Tuesday, July 22, 2014

John Littleton

Artist: John Littleton w/ Chœurs du Noviciat de Concy-Yerres
LP: Amen — John Littleton Chante Odette Vercruysse 
Song: "Gethsemani"
[ listen ]
Song: "Petit David"
[ listen ]

After spending the night tent-camping in beautiful Shepard State Park just outside Gautier, Mississippi, I decided to stop for breakfast at the very first Waffle House I came to—which was about the 7 millionth one I'd seen on my trip.


It was better (yummier and more diner-like) than I thought it would be! Continuing along the Mississippi Gulf Coast on super-scenic Highway 90, I finally arrived back in New Orleans on the afternoon of April 13th, a Sunday. I'd booked a room at the charming Burgundy Bed & Breakfast, just a few blocks east of the historic French Quarter. If you're headed to New Orleans and looking for a nice quiet place to stay, I highly recommend the Burgundy. 
 

The French Quarter Festival was wrapping up its final day as I set out on foot to explore the city. There were throngs of tourists milling through the narrow boulevards, some stopping to listen and dance to street musicians, as well as to those scheduled to perform on stages throughout the neighborhood. On the eastern border of the French Quarter I came upon the Louisiana Music Factory, a bustling record and CD store where I found this terrific French-language gospel LP that features John Littleton performing songs and hymns by Odette Vercruysse. Born sometime in 1930 in Tallulah, Louisiana, John Littleton began singing in church at an early age. The U.S. Army later took him to Reims, France, where he reportedly fell in love, both with the land and with a lady. Littleton remained in Europe and continued singing, eventually becoming known as the "ambassador of the negro spiritual in France." The traditional Southern spiritual and the French chanson make a fascinating combination, as you can hear in the songs included above. John Littleton is backed on the record by the Chœurs de Noviciat de Concy-Yerres, as well as an orchestra directed by Francis Le Maguer. You can read more about John Littleton in French here and go here for his English-language obituary in The Independent.

[ John Littleton: 1930 — August 24, 1998 ]

[ Louisiana Music Factory — New Orleans, Louisiana ]

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Meditation Singers

Artist: The Meditation Singers
LP: Don't You Want To Go?
Song: "Don't You Want To Go?"
[ listen ]
Song: "Shelter Me"
[ listen ]

One of the oldest settlements in the South, Mobile is one of the places I was most excited to visit on my trip. Located on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, the city was founded as the capitol of the French colony of Louisiana in 1702, but was moved a ways downriver (due to regular flooding) to its present location in 1711. (The capitol of Louisiana was relocated to Biloxi in 1720.) I was only in Mobile for a single afternoon and evening, which wasn't nearly enough time. I would love to go back to check out some of its museums, its gay bars, and to take in a movie at The Crescent, Mobile's antique independent movie theater. 

One place I did manage to visit, as you've probably guessed, is the record store—Mobile Records. I only had about an hour or so before they closed, but I still found an armload of neat old LPs, including this 1966 release by The Meditation Singers. Formed in Detroit in 1947, the group initially included Della Reese, who left in 1953 to pursue a solo career, though her sister, Marie Waters, stayed with the group. Reese was replaced by Laura Lee, though she had left the group too to pursue a solo career by the time this "Don't You Want to Go?" LP was released. The front of the album features the 1966 lineup of members, all except co-lead singer Donna Hammons, who evidently had better things to do that day than to stand around posing for pictures. Anyway, I've included an older photo of The Meditation Singers below that does include Donna. She looks like such a nice woman. You can read more about The Meditation Singers on AllMusic here and go here to read all about Mobile, Alabama.

The Meditation Singers on YouTube:

[ The Meditation Singers ]
[ back: Verlene Rodgers, Earnestine Rundless, Marie Waters ]
[ front: Laura Lee, Donna Hammons ]

[ Mobile Records — Mobile, Alabama ]

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Apollo

Artist: Apollo
LP: Apollo
Song: "Apollo"
[ listen ]
Song: "Space Cannibals"
[ listen ]

After my appointment at the Doctor's office in Fairhope, I headed north to the small town of Daphne to visit a record store there called Bay Sound. It's a small store, but loaded with lots of neat vinyl at good prices. I picked up a pile of old soul, R&B and funk, in addition to a weird Spanish-language clown record that I'll likely be posting here soon. The guy working at Bay Sound was friendly and willingly sampled tracks from my pile of interesting-looking LPs. His assistance was only interrupted once, when he accidentally charged a customer $1,095 for a $10.95 CD using the store's new credit card payment system. Understandably, he had to stop playing my records to make a few calls.

Anyway, this 1979 self-titled album by Apollo is one of the things I picked up at Bay Sound. The group was originally called Kryptonite, after the rocks that could destroy Superman, but the folks at Marvel Comics realized that allowing this group of musical youngsters to name their band Kryptonite would surely destroy their enterprise, so the group had to come up with another name...Apollo! Though their lineup featured talented future record executives Benny Medina and Kerry Gordy (the antics and escapades of Benny living with the Gordy family in Beverly Hills is evidently the basis for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air!), Motown wasn't interested in funding a second Apollo album. So this is, unfortunately, Apollo's one and only LP. You can read all about the group on Wikipedia here and go here to read a harsh and humorless Apollo review.

[ Apollo: 1979 ]

[ Bay Sound — Daphne, Alabama ]

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hank Williams

Artist: Hank Williams
LP: Hank Williams Sings Kaw-Liga and Other Humorous Songs
Song: "Nobody's Lonesome For Me"
[ listen ]

Since I'd visited Hank Williams' grave the previous day and had also stayed in the haunted Birmingham hotel where Hank reportedly spent his last night on earth (actually, Wikipedia says Hank spent his last night at the Andrew Johnson Hotel in Knoxville, so maybe I stayed at the hotel where he spent his next-to-last night. I wonder: Can a ghost choose to haunt anyplace they want, even if it isn't where they died?) Anyway, because of all that, it seemed fortuitous that I found one of Hank's LPs at Dr. Music Records in Fairhope, Alabama, a small and super-cute town across the bay from Mobile.  "Nobody's Lonesome For Me" was initially the B-side of "Moanin' the Blues," one of three #1 singles Hank released in 1950. "Kaw-Linga," this LP's signature tune, was released in 1953—the first of Hank's two #1 singles that were released posthumously. I would have posted that one too, but the lyrics aren't really appropriate for anyplace outside of FedEx Field in Washington, DC. Extensive notes from the back of the "Kaw-Linga and Other Humorous Songs" LP are included below, and you can read all about Hank Williams (the first one) on Wikipedia here and find his discography here.

[ Hank Williams: September 17, 1923 — January 1, 1953 ]

[ Dr. Music Records — Fairhope, Alabama ]

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Poppy Family featuring Susan Jacks

Artist: The Poppy Family featuring Susan Jacks
LP: Which Way You Goin' Billy?
Song: "Which Way You Goin' Billy?"
[ listen ]
Song: "Free From the City"
[ listen ]

Music fanatics (ones with good taste, anyway)  have got to do two things when they pass through Montgomery, Alabama. (They can do additional things too if they want, like visit the Alabama State Capitol.) The first is to visit the grave where country music legend Hank Williams is buried, which I did as soon as I pulled into town. 


The second is to stop by Montgomery's newest (and only) record store, RAD! Vinyl Records. I found some great stuff there, including this 1969 LP by The Poppy Family (featuring Susan Jacks). The group is originally from Vancouver, British Columbia—my own neck of the woods—but sometimes you have to travel far and wide just to find the gems that have been lying right under your nose! (Or something like that.) Anyway, singer Susan Pesklevits met guitarist Terry Jacks in the mid 1960s while performing on TV; they married and brought guitarist Craig McCaw and tablas player Satwant Singh on board to form The Poppy Family. They went international with the hit "Which Way You Goin' Billy?" in 1969 (it reached #1 on the Canadian singles charts, #2 in the USA, and peaked at #95 in Australia) and had several more hits in Canada in the following years. Sadly, the group recorded only two LPs, and Terry Jacks "released" both McCaw and Singh from the group before making "Poppy Seeds," which was LP #2. Not long after "Poppy Seeds" came out in 1971, Susan "released" Terry from their marriage and The Poppy Family was no more. You can read all about The Poppy Family (featuring Susan Jacks) here, and a photo and some notes from the back of their first LP are included below. 

 [ The Poppy Family featuring Susan Jacks ]

[ RAD! Vinyl Records — Montgomery, Alabama ]

Friday, July 4, 2014

Solomon Burke

Artist: Solomon Burke
LP: Electronic Magnetism
Song: "PSR 1983"
[ listen ]

Known as "The King of Rock 'N Soul," among other things, Solomon Burke was reportedly the first to use the word "soul" to describe the sort of music he and others were making in the early 1960s. A preacher by age 7 and a father at 14, Burke lived a full and fascinating life. Aside from becoming one of the greatest singers of all time (says Rolling Stone), Solomon also owned a chain of funeral parlors and had 90 grandchildren when he died in 2010. According to Wikipedia, "Perhaps more than any other artist, the ample figure of Solomon Burke symbolized the ways that spirituality and commerce, ecstasy and entertainment, sex and salvation, individualism and brotherhood, could blend in the world of 1960s soul music." My favorite story from Burke's Wikipedia page is the one about how he would sometimes hide a midget under his 15-foot cape when he walked out on stage. Once he was front and center, Solomon would cast his cape to the floor in a dramatic flourish. Then the midget, still hidden beneath the garment, would scurry off the stage, making it seem that Solomon's cape was magically whisking itself away. Anyway, this excellent 1971 LP, Burke's first for MGM Records, was reportedly a flop. I found it at the second and final Birmingham vinyl shop I visited, Charlemagne Records, which occupies the upstairs floor of a neat old two-story building in Five Points South.

[ Solomon Burke: March 21, 1940 — October 10, 2010 ]

[ Charlemagne Records — Birmingham, Alabama ]