Charlie Daniels & Discount Stores

For whatever reason, when I think about Charlie Daniels, I think about the discount retail chain called GrandPa Pidgeon’s in St.Louis, Missouri. My memory may be foggy, but I assume he made an appearance &/or played a show at one of their locations in the 1990s. I know I saw a newspaper ad promoting his appearance in their stores. (Call it my own personal Pavlov’s Dog.) I was never a rabid fan of The Charlie Daniels Band or “The C.D.B.”, but I was aware of both the man and the band. I can remember conversing with a friend of mine in grade school about the tune “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” The short version is the kid who lived across the street from him used to max out the volume when the lyrics said, “S.O.B.”

It’s not the first attempt to feature man vs. Satan in an epic showdown, but it is a damn good song. Give the man some credit. I remember the whole “Devil vs. Daniel Webster” thing among other tales, but maybe that’s just me. I can only speak for me, but I have met many musicians in Missouri who would cite Charlie Daniels as an influence today.

As for Charlie Daniels being a conservative or right-winger, I say, “Whatever!” He was a real person and a damn fine musician and storyteller — that may be what drew people to him. In addition, I also think about a tune called “Caballo Diablo” (Devil Horse) I heard on the radio as well.

For whatever reason….coincidence, geography, etc. … I can remember the classic rock jock “Radio Rich Dalton” taking about this song as I drove along 170 (a.k.a. “The Innerbelt”) in the St. Louis Metro one day. Country recording artist Chris LeDoux also recorded that tune. There’s “Long Haired Country Boy”” as well as “The South’s Gonna Do It Again.”

In my opinion, the song is nothing more than a celebration of Southern Rock. I could go on and on about the C.D.B.’s influence in the Show-Me State. What I WILL say is his influence is felt to this day. If “The South’s Gonna Do It Again” offends you, then it offends you. In my opinion, it’s a song about being proud of where you’re from. If that’s politically incorrect, then so be it !! Viva, Charlie Daniels!

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Paperback Writer

When I think of this Beatles’ classic from 1966, the harmony is the first thing to pop into my mind. However, there are other interesting elements including a bit of “Frère Jacques” towards the end.. I found a vocal-less version on YouTube and enjoyed listening to the instrumental track as a rocker in and of itself. (No one can mistake this for Karaoke!)

This track moves quickly so it’s easy to miss all of the elements. I’ve always liked the guitar riff in this song as well.

Then there’s the bass of Paul McCartney. There’s a really cool bass lick around 1:50.

It wouldn’t be complete without the, you know, full-on complete version.

You can also find the “isolated vocals” version out there as well. I would have to pick 1966 as my personal favorite year of “Beatledom.” They wrapped up their last tour and were starting to focus their efforts on studio work. This single was released a few months before the “Revolver” album, which is my personal favorite. It’s almost like this effort hinted at what was still to come. The flip side of this single (“Rain”) is an overlooked track which has some of the same elements as “Paperback Writer”: great harmony, and great rhythm section. A bit of backwards guitar on it as well. “Revolver” features more of the same.

Since The Beatles broke up in 1970, I think we should refer to 1966 as “the Year 4 Pre-Beatles Breakup.” Or should it be the Year 4 Pre-B.B. — the year 4 Pre-B.B.U? 1974, on the other hand, would be “the Year 4 Post Beatles Breakup. or the Year 4 Post B.B.U.” I think it may catch on, but I could be wrong.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Arpeggios and Animals

I was fooling around with the guitar riff to John Lee Hooker’s classic tune “Boom Boom”, which led me to the version by The Animals. Their take on it is a bit more pop, but Mickie Most produced their self-titled debut album so I should thank my lucky stars it didn’t come out sounding like “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.” Yikes! It got me to thinking about The Animals as a band. Like a lot of people, “House of the Rising Sun” is the song that turned me onto them. I think the appeal of that song in particular is the vocals of Eric Burdon, the spooky minor key thing, and the simple-but-memorable arpeggio guitar part played by Hilton Valentine.

I enjoyed reading Hilton’s bio on his website ( http://www.hiltonvalentine.com/bio.html), especially the part about him learning from a book called “Teach Yourself A Thousand Chords”. I had one called “How to Play Guitar” by Roger Evans among others. It’s actually a great reference on the guitar in general. (Ironically, “House of the Rising Sun” was in there.)

If you look at the track listing on The Animals’ first album it’s probably typical of a lot of stuff being played around the same time by the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Pretty Things, and other British bands. It includes covers of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Fats Domino.

The Animals had a unique sound. It was bluesy, maybe even “gritty,” but also featured the keyboards of Alan Price. Of course you can’t talk about The Animals without mentioning bass player Chas Chandler — he went onto manage Jimi Hendrix. John Steel rounded out the band on drums.

“House of the Rising Sun” had a big impact on me. I can remember trying to figure out ALL of the lyrics. I finally found a guitar method book which cleared them up for me, but pre-internet it wasn’t easy. It’s funny to think about the influence of guitar books now, but it got Hilton Valentine and many others like him playing.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Black Jack Davey

Folk songs pique my interest because of the mystery surrounding them. They spread mainly by word of mouth over the years and reach into different regions with lyrical variations. Some of those songs have a lasting or “classic” quality which allows them to endure. One of those songs is known by several different titles including “Black Jack Davey.” While researching this blog entry, I found this great Americana version by a band called Hurray for the Riff Raff.

The first time I was exposed to the tune was in a documentary about The White Stripes called “Under Great White Northern Lights.” I never owned any of their recordings prior to this, but I had to track this one down and buy it.

Say what you want about Jack White’s voice or singing ability, but I love this version. I also love the guitar riff in the studio version. If you think of musicians worthy of the title “The Über Folkie,” they have also recorded this one — Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger. Dave Alvin also has a great version out there, too.

The list of musicians and bands who have recorded Black Jack Davey goes on and on…just a few of those include The Incredible String Band, Steeleye Span, The Carter Family, Waylon Jennings, and many more. Here’s where it gets confusing and/or more interesting. The title of the tune ranges from things like “The Gypsy Davy” to “Raggle Taggle Gypsy.” Hopefully there’s a version you enjoy. It tells a great story.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon.

E.L.O., Ace, & Matthew Sweet?

I’ve never been an enormous fan of Jeff Lynne, but his talent really can’t be denied as a songwriter and arranger. Prior to the formation of Electric Light Orchestra (E.L.O.), he was in a band called The Move and wrote this three chord song called “Do Ya”. The song has popped up on some movie soundtracks if I’m not mistaken.

It’s interesting how this song has its different parts: the crunchy guitar intro, random lyrics about things he’s seen, and then there’s a slower bridge part, too. Not to mention there’s that extremely high harmony on the chorus. Take away some of the…you know…”orchestral” parts and you still have some great, catchy rock and roll.

I enjoyed listening to the drums on The Move’s original version. There’s also a guitar that sounds like George Harrison to my ears. While researching this song, I stumbled across this audio clip of Matthew Sweet from an appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

Last but not least, there’s the version by Seventies Icon/Guitar Hero/Spaceman Ace Frehley.

I read Frehley’s autobiography “No Regrets” and really enjoyed it. If I remember correctly, producer Eddie Kramer encouraged him to record this one. Frehley also recorded “Fox on the Run” by Sweet if you’re into the whole Seventies Rock/Glam thing. The songs have some similarities, but that’s for another time.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

THE ÜBER REDNECK?

There is something about redneck humor that just absolutely kills me. While there are many choices and examples, I want to mention two of them you might not have encountered. The first is an early 2000s film called “Run Ronnie Run.” I’ll never forget the first time I watched it. I came home from work on a Friday afternoon, dozed off on the couch, woke up around midnight, and this film was on TV. It stars David Cross as Super-Redneck Ronnie Dobbs. He’s a mullet wearing troublemaker from Doraville, Georgia. In one of the first scenes, he walks down the sidewalk — as he strolls past another Doraville resident, he says, “I’m sorry about doing that to your sister. I forgot.” This pretty much sets the tone for the film.

Ronnie Dobbs hangs out with his buddies and drinks beer at the local gas station, deals with his on-again-off-again wife Tammy, and his kids who are all named “Little Ronnie.” In addition, he spends a good deal of his time running from the police for his various mischievous activities around town. One thing leads to another and a leaked videotape of Ronnie’s exploits fall into the hands of the nearly washed up infomercial producer Terry Twillstein, played by Bob Odenkirk (Saul from “Breaking Bad”/”Better Call Saul”). Twillstein decides to hop on the reality-TV-bandwagon and give Ronnie his own show where he runs from the cops to entertain viewers. When Redneck Ronnie lands in Hollywood, hilarity ensues. There is some great satire in this film including a ludicrous meeting of network TV executives and a party scene with numerous celebrities.

There’s also a “Survivor” TV show parody, a music video by an R & B duo called “3 times 1, minus 1”, and a scene with “freaky new age hippies.” According to imdb.com, Bob Odenkirk and David Cross have disowned the final cut of this movie, but I still enjoy it. There’s also some great Southern Rock to go along with the whole thing.

Another one of my favorite redneck characters was introduced to me via The Bob & Tom Radio Show. This dude sports not only a mullet, but a “Kentuckiana” accent. His name is Donnie Baker.

His voice reminds me of one of my college buddy’s. Donnie Baker is the creation of comedian Ron Sexton. You’ll often hear his catchphrases “I swear to God” and “It’s state law.”

There are other redneck-themed comedies I enjoy like “Trailer Park Boys: The Movie” and the NBC series “My Name is Earl.” I’m proud to say I’ve watched every episode of Earl, and the soundtrack is awesome. “I swear to God it is!”

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Train…I ride…sixteen coaches long

The first time I heard this song was in the early Nineties. If I remember correctly, it wasn’t an old record or the radio, but it was on USA Network late one night on cable TV. I came across a film called “The Last Waltz”, which is a great concert film about The Band’s last live show. Guest musicians included everyone from Neil Young to Neil Diamond and many more, including Bob Dylan. Of all the great songs in the film, “Mystery Train” was probably my favorite. It was a duet with The Band’s drummer/vocalist Levon Helm and blues harmonica player Paul Butterfield.

To my ears, this song had it all — simple, straightforward lyrics, but it was bluesy, rockin’, and a little mysterious. (To my knowledge, The Band’s version is the only one with that catchy guitar riff a la Robbie Robertson.) Basically, it was about guy trying to figure out where the mystery train has taken “his baby.” Sounds like a good reason to sing to me.

As time went on, I found out credit for popularizing the song really went to The King: Elvis Presley. He recorded it at Sun Studios in Memphis and it was released in 1955. However, the original version (1953) was written and recorded by fellow record label mate Junior Parker (the ensemble Little Junior’s Blue Flames). I’ve even seen Sun Records Guru Sam Phillips given a songwriting credit on this one.

The original has the train-like instrumentation and vocals on it. It reminds me of the tune “Night Train” in that way.

“Mystery Train” is a song that has absolutely taken on a life of it’s own. The beauty of classifying the Elvis version as rockabilly says something to me — it’s not really a straight blues or a country song — it lives in some great place in between both musical worlds. This version by Tom Fogerty is a great example.

This is a song which has been recorded by A LOT of musicians: Neil Young, UFO, The Staples, AND SO MANY MORE…..Scotty Moore, The Nighthawks, Amazing Rhythm Aces, Brian Setzer (Stray Cats, ’68 Comeback Special), Link Wray, Alvin Lee, Jerry Reed. I’m partial to the guitar playing of Pete Anderson — longtime associate of Dwight Yoakam. Hopefully, there’s a version that suits your taste. Viva, Mystery Train!

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Little Richard Extravaganza

It’s a sad day for the world of rock n roll music. The one and only Little Richard (Penniman) has gone to that “great gig in the sky”, but not before leaving a lasting impression on many musicians and performers over the years. I’ll be curious to hear reaction from Paul McCartney. Sir Paul is one of the few with the vocal talent and range to do justice to Little Richard’s stuff. Richard’s influence can be heard in The Beatles’ covers of his tunes including “Long Tall Sally.”

There are some great clips of McCartney and The Beatles doing the song live as well. Also worth a listen is The Beatles’ “Kansas City/Hey Hey Hey.” (Personally, I also think their song “I’m Down” owes a lot to Little Richard’s style as well. ) One of my other favorite Little Richard covers is by fellow British band Slade. (If you’re as impatient as me, the song really starts around :25 into the video following Noddy Holder’s ad libs before he belts out “Get Down and Get With It.”)

Give the singer (Noddy Holder) some credit. I think he pulls it off. A friend of mine accurately described the sound/feel of this one as “raucous.” Just a few other bands/musicians who covered Little Richard songs include: Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Los Lobos, Tommy Castro, Meat Puppets, Flamin’ Groovies, Bonnie Raitt, Status Quo, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. I even found a video of Bruce Springstein and Paul McCartney doing a Little Richard duet . Personally, I sleep better at night knowing there’s a guy named “Baldy Holly” out there doing this stuff, too.

I don’t think Little Richard primarily will be remembered as a songwriter. I mean he didn’t write every single one of those great songs he recorded. However, he WILL be remembered for his flamboyance, his stage presence, but most of all THAT VOICE! This live version of “Get Down With It” captures a little bit of his essence.

It’s hard to encapsulate how much influence Little Richard had on rock n roll, but I hope this shines a light on some of it. I think his raw talent really shines even more so in a live setting .

Two songs of his you might not have previously heard include the live versions of “Send Me Some Lovin’ ” and “The Girl Can’t Help It.” Those will be hard to top in any decade. Viva, Little Richard!

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

House of Gold

Just to be clear, this blog entry is not about Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” — a great song in its own right. Rather, this is about a Hank Williams (that’s Hank, Sr.) song of an all together different nature. The first time I heard “House of Gold” was on a solo album by Social Distortion founder Mike Ness.

Wikipedia describes “House of Gold” or “A House of Gold” as a hymn. It’s a simple, straightforward song with a message. Don’t be a greedy S.O.B. because “You can’t take it with you.”

Musically, it’s a three chord tune with an alternating bass. It’s one you could, theoretically, sing and strum by yourself. Listening to Hank Williams sing and play it by himself makes me realize how great he was as both a singer and a songwriter. There’s no auto-correct on his voice. The beauty of this song is its simplicity — only two verses, but the message is clear. I found over forty different recordings of this song. Everyone from George Jones to Willie Nelson has tried their hand at it. BR-549 out of Lawrence, KS recorded it on a tribute album as well.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!

Bluegrass-n-Roll

I’m fascinated with cover songs — especially ones which are off the wall. Two questions pop to mind: How how did this musician get turned onto this song? Also, what made them think they’d ever be able to pull it off? The easiest example of this phenomenon came my way via David Letterman’s show when I saw Dolly Parton perform “Shine” by Collective Soul.

I was really blown away by this one. The original tune got TONS of radio airplay so I think it was pretty gutsy to even cover this one. I can’t remember how many times I’d be driving in the car and shouting the big “WHOAS” and”YEAHS” throughout the song.

Around the 4:30 mark of the song, I always thought Collective Soul was referencing The Midnight Special– “ever lovin’ light gonna shine on me”, but I could be mistaken. If I remember correctly, Parton said she came across the tune via her husband. Apparently, he’s a bit of a rocker!

Another example of Bluegrass-n-Roll came my way recently. Dierks Bentley covered U2’s Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute.

Same deal here. I’m not a big U2 fan and I probably couldn’t pick Dierks Bentley out of a police lineup. I think he pulls it off, but you be the judge. It’s a shame we don’t have as many record stores anymore. You could walk in and ask for “Pride (In the name of Love)” by Dierks Bentley with the Punch Brothers & Del McCoury. I guess it’s too long to fit on a 45 RPM anyway.

Till next time, keep your Mojo on the Horizon!