Sunday, 11 November 2012
ELDER MUSIC: Rock Around the Clock
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.
The song Rock Around the Clock was one of the most important songs in the development and history of rock & roll, the only other one that matched it was Heartbreak Hotel.
With a column named “Rock Around the Clock” you’d expect Bill Haley to show his head somewhere but I’m going to surprise you by saying that he won’t be in this week at all.
“How could that be?” I hear you ask. Well, someone out there asked it. All will become clear. I hope. Besides, his version is so well known it’s not necessary for me to play it.
I am going to play Rock Around the Clock though. Bill’s wasn’t the first version of that song. The honors go to a group called SUNNY DAE AND HIS KNIGHTS.
Their version is more jump blues than rock & roll, with a bit of jazz as well. The song was written by James Myers who was Bill Haley’s manager. However, the owner of Bill’s record label detested James and refused to allow Bill to record it.
James offered the song to Pascal Vennitti (Sunny Dae’s real name) and the group recorded it. It was only a moderate success. Bill’s record company relented and he recorded it some months after Sunny and his crew and it could be said to have changed the world. However, here’s the original.
BIG JOE TURNER was another artist from whom Bill copped a bunch of songs.
This isn’t one of them but it could be considered the prototype for the song we’re interested in today. I think Chuck Berry may have listened to it as well - there are more than a few hints of his Reelin’ and Rockin’ in this one. The song is Around The Clock Blues.
It’s not all rock & roll today, but they all have something to do with clocks. NAT KING COLE, and many others, recorded this next song.
We are starting around the clock with Nat with his trio performing One O'Clock Jump.
Time passes, we’re up to three o’clock. There don’t seem to be any two o’clock songs, at least not in my collection. I suppose I could have included Quarter to Three, i.e. 2:45, but that’d be cheating a little.
I’d have done it if I were pushed for songs, but I’m not. Besides rock & roll, a number of these tunes I found are blues and this is so for the next one. It’s B.B. KING.
The king of the blues performs Three O’Clock Blues.
Another hour has passed. Here it is at 4 o’clock. Now I must admit that I hadn’t heard of TOOTER BOATMAN before I started searching my collection for clock songs and there he was on one of my “various” CDs singing this song. When I played it I knew it was an instant inclusion.
Tooter and his band, The Chaparrals, toured around Texas in the second half of the fifties playing small towns and occasionally in cities. Towards the end of that decade, the various members of his band drifted off elsewhere and the heyday of Tooter came to an end.
Here he performs with the band Life Begins at 4 O'Clock.
Time passes slowly up here in the mountains, to quote his Bobness, and it’s still 4 o’clock.
Stanley Mitchell was from Detroit and after a stint singing in his local church he performed in a whole bunch of groups, mostly in the DooWop style around Detroit and elsewhere. Eventually he formed a group with Charles Sutton called The Tornados.
As Stan was the lead singer, they were mostly billed as STANLEY MITCHELL AND THE TORNADOS.
They got a recording contract with Chess records and went to Chicago where they recorded Four O'Clock In The Morning and several other songs. In spite of good reviews, the record didn’t sell well and after a while Chess dropped them from their roster.
The group recorded for several small Detroit record companies but failed to make a big dent on the charts. In spite of all that, it’s still a good song and it fits with the theme today.
Well, it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere. That’s definitely a cue for ALAN JACKSON with a little help from JIMMY BUFFETT.
We’re adding a bit of country with Alan and Jimmy to an extent. I like to mix things up a bit. This is a song for all the workers out there who come to lunch time and really wish it were a bit later. The song is It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere.
By the sound of that song we could be stuck in 5 o’clock for some time but we managed to get away from there (or then). It’s now 6 o’clock.
People in Australia of a certain age (round about mine), every Saturday evening in the late fifties, early sixties, sat in front of the TV for Six O’Clock Rock. This was hosted by the first great rocker this country produced, JOHNNY O’KEEFE.
Each episode started the same way, with Johnny singing the theme: ”Weeeeeellll, come on everybody it’s 6 o'clock uh huh huh” (and so on).
We’d find out the latest hits in this country and from America (for that’s where most of the music came from at that time). Here’s Johnny with that theme tune.
Now a song I first heard performed by the Everly Brothers. I know it’s older than that but I didn’t come across it earlier or if I did, I had removed it from my brain. I seriously considered using their version until I heard SAM COOKE perform it and there was no contest.
I don’t need to tell you about Sam or if I do, you can read about him here. Here he is with Grandfather's Clock.
An appropriate way to end this is with Stop the Clock by FATS DOMINO.
Unfortunately, it’s far from Fats’ best song but it’s a clock song and we have to end this somehow and it fitted into that role perfectly. The song came towards the end of his extraordinary 15-year creative period beginning in the late forties.