Sunday, 26 August 2012
ELDER MUSIC: Cadillac
This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
There are no cars that rival the Cadillac in iconic status even though the Germans make better cars, the Italians sexier ones and the Swedes safer ones. Also, when was the last time you heard a song about a Kia?
Okay, I’ll acknowledge the Ferrari but there are few songs written about it, so it’s not really useful for a music column.
The second song (the first is down below) I thought of when Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and I started pondering what to include is this one by WARREN SMITH.
Warren learned to play the guitar while he was in the air force. He decided to make a career of music and played clubs around Arkansas and Tennessee upon his discharge.He caught the ear of a couple of local musicians who recommended him to Sam Phillips at Sun Records.
His first several releases actually outsold those of fellow Sun alumni, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. Well, who’s ever heard of them? This is one of those hits, Red Cadillac and a Black Moustache.
ALBERT KING was one of the Kings of the Blues, a subject I’ve covered in a previous column.
Albert liked to call himself B.B. King’s half-brother as they were born in the same town in Mississippi. However, his birth surname was Nelson and they weren’t related.
Their guitar styles are similar although B.B.’s is more refined (if I can use that word when referring to the blues) and Albert’s singing reminds me somewhat of Bobby “Blue” Bland. Not a bad thing.
Anyway, here’s Albert with Cadillac Assembly Line.
The A.M. Insisted CHUCK BERRY be included. After all, he wrote so many songs about cars so you know there’ll be a Cadillac in there somewhere.
She was right. It was in the very first song of his that became a hit. Rather surprisingly, Chuck wasn’t driving the Caddie in the song, he was in the V8 Ford. Maybellene was the one in the Coup de Ville.
WILLIE DEVILLE recorded this song when he was still theoretically a band, Mink DeVille.
With a name like that, you’d expect a Cadillac song. Willy and his band were usually lumped in with the punks and others at CBGBs mainly because they played there for some considerable time. He was a lot more interesting than that narrow slot.
There were blues influences, a lot of New Orleans, some jazz and lots more besides as became evident in his later solo albums. Here’s Willy when he still went by Mink DeVille with Cadillac Walk.
DADDY COOL was one of the greatest rock groups Australia produced and certainly a favorite of mine.
Their heyday was the early seventies. They didn’t last long as a group and each of the four members went on to produce interesting music elsewhere. They get back together every now and then to play and occasionally record, usually when Ross Wilson feels like it.
There are few people in this country who don’t like them. There’s a famous story about Ross Hannaford, the lead guitarist, and one of his later groups. One time, Bob Dylan was touring and some members of his backing band went to the club where Ross and crew were playing.
After the gig, one of Bob’s group said to the others, “It’s lucky Bob didn’t come with us, we’d all be sacked.”
This is Zoop Bop Gold Cadillac.
The EVERLY BROTHERS had a rather acrimonious split for about ten years. After their reconciliation, due in large part to Albert Lee, they recorded several really good albums.
Maybe the best of those albums was one called “Born Yesterday.” This had some of their own songs as well as excellent covers of several of the finest songwriters around. It also had Albert playing lead guitar, something he did better than anyone around at the time. He’s still the best around.
One of the songs they covered was written by the wonderfully named Larry Raspberry, Always Drive a Cadillac.
An interesting track I found in the A.M.’s collection is by MAURICE KING AND HIS WOLVERINES.
Not shown in that photo is the singer, by the name of Bea Baker.
Bea went on to a successful solo career when she changed her name to LaVern Baker.
One of Maurice’s earlier gigs was to front the all-female band the Sweethearts of Rhythm (well, all but him I guess). Later with the Wolverines, he discovered Johnnie Ray. Johnnie later said that Maurice and LaVern taught him all he knew about show biz.
Here’s the group with I Want a Lavender Cadillac.
JIMMY LIGGINS started a band called the Drops of Joy after his big brother Joe did the same with The Honeydrippers.
Jimmy started out as a boxer but he left that and became chauffeur and general roustabout for his brother. Inspired by him, as I said, he formed his own band.
After playing the traps for a bit, he was signed to Specialty records. The song Cadillac Boogie was released in 1947 and was his second record. It was quite a hit.
You can hear the influence this song had on his brother’s song, Rocket 88, that’s generally considered the first rock & roll song (although there are many contenders for that title).
THE JESTERS recorded for Sun records but after its heyday of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and yes, Warren Smith.
I guess it was easy for them to get signed to the label as one of the group’s guitarists was Sam Phillips’s son and another son produced this record. The song Cadillac Man was released in 1966, around the time English groups were everywhere so it disappeared, not without a trace, but without much notice.
It sounds as if it had been recorded a decade earlier but that’s no bad thing. The group, and this song in particular, has been described as “garage band rockabilly.” I guess it is that, but to me it’s just blazing rock & roll.
This is the first tune we thought of for this category but as time went on it kept slipping further and further down the list until it fell off entirely. Then I thought: no it has to be included.
So, there’s a perfectly good jump blues track that got the flick just so this one can be present. I hope you appreciate it. It is THE PLAYMATES with their only hit, Beep Beep.
In the interest of openness, I should report that I discovered some rather interesting pictures when I went online looking for photos of The Playmates. The things I have to endure for you all.
The Playmates were a trio consisting of Chick Hetti (real name Carl Cicchetti), Donny Conn (Donald Claps) and Morey Carr (I guess he was satisfied with his name). Unusually for the time, they played their own instruments as well. Here’s that song.
FYI: I drive a Toyota Yaris. It’s a red one so it goes faster.