Saturday, May 29, 2010

Cabbage Patch Kids

Artist: Cabbage Patch Kids
LP: Cabbage Patch Dreams
Song: "Happy Birthday Hoe-Down"
[ listen ]

One of the lowest points in recorded human history occurred during the holiday season in the mid-1980s, when every child needed to have a Cabbage Patch Kid for Christmas. The dolls were in short supply, so parents (and by that I mean grown-ups) actually got into fist-fights at department stores when there weren't enough dolls to go around. It's hard to imagine anyone fighting to obtain something as repulsive as this—even in the '80s—but one theory asserts that Cabbage Patch Kids were designed to desensitize the public to the appearance of mutated children born in the aftermath of a nuclear war. There's more info on Wikipedia here, where you can read all about the dolls' history and the different varieties of Cabbage Patch Kids that have been produced over the years—including one that devours plastic snacks which then exit the doll's backside where they drop into a backpack. Visit the official Cabbage Patch Kids website here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Georgia Gibbs

Artist: Georgia Gibbs
LP: Her Nibs... Miss Georgia Gibbs
Song: "So In Love"
[ listen ]

When I told a friend of mine that I'm a fan of singer Georgia Gibbs, he asked if I knew what "her nibs" means, since the phrase is often associated with Ms. Gibbs. I admitted I didn't know, but that I'd always figured it had something to do with her breasts. My friend did a little research and this is what he found: "'nibs' —noun, his / her nibs — informal: often facetious. a person in authority, esp. one who is demanding and tyrannical: His nibs wants fresh strawberries in December." So it would seem Georgia Gibbs earned the nickname "her nibs" by demanding fresh strawberries in December. Someone at the store where I found this record had written on the price tag: "look at the back cover...very carefully." I did look at it carefully, even turning the picture of the queen of hearts upside down to see if she turned into an old hag, but I couldn't find anything out of the ordinary. If you find something, let me know. 

Born with the unfortunate name of Frieda Lipschitz in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1919, Georgia Gibbs changed her name and began singing at the Raymor Ballroom in Boston when she was just thirteen years old. She went on to have a string of hits in the early-to-mid 1950s, but found herself in hot water after achieving success with "white versions" of songs by black singers like Etta James and LaVern Baker. Gibbs' popularity had faded by the end of the 1950s and she recorded her last album in 1966. You can read all about the life and career of Her Nibs Georgia Gibbs here and here and read her obituary in The Independent here.

[ Georgia Gibbs: August 17, 1919 — December 9, 2006 ]

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dave "Baby" Cortez

Artist: Dave "Baby" Cortez
LP: Dave "Baby" Cortez and His Happy Organ
Song: "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie"
[ listen ]
Song: "The Whistling Organ"
[ listen ]

Born in Detroit on August 13, 1938, David Cortez Clowney was the first performer to have a hit in the USA where the organ was featured as lead instrument. Not only that, but in 1959 his popular hit "The Happy Organ" was the first instrumental single ever to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop charts. You can read more about Dave "Baby" Cortez here and here, click here to watch an awful homemade video for "The Happy Organ," and below you'll find the LP liner notes, where Ira Howard hails the music of Dave "Baby" Cortetz as "almost inspiring."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

George Symonette & Eloise Lewis

LP: Nassau's Junkanoo Festival
Artist: George Symonette
Song: "All Suit, No Man"
[ listen ]
Artist: Eloise Lewis
Song: "I Need It"
[ listen ]

This terrific 1956 various artists LP features some of The Bahamas' most popular entertainers of the era. Standing an impressive 6'5", popular pharmacist George Symonette came to be known around the world for his music, earning the title "The King of Goombay." George was reportedly "an avid sportsman, a fine gentleman, and a talented pianist all in one." Go here to read more about Mr. Symonette and to listen to two neat audio clips wherein Lou Adams, Sr. and Theophilus Coakley of the group T-Connection recall stories about the talented singer and pianist. 

Born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1935 but raised in Nassau, Eloise Lewis studied guitar and came to be known as "The First Lady of Bahamian Song" for a career that began when she was just twelve years old and lasted until her death in 1985. You can read more about Eloise Lewis here, where you can also listen to an audio clip with Maureen DuV-alier reminiscing about an exciting impromptu jam session she and Eloise had with George Symonette when they all happened to be hanging out at Blackbeard's Tavern one night. Go here to read a little more about Ms. Lewis and to see a list of her solo recordings, as well as her releases with The Eloise Trio. Liner notes and pictures from the back of the "Nassau's Junkanoo Festival" LP are included here:

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Undisputed Truth

Artist: The Undisputed Truth
LP: Method to the Madness
Song: "Cosmic Contact"
[ listen ]
Song: "Let's Go Down to the Disco"
[ listen ]

Founded in the early 1970s by Norman Whitfield of The Temptations, The Undisputed Truth had minimal chart success with their blend of science fiction, psychedelia and soul. Dejected and feeling like their fellow Earthlings just didn't "get" them, group members Taka Boom, Joe Harris, Tyrone "Lil Ty" Barkley and Calvin "Dhaakk" Stephenson were pretty excited when they got beamed aboard a UFO back in 1976. With hopes of being allowed to remain in outer space where they belonged, The Undisputed Truth went before the Space God to present the detailed method to their madness and to apply for resident alien status. Click here to read more about The Undisputed Truth and to see a list of records they released before leaving the planet.

Friday, May 21, 2010

General Crook

Artist: General Crook
LP: General Crook
Song: "Fever In the Funkhouse"
[ listen ]

Not to be confused with the spectacularly-bearded General George Crook of American Civil War fame, the musical General Crook (his birth name, believe it or not) was born in Mound Bayou, Mississippi in February of 1945. After graduating from high school, he moved to Chicago where he began working on a career in music. He found only moderate success, though this soulful and funky LP released on the Wand label in 1974 is just about as wonderful as anything I've heard from the era. You can read more about the life and career of General Crook on the website here. Unfortunately, Crook often suffered from recurring bouts of ill health (fevers in particular), exacerbated by the fact that, despite Chicago's notoriously harsh winters, he transported himself solely by bicycle year-round...

...and he never wore any pants.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Idris Muhammad

Artist: Idris Muhammad
LP: Boogie to the Top
Song: "S-E-X"
[ listen ]

Born in New Orleans in November of 1939, drummer Idris Muhammad was known as Leo Morris before he converted to Islam in the 1960s. Click here if you'd like to read about Idris Muhammad and see the long list of great jazz musicians he's worked with over the years. Can anyone tell me how the song "S-E-X" is compatible with Islam while the name "Leo Morris" is not? Not that I'm complaining...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

George Duke

Artist: George Duke
LP: Feel
Song: "Cora Joberge"
[ listen ]
Song: "Love"
[ listen ]

I thought maybe "Cora Joberge" was an anagram, but all I could come up with is "Grocer Jaboe." Born in San Rafael, California in 1946, George Duke is known as a pioneer of the synthesizer. Over the years, he's worked with Frank Zappa, Anita Baker, George Clinton and Jean-Luc Ponty, to name just a few. You can read about George Duke on Wikipedia here, where you can also find a link to his official website, which automatically starts playing really loud music—just ask anyone at my office.

a note from the next day: "Cora Joberge" isn't really one of this album's highlights; I chose it at one o'clock in the morning. This other song called "Love" offers a better example of why George Duke is considered a pioneer.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Horacio Diaz, His Piano & His Orchestra

Artist: Horacio Diaz, His Piano & His Orchestra
LP: Brazilian Choo-Choo: Dance to the Music of Horacio Diaz, His Piano & His Orchestra
Song: "The Brazilian Choo-Choo Train"
[ listen ]

This lively dance number about a Brazilian choo-choo should get your blood moving if, like mine, your morning coffee never really kicked in today. According to my Google search, pianist Horacio Diaz has pretty much slipped into obscurity, along with his piano and his orchestra. The only Horacio Diazes I could dig up were ones like this guy and this guy and this one too. According to the bilingual liner notes on the back of his colorful 1960 "Brazilian Choo-Choo" LP, bandleader Horacio Diaz was born in Vera Cruz, Mexico and lived in New Orleans during the "golden age" of jazz. He later worked as arranger for the likes of Woody Herman, Benny Goodman and Xavier Cugat...and according to this old issue of New York Magazine, you could pop in to enjoy the music of Horacio Diaz at Manhattan's El Morocco supper club back in November of 1969.

[ Horacio Diaz ]

Monday, May 17, 2010

Peggy Lee

Artist: Peggy Lee
LP: Make It With You
Song: "One More Ride on the Merry-Go-Round"
[ listen ]

Here's a neat Peggy Lee record I found last week, featuring this "looking-back kind of song" about merry-go-rounds, gay clowns and vanilla ice cream—a song that went to #21 on the U.S. adult contemporary charts back in 1970. Born with the name Norma Deloris Egstrom in Jamestown, North Dakota in 1920, Peggy Lee went on to a long and multi-faceted career that included singing with Benny Goodman, having a bunch of hit songs like "Mañana," "Is That All There Is?" and "Fever," being awarded three Grammys, and earning an Oscar nomination for her work in PETE KELLY'S BLUES. You can read all about Peggy Lee here and there are some interesting notes about her "Make It With You" LP here. The record features lots of terrific stuff (yeah, she covers Bread), but I think my favorite thing about it is her hair.

 [ Peggy Lee: May 26, 1920 — January 21, 2002 ]

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Martin Circus

Artist: Martin Circus
LP: 7" single
Song: "Docteur"
[ listen ]

I used to go to a doctor that I liked quite a bit, but his staff was terrible. They never smiled and every time I went there, they'd ask, "so what are you here for again?" One lady on the staff kept calling me by someone else's name..."Steve," I think it was. She even called me Steve twice after I nicely reminded her that my name was actually "Alex" and joked that I hoped she had the right medical information on the clipboard in her hands. After my work switched all of us over to Group Health, I picked a new doctor from the Group Health website based solely on the fact that he was so handsome—with piercing dark eyes and a strong jawline. But when I first went to see him for a routine physical, he seemed uncomfortable discussing personal medical things with me. I'd indicated on my information form that I'm gay and only have sex with men, but after glancing over my form, he asked, "So... you married? Have any kids?" and then he would suddenly burst into uncomfortable laughter at random intervals during my visit for no apparent reason. Finally I selected a new doctor from the Group Health website, based on actual credentials, and he turned out to be normal, down-to-earth, no-nonsense, competent, and he always remembers my name and why I've come to see him. His name is Dr. Christopher Coppeans, MD and if you're ever shopping for a new doctor at Group Health on Capitol Hill in Seattle, I'd recommend giving him a try. You can read about Martin Circus here.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hal Aloma and His Hawaiian Orchestra

Artist: Hal Aloma and His Hawaiian Orchestra
LP: Lure of the Islands
Song: "Little Brown Gal"
[ listen ]

This jaunty little number about one of the lovely brown people of the Pacific is from Hal Aloma—the "King of the Steel Guitar." You can read about Hal here. His "Lure of the Islands" LP was released in 1959—the same year the island of Hawaii was admitted to the union to become the 50th united state of America. Liner notes and pictures from the back of the LP are included here:

 [ Lure of the luau. ]

[ Lure of the surfboard. ]

 [ Lure of the hula dance. ]

 [ Lure of the beach umbrella. ]

[ Lure of the men's swimwear. ]

[ Lure of Hal Aloma and breadsticks. ]