Out In The 1950s Be-Bop King Records R&B Night-“Dancing With The Devil”-A You Had Better Get In Line Because Her Dance Card Is Full- A CD Review
Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Lonnie Johnson high heaven singing the classic R&B, rock and rock, bop and stroll, Tomorrow Night. Yes, Lonnie is in the house.
Dancing With the Devil: 25 Essential Blues Classics, various artists, King Records. 2004
Okay, okay call me Mr. Janus, call me fickle, call me, well, call me perplexed. Every time I think I have it down pat, pat as can be, about what genre “fathered” (or “mothered”) my “generation of ’68” childhood growing up absurd in the half-benighted 1950s rock and roll birth I change course. Mainly it depends on what was the last CD, last YouTube click , or last whatever other source I have filled my head with. A couple of weeks ago it was definitely those mad men swing masters like Benny Goodman and his hard, sexy sax players (and occasional clarinet per Benny swingman). A couple of days later it was definitely Joe Turner be-bopping his big snapping fingers beat on Shake, Rattle and Roll putting later Elvis and Jerry Lee renditions in the shade. Last week it was most positively either Ike Turner and his Rocket 88 or rockabilly maven Warren Smith and his Rock and Roll Ruby. This week, well, this week it is the R&B influences represented by this King Records compilation, Dancing With The Devil: 25 Essential Blues Classics. So hear me out.
Look I grew up in that red scare, cold war, atomic bomb’s going to get you so you best put your sorry little head under that wooden desk and don’t ask questions dark night made darker by being left out of the great American golden age 1950s by, well, by being working class poor. I mean real poor. The music around the house was strictly country (Hank Williams, Earl Tubbs, etc.) representing my father’s rural Appalachian roots or that 1940s Frank, Bing, Rosemary Clooney, we won the world war so our songs rule stuff blaring out of the local holey radio station. It was not until I got my first transistor radio (look that up on Wikipedia if you are clueless about what that was (or is for old fogies, maybe). Then I could pirate my way to many midnight stations in the “comfort” (three boys to a room comfort so not much) of my room. And what I got at midnight was blues, or rather R&B coming from who knows where but not Boston (usually Chicago or New York) from people who distinctly did not sound like they were from Boston.
And they weren’t. They mainly had come north from the rural South in one of the waves of black migration up river (Mississippi River, okay), got jobs in the factories, or didn’t, and played music on the side at some electrified juke joint. Those who did make good music wound up making records for all kinds of “race” labels so there was no mystery as to why I didn’t know this music from around the house. But I knew it
from then on. And I know it now.
That now leads to this King Records compilation which, no question, has many, many riffs that sound a hell of a lot like the birth of rock and roll just now. Try Lonnie Johnson’s Tomorrow Night done later by Elvis, LaVern Baker, Jerry Lee and a million others. Or what about the beat in Wynonnie Harris’ All She Wants To Do Is Rock. How about Little Esther on Aged And Mellow Blues. Not good enough-try this. Wilbert Harrison on This Women Of Mine. Or the freaking rock beat on Earl King’s Don’t Take It So Hard. Okay now for the big ammo Joe Tex’s Another Woman’s Man and Hank Ballard’s Look At Little Sister. I thought that would get your attention. But let’s cut to the chase. The Stones and Beatles (and many others from the 1960s second wave British rock invasion) were spoon-fed on R&B and blues stuff. And while this particular song by Albert King, Don’t Throw Your Love On Me So Strong (good advice, by the way) is a little too late to have been at the roots of rock it has all the guitar riffs that those later groups thrived on. So I rest my case. Unless of course next week I hear Sonny Burgess’ Red-Headed Woman. Then call be Janus.