Saturday, 31 May 2014

"The Strong Black Man", "Ten Horned Devil" and other weird and wonderful sounds I've been enjoying recently

A "Big Bad John"-style mining disaster rescue tale, with an African-American hero to save the day. This was the last single release (1969) from long-time Alabama-born country performer Hank Penny, and it was a doozy (WARNING: contains the "n" word - try not to faint):


The very Old Testament-sounding "Ten Horned Devil" is a borderline spooky slice of hillbilly country teetering on the edge of rockabilly. I think it was released in 1957, but, as with several of the recordings on this list, facts are hard to come by - about Prince Arky and The Westerners, the outfit responsible for this intriguing piece of "the old, weird America", I can tell you absolutely nothing at all:


Lee Dresser is a Missouri-born singer, guitarist and harmonica player who started his career with a rockabilly band called the Krazy Kats, then became a California-based backing musician working for the likes of Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton. This terrific 1969 tale of a musician heading back down California's Royal Road to his hometown of  Monterey to escape hard times in LA seems to owe more than a passing debt to Trini Lopez's early '60s recordings:


Some stomping hillbilly boogie from 1957 with Bill Browning and the Echo Valley Boys' "Wash Machine Boogie":


Jim McCall's "Rambler and Rover" is a plaintive bluegrass masterpiece. I can find it listed on several websites, but nobody ever seems to give a date for it: late '60s, I'm guessing:


Cletis Lily's "Southland Boogie" sounds like it was recorded in the late '40s, but it's actually from 1961. He also seems to have recorded slightly harder rockabilly sides as Riki and the Rikatones:


According Wendell Austin's remarkably jolly-sounding 1968 ditty "LSD (Made a Wreck of Me)", the drug was "...better than booze and easy to use/But it made me mentally sick". It certainly did, because he "took some knives and killed my wives" after taking it:


If you've made it this far, your head's probably aching from all that obscurity, so I'll leave you with an act you will definitely have heard of - Bill Haley & His Comets. Here, on "Thirteen Women" (the other side of the little-known 1954 number, "Rock Around the Clock"), the chubby chappie with the kiss-curl displays his social conscience by singing about the dreadful after-effects of an H-Bomb attack. Personally, I find this depiction of a post-nuclear holocaust as chilling as "Morning Dew":


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for bringing Wendell Austin's LSD into my life. I am filing it in my So Bad It's Good folder along with my favourite car crash songs and The Deal. It's a powerful message for all of your contemporaries who find themselves with more time on their hands these days and a range of lifestyle options to choose from, some of them more risky than others. Well, I for one won't now be risking my future on hallucinogenic over-indulgence in the light of Wendell's wise advice.

    Am I alone in thinking that it cries out for a Fulminators cover version?

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