced by great garage groups such as The Stooges, The Seeds, and Grand Funk, The Goons piled the rawness of pre-punk on top of replicas inspired by Trout Mask to achieve a noisy synthesis unlike anything in popular music up till then.

CATEGORY        Self-Help, Noise, Avant- Garde, Weird Shit
FORMAT           Digital only
LABEL                 Shangri-La Projects 
MAIL LIST         Facebook, PopKrazy, MySpace, Linked In, Record Collectors Anonymous
The Memphis Goons named themselves after the British radio comedy team, The Goons, as well as Alice the Goon fromPopeye comics. Their initials are a tribute to the MG‟s of Booker T. fame. The band came from the Memphis suburb of Whitehaven. Every day after school, the group members would gather to create recording projects they were convinced would attract the attention of the music business beyond Shelby County.

That day did occur in 1969 when founder Xavier Tarpit received a personal letter from Frank Zappa on the Straight label stationary praising the recent reel of tape the band had submitted.  With this inspiration, The Goons floundered forward, their dream of suburban escape nearing closer with every revolution of the tape reel.

The nut of the The Goons’ musical genius is the so-called ecstatic monkey wrench. Just when a song seems so out-of- tune or so chaotic that it is about to collapse, it comes together in an epiphany of adolescent abandonment.  There are hundreds and hundreds of hours of these documented songs, with many of them only now surfacing and reaching the light.

The Goons’ projected output of albums were all sequenced, arranged, and packaged as if they were destined to be major releases, including intricate liner notes and surrealistic scrawling.  In the fall of 1996, the brave Memphis label, Shangri-La Projects, released The Memphis Goonsfirst full-length CD Teenage BBQ from this treasure trove of material, a kind of greatest hits.

The album became an instant underground success with over 50 positive reviews in online and print publications all over the world.  Fans of the then-current lo- fi sound loved The Memphis Goons, and recognized their clear sense of purpose and astounding commitment to the garage sensibility. Suddenly it was apparent that The Memphis Goons were the missing link between garage-rock and the Sex Pistols‟ brand of punk.  Although The Memphis Goons practiced and recorded constantly, they never got a chance to play live, except once when they were pelted with rocks and bottles by neighborhood kids in their backyard.

Shangri-La gave them that opportunity on the first day of spring in Memphis in 1998. There, they gave a highly successful performance, and although the members were 25 years older, the band‟s aural madness moved garage rawness to an even further edge. From that moment, The Goons developed a strong base of loyal fans that continues to this day.

Peppo is named after a marketing experiment, Peppo, a horrible, sickeningly sweet, imitation Dr. Pepper soft drink that everyone hated.

Recorded in the summer of 1973 over three days in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, Peppo was the last album recorded by the band. However, this strange work almost didn‟t happen. On their way to the sessions, band mates Wally [Vanilla Frog] and Jackass were almost arrested for playing the car cassette player too loud--but the police officer let them go with a warning after he saw that it was a Hank Williams tape.
This session is notable because Jackass brought along his brother‟s drum set, which makes this the first official Goons session where drums are featured throughout. In the usual Goons manner, all of the songs on this release were recorded in one take after only a few rehearsals.

The final song on Peppo is actually the final recording by The Memphis Goons until they went into the studio in the '90s. Recorded in the summer of 1973, “Dead Time in My Mind” (originally titled “Living Dead in Memphis”) was created in Jackass‟ living room. The tape of this recording, though, remained in the trunk of Jackass‟ car for the next five years until he discovered it changing a flat tire.

Key Features
Highly Promotable Band: Leader and founder, Xavier Tarpit aka Robot A. Hull aka Robert Hull is a mediagenic print and online writer and producer who has worked in the music business for over 30 years. His credits include Time Life Music, Time Warner, Rhino, Warner Strategic Marketing, PBS, Discovery, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, Creem, The Village Voice, Universal Music, among others.
Large and Growing Market: There is an increasing interest in lo- fi recordings, and with the long tail of Internet sales, 30somethings and boomers are united in discovering these rarely heard sounds. Although incremental at this point, the market for noise, garage, punk, primitive, and outsider music is increasing.

Market / Audience
There are over 76 million U.S. residents age 50+ today; someone turns 50 every 7 seconds.

Boomers love this kind of stuff!!
Baby Boomers who want to look and feel great, and dream about their own garage bands. The buyers of music, books, and DVDs about the Sex Pistols, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, etc.

Benefit to the Customer
The customer will learn:
  The sensibility of emotional and spiritual exuberance
  The nature of noise
  That lo-fi holds a deeper meaning
  How to tap into the self-confidence and inner beauty that only comes with age

Memphis Goons Media 
Book Appearances
·         The Memphis Garage Rock Yearbook 1960-1975
·         Rolling Stone’s Alt-Rock-A-Rama

Print Appearances (All feature articles)
·         Washington DC City Paper
·         MOJO
·         The Austin Chronicle
·         Chicago Reader
·         Billboard
·         The Memphis Commercial-Appeal
·         Addicted To Noise (online)
·         SonicNet.Com (online)
·         Experience Music (online)
·         WHUMP
·         The Memphis Flyer
·         Magnet
·         Tampa Tribune
·         Raygun
·         Ugly Things
·         Dozens of positive reviews in fanzines, blogs, alternative weeklies, etc.


25 variously titled bootleg cassette-only compilations, 1991-1994
While Elvis Slept 20-song cassette-only, promotional release  Spring 1995
Toot Toot 7” EP (Rise Records)  September 1995
While Elvis Slept 7” EP (Shangri-la Projects)  September 1995
Whump Fanzine  7” compilation  Fall 1995
Teenage BBQ CD (Shangri-la Projects)  October 1996
10 More Years compilation CD (Shangri-La Projects) 1998
Voodoo Village cassette only (Bobby J #47) n.d.

Clippings available upon request