Saturday, February 24, 2024


Curtis Knight (center) with most of The    
Squires, including Jimi Hendrix (far left). 

Sometimes we require a good solid round of musical ravaging, do we not? As in, these five instrumentals from the Shakers Era will ravage you, Dear Reader. By “Shakers Era” we mean the largely underappreciated early rock ‘n’ roll and R&B that prevailed, roughly speaking, from the appearance of Elvis to the British Invasion. (Give or take: 1952 to 1954 to 1964 to 1966.) In those 10 to 12 to 14 years can be found some of the rowdiest strains ever produced in American music, much of it driven by shrieking saxophone or crunching guitar, or both. Most of the Shakers musicians would never achieve stardom; a handful who “cut their teeth” in this era would “make it big” but often enough “making it big” equated to soggy crooning as compared to the teeth-rattling properties of these formidable records.

Collectively, these five groups played surf, R&B, rockabilly, and hard rock from the earliest recording (1958) to the latest (1966). Yes, you will recognize some of the names. You may have a hard time reconciling a shaker such as “Buzz Saw” with the mushier output-to-come by its musicians: among them Glen Campbell and Seals and Crofts. Upon hearing “Hornet’s Nest,” you may remark that you had no idea there was a Jimi Hendrix before the Jimi Hendrix Experience shocked the world, but there was, and he played in a wild group known as Curtis Knight & The Squires. From the Grammy-winning Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee Duane Eddy to the relatively unknown proto-punk group The Fender IV to the double trumpets of Frank Motley right here in Washington, D.C., all these records will fulfill the prophecy: namely, you will be shaken, throttled, ravaged, ravished, and picked apart until your bare bones rattle together simply while you wear a huge smile on your face.

Before you queue-up the music, we suggest that you situate yourself in a semi-dark enclave with appropriate libations at your fingertips. We doubly suggest that you invite your Sweetie Pie to join you. You may jump up, you may get down, you may be scared into each other’s arms. It is always more fun to be ravaged in the presence of a loved one, is it not?

intro: Behold the rock ‘n’ roll shaker “Peter Gunn” released by Duane Eddy in 1958 or 1959.

26-word song review
: Twangy guitar will surely rescue us (right?) but no, it’s a ruse, the guitar crunches us instead, while saxophone drills gaping holes in the earth’s mantle.

how to dress for this song
: In layers, that can be shed, as you flee.

after hearing this song you resolve to
. . . . . build a funeral pyre for all the “with strings” albums that you own.

sub genre(s)
: Rockabilly. Hard rock. Tenor excess.

. Henry Mancini wrote the original “Peter Gunn” and recorded it with legendary shaker musician Plas Johnson on tenor sax. The Mancini version, of course, provided theme music for the television show of the same name but the Duane Eddy rendition goes well beyond Mancini, well beyond raunchy, to reach the upper levels of the registry known to humankind. Eddy’s 1986 remake of the song won him a Grammy, which we will not hold against him.

: Duane Eddy. “Peter Gunn” A-side b/w “Yep!” B-side. London Records, London American Recordings HLW 8879. United Kingdom, 1958 or 1959. (Also released on the Jamie label in the USA, in 1959 and1960, under the heading of Duane Eddy “His Twangy Guitar” and The Rebels). Likely personnel may have included all or some of the following: Duane Eddy (guitar); Steve Douglas (saxophone); Corkey Casey (rhythm guitar); Buddy Wheeler (electric bass); Jimmy Simmons (upright bass); Al Casey (piano); and Mike Bermani (drums). Compositional credit: Henry Mancini. Sources of information: Discogs; 45cat; Wikipedia pages for Duane Eddy and “Peter Gunn”; Only Solitaire Herald; Jazz Messengers.

intro: Behold the R&B shaker “Space Age” released by Frank Motley in 1959.

26-word song review
: 3 minutes of sheer rocket fuel. 2 trumpets shrieking in the same cat’s mouth. 1 drummer thumping away in the wake of his own echoes. Blastoff.

how to dress for this song
: In a helmet!

after hearing this song you resolve to
. . . . . jettison your ballast.

sub genre(s)
: R&B. Washington, D.C. R&B. Extraterrestrial exotica.

: Part of the vibrant R&B scene in Washington, D.C., Frank Motley became one of the few American musicians adept at playing more than one horn simultaneously, alongside Rahsaan Roland Kirk and George Braith. Notably, Motley and his band backed transgender singer Jackie Shane in the Toronto-area hit “Any Other Way” from 1963, a slower piece that we highly recommend.

: Frank “Dual Trumpet” Motley and His Crew. “Space Age” A-side b/w “Everybody Wants a Flattop” B-side. DC 45-0415. Washington, D.C., 1959. Likely personnel: Frank Motley (dual trumpets); Curley Bridges or Jimmy Crawford (keyboards); and Thomas ‘TNT’ Tribble (drums); remaining musicians unknown. Compositional credit: Frank Motley and Lillian Claiborne. Sources of information: Discogs; 45cat; Wikipedia.

intro: Behold the rock ‘n’ roll shaker “Buzz Saw” released by The Gee Cees in 1961.

26-word song review
: As the needle cuts through the disc, as the disc cuts through the turntable, so do the teeth of the music cut through us unrepentant scoundrels.

how to dress for this song
: With safety goggles.

after hearing this song you resolve to
. . . . . cut through brick with a butter knife.

sub genre(s)
: Rockabilly. Hard rock. Powertool grind.

: Apparently, Glen Campbell, Jim Seals, and Dash Crofts had been bandmates in the widely beloved shaker group The Champs, before leaving that group to cut this record. “Buzz Saw” would hardly predict the slower-paced material that would follow from Campbell and, separately, the duo Seals and Crofts. We wish this brief intersection had continued.

: The Gee Cees. “Buzz Saw” A-side b/w “Annie Had a Party” B-side. Crest 45-1088. Hollywood, California, 1961. [Also released by the same label as “Buzz Saw Twist.”] Likely personnel: Glen Campbell (guitar); Jerry Kolbrak also known as Jerry Cole (guitar); Jim Seals (Saxophone); and Dash Crofts (drums); other musicians may have been drawn from another group, The Champs, but are unknown. Compositional credit: Glen Campbell. Sources of information: Discogs; 45cat; Wikipedia pages for Glen Campbell and Jerry Cole.

intro: Behold the rock ‘n’ roll shaker “Mar Gaya” released by The Fender IV in 1964.

26-word song review
: We consider this a punk record ahead of its time, we consider this a great punk record, for the sheer locomotion and irreverence of the musicians.

how to dress for this song
: With a fedora, pince-nez, smoking jacket, and pocket watch.

after hearing this song you resolve to
. . . . . weigh the benefits of the Atkins diet versus the Keto diet.

sub genre(s)
: Surf. Proto punk. Beach loco.

: According to “Google Translate” the phrase “mar gaya” means “died” or “petered (out)” in Hindi; “strong sea” in Haitian Creole, and “mar gaya” in Esperanto.

: The Fender IV. “Mar Gaya” A-side b/w “You Better Tell Me Now” B-side. Imperial 66061. Los Angeles, California, 1964. Likely personnel: Randy Holden (guitar); Joe Kooken (guitar); Mike Port (bass); and Bruce Miller (drums). Compositional credit: Randy Holden. Sources of information: Discogs; 45cat; Wikipedia

intro: Behold the R&B shaker “Hornet’s Nest” released by Curtis Knight and The Squires in 1966.

26-word song review
: Okay, yes, the angry hornets, because their nest was poked, but who set them off, okay, yes, it was Jimi Hendrix, that would explain a lot.

how to dress for this song
: In a beekeeper’s suit.

after hearing this song you resolve to
. . . . . swarm!

sub genre(s)
: R&B. Hard rock. Apian blues.

: There are lots of disputes involving the Knight / Hendrix recordings that we choose not to fathom.

: Curtis Knight & The Squires. “Hornet’s Nest” A-side b/w “Knock Yourself Out” B-side. RSVP 1124. New York, 1966. Likely personnel: Curtis Knight (guitar); Jimi Hendrix (guitar); Marion Booker Jr. (drums); Ace Hall or Napoleon Anderson (bass); and Nate Edmonds (organ). Compositional credit: Jimi Hendrix and Jerry Simon. Sources of information: Discogs; 45cat; Wikipedia; Early Hendrix.

Steve Douglas, saxophonist on “Peter Gunn”

Frank Motley with two trumpets and His Crew. 

that’s all folks!

Sunday, December 31, 2023


 Manifesto & Supermanifesto 2024 begins with the most unexpected development of my career. On November 27, University Press of Mississippi released my nonfiction book Poor Gal: The Cultural History of Little Liza Jane. This capped an intensive six-year research process into the most important folk song in American history. Aside from all the stunning historical information I absorbed as well as learning so many “Liza Jane” songs that now regularly dance inside my head, I developed quite a bit as a writer. It was important to step out of my “creative writing voice” and into a realm that was far more important than “me.” For once, I did not find myself trying to write poetry or fiction by depending upon “my own legend.” Instead, I functioned as a conduit for “Liza Jane” to tell its estimable story, one that reminds us of our shared humanity.

I could not have written Poor Gal without significant mentorship by a bloke named David Evans. A two-time Grammy winner, musician, professor emeritus, author, and blues ambassador, David provided patient, old-school guidance from the darkest days of the pandemic all the way to the book’s production. I had read his legendary book Big Road Blues when I lived in Arcata, but I should like to note the appearance of Going Up the Country, a 2023 work David co-wrote with Marina Bokelman. Going Up the Country blends an adventure narrative with detailed notes about making field recordings and, at its heart, relays an edgy investigation into American folk and blues music.

I enter 2024 with an ambitious creative agenda. I am hoping to step back to the microphone once again as a lyricist-vocalist with a band. Together with my colleague Emily Cohen, I am / we are still cranking away on a documentary film about “Little Liza Jane.” Emily and I feel a renewed sense of momentum regarding this endeavour (sic). Having seen Poor Gal hit the bookshelves, I have returned (buoyantly) to my “creative writing practice” or rather my “roots” as a writer. On the one hand, this would involve dealing with some shocking experiences—such as the long-ago murder of my friend Warren—as well as rendering myself more “vulnerable” in the presence of my own foibles. 

This too, of course. Not long after my friend (and his girlfriend) were murdered, my brother David Gutstein passed away. He had just turned 27. Over the last twelve months, I have really reflected upon the gift of life. One that I have been fortunate enough to enjoy but my brother was not fully able to: he has been gone, by now, for more years than he lived. He had not really gotten started. I visited his grave earlier this year and it really f****** hurt. Yet this well of emotion cannot simply smolder. It must lead to creativity, community—and earthly love. 

“I hate spending a lot of time in graveyards / We’re all gonna spend a lot of time in graveyards.” I meant these lyrics with both acidic and ironic properties alike. (Obviously, they follow from my admission above.) This music video from Joy on Fire’s 2022 album States of America is certainly titled for the season. The song features a medium burn and a more lyrical presentation than some of the hard-charging songs we fashioned together. Too, John Paul Carillo (bass, guitar) and Anna Meadors (saxophones) visited some fabulous production values on the effort. They filmed half of it in Trenton and the other half here, with me, in the Rockville, Md. area. “Show interest / Show interest / I show interest you” is aimed at you, my friend. Reach out. Let’s talk.

Let us not end the year without some serious geese and gosling action. Have a gander at this here gaggle as they comply with local traffic signage. They do not run afoul of going the wrong way down a one-way, so you can relax, the giant yellow arrow tells said waddlers where to waddle. These fowls are headed to the creek, where they can duck back onto the water. Even as they disappear around the bend, it is not their swan song. These here gooses can be seen regularly in the air as a plump wedge. In fact, they live in the same habitat (where their habit is at) as my best animal friend forever, the mischievous scoundrel known as The Fox.

People ask me have you seen The Fox? Well, yes I have. She is quite robust. Rusty red. Full of mischief. A true scoundrel of the finest calibre (sic). This summer, I spent some time with her before I went to live downtown in a friend’s apartment. Perhaps she sensed that I might be departing for a bit, so we chilled in the shallow woods, enjoying each other’s company. For some reason, the fake Australian accent emerges—“You’re a good lookin’ fox, man”—but she’s a vixen, not a reynard (sic). When she sees me, she has this way of darting a short distance away and then abruptly sitting down. She slays me pretty good with her wily shenanigans!

I’ll never forget the day The Fox let me sit at the edge of the den, where her seven kits flounced about, clearly inheritors of the same vulpine mischief. She brought seven rascally souls into the world!

Notably, in 2023, I vanquished my first chess-bot rated 2000—even as I played the black pieces! I am usually too chicken to sacrifice my queen, but I did so because an opportunity presented itself. And lo, the chess-bot was check-mated. Heh heh heh.

Happy New Year, Everyone! My very best wishes to you and your loved ones.

It would not be a true Blood And Gutstein post without a thumping R&B shaker. You may know Booker T. and the MGs for their hit “Green Onions” but I will take “MG Party” any day. The addition of horns to the classic lineup really clinches this song as a romping dance-floor instrumental from 1964. The infectious, propulsive beat will overcome the proceedings. To wit, let us flounce like kits, let us sacrifice our queens, let us croon at the microphone, let us be mentored, let us tell the kinds of tales that exemplify our connections to one another. Above all else, let us strive for peace and love. This is aimed at you, my friend. Reach out. Let’s talk.

discographical information for “MG Party”
Booker T. and the MG’s. “MG Party” B-side b/w “Soul Dressing” A-side. Stax S-153, Memphis, Tennessee, 1964. Likely personnel: Booker T. Jones (organ); Steve Cropper (guitar); Donald Dunn (bass guitar); Al Jackson, Jr. (drums); Wayne Jackson (trumpet); Floyd Newman (baritone saxophone); Charles “Packy” Axton (tenor saxophone). Compositional credit: Jones, Cropper, Jackson, Dunn.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023


Publication info

Poor Gal: The Cultural History of Little Liza Jane
, University Press of Mississippi, November 27, 2023. Available at UPM website, Amazon, and other online merchants. “Liza Jane” is also the subject of a forthcoming documentary film; please visit the project’s website for a trailer, information on the creative team, details on participating musicians, and ways to support the production. […For even more, please see the Poor Gal table of contents; Poor Gal Spotify playlist; and the author’s website.]


Broadly speaking, my forthcoming book Poor Gal: The Cultural History of Little Liza Jane chronicles the formation, spread, and enduring importance of the “Liza Jane” family of songs. “Little Liza Jane” and its sibling tunes crossed many boundaries to reach what I call the “musical paradises of the twentieth century.” Once there, they appealed to a slew of “big name” performers, whose performances were often stunning.

Stars such as Harry Belafonte, Nina Simone, and Pete Seeger (among many others) embraced “Liza Jane” songs throughout the twentieth century. Their renditions often made important political, emotional, and historical statements. Notably, an adaptation of “Little Liza Jane” became David Bowie’s very first single in 1964. Today, a new group of influential musicians such as Dom Flemons and Nora Brown have recorded “Liza Jane,” thereby preserving a tradition that began in the nineteenth century.

It is likely that the “Liza Jane” family of songs originated more than 150 years ago among enslaved people on southern plantations. From hardscrabble beginnings rooted in African American folk tradition, these bright, joyous tunes eventually found the stars, to be sure, but also a slate of less-celebrated individuals who made vital contributions to the development, popularization, and preservation of “Liza Jane.” With that in mind, I thought it might be enjoyable for readers to get a sense of some of the lesser-known women and men who will also populate the book, in addition to the recognizable stars. To me, the impacts made by these lesser-known heroes compete with those of the “heavyweights.”

From quieter, behind-the-scenes moments rooted in folk tradition to the big-audience moments in front of tens of millions, “Liza Jane” has crossed so many boundaries — including the color line, historical eras, geographical regions, music genres, and performance traditions — its story reminds us of our shared humanity.

Margaret Walker’s
novel Jubilee begins in the antebellum South on a Georgia plantation. In the novel’s early going, Walker describes performance rituals associated with a game song played together by African American and white children, “Steal Miss Liza (Steal Liza Jane).” The analysis of this episode in Jubilee is part of Poor Gal’s second “intermission” which also looks at the inclusion of “Liza Jane” in fictional works by Charles Chesnutt and Jean Toomer.

In his autobiography, composer W.C. Handy describes how “snatches of folk melody” influenced his compositions. It appears likely that the earliest forms of “Liza Jane” contained similar “snatches of song.” Handy’s observations help to form Poor Gal’s theoretical framework and are discussed in the book’s “Introduction,” along with essential contributions by sociologist Howard Odum, the regal Duke Ellington, and African musicologists.

A regiment of African American soldiers during the Civil War

“Liza Jane” songs appealed to regiments from both sides of the Civil War. Stunningly, two opposing regiments — a Union unit comprised of Black soldiers and the other a Confederate unit — were both singing “Liza Jane” as they marched toward a battle at Spotsylvania Courthouse in 1864. Regimental adoptions of “Liza Jane” are presented in Chapter II of Poor Gal, which also explores the contributions made by the mysterious war correspondent “Dr. Adonis.”

Native American (t) and African American (b)   
musicians at the Hampton Institute ca. 1898-99

“Little Liza Jane” enjoyed many decades of popularity as a dance game at the Hampton Institute, now known as Hampton University. This community of students, and other communities like it, helped to preserve the essential character of “Little Liza Jane,” which would become the most beloved “Liza Jane” variant in the twentieth century. The presence of “Liza Jane” at the Hampton Institute is covered in multiple chapters of Poor Gal.

Did the eighteenth-century Scottish poet Robert Burns (and his poem “Farewell to Eliza”) influence the formation of “Liza Jane” songs? Poor Gal explores this possibility in the book’s first “intermission,” as well as potential influences from nineteenth century American songs and poetry. Notably, Robert Burns enjoyed widespread popularity in the United States when the first “Liza Jane” songs likely developed.

An influential friendship developed between student-composer Harry T. Burleigh and Antonín Dvořák, when the Czech composer became director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York, in 1892. Burleigh was quite fond of “Liza Jane” and it is likely that he sang the song for his friend and mentor. This episode is developed in Chapter XV, one that also connects Nina Simone, David Bowie, and Langston Hughes to the expansive “Liza Jane” constellation.

George W. Johnson (t) and Arthur Collins (b)

“Liza Jane” songs attained “hit” status in the early recording era. Among others, African American star George W. Johnson (in 1898) and baritone Arthur Collins (in 1903) both produced popular versions of “Goodbye Liza Jane.” The former reclaimed a variant that had flourished in minstrelsy while the latter performed a Tin Pan Alley number. These efforts are discussed across various chapters that measure how societal forces acted upon early recordings of “Liza Jane.”

Actress, aviatrix, and novelist Ruth Chatterton may have been most responsible for popularizing “Little Liza Jane” in the World War I era. Unlike “Goodbye Liza Jane,” this variant likely did not feature in minstrelsy, and instead, was popularized by Chatterton from 1916-1917 during more than 200 performances of a Broadway play. Chatterton’s influence is chronicled in chapter XI of Poor Gal, which also introduces the enigmatic composer Countess Ada de Lachau. 

Beginning in the 1930s, two young musicians known as the DeZurik Sisters or the Cackle Sisters appeared on syndicated radio shows all over the country. They became especially famous for their virtuosic imitations of chickens. And of course, they sang about “Liza Jane.” The Cackle Sisters are discussed in Chapter XIII of Poor Gal, alongside other big-audience moments in popular films, television programs, early animations, and radio shows. 

The multi-instrumentalist Rahsaan Roland Kirk loved performing “Little Liza Jane” and on one occasion told a colorful onstage story about the original Liza Jane. Poor Gal examines this moment in the book’s final chapter, in an exploration of Liza Jane’s identity. In the end, we may never know who inspired the first “Liza Jane” songs but a great number of people associated these tunes with brightness, levity, and dancing — the indomitable nature of the human spirit. 

Also check out the Poor Gal Table of Contents

[*All images sourced from Wikimedia commons and are thought to be in the public domain.]



Publication info

Poor Gal: The Cultural History of Little Liza Jane
, University Press of Mississippi, November 27, 2023. Available at UPM website, Amazon, and other online merchants. “Liza Jane” is also the subject of a forthcoming documentary film; please visit the project’s website for a trailer, information on the creative team, details on participating musicians, and ways to support the production. […For even more, please see a post regarding some of the lesser-known characters in Poor Gal; Poor Gal Spotify playlist; and the author’s website.]

Dear Readers, this post is meant, simply, to present Poor Gal’s Table of Contents:

Introduction: Sludge and Theory

I. Snotches of Songs: The WPA Slave Narrative Collection

II. “Liza Jane,” You Little Rogue: Dr. Adonis and the Regiments

III. 1865

IV. Intermission Number One: The Potential Influences of Robert Burns, “Susan Jane,” and Others

V. “Liza Jane” Meets the Masses: Postbellum Minstrelsy, Part First and Part Third

VI. From the Bold Soldier Boy’s Songbook to the Cylinders of George W. Johnson: “Oh, Goodbye Liza Jane”

VII. From the New Orleans Levee to the Hampton Institute: “Little Liza Jane” ad infinitum

VIII. Intermission Number Two: The Literary “Liza Jane” of Charles Chesnutt, Jean Toomer, and Margaret Walker

IX. You Went a-Driving with Mister Brown: The Tin Pan Alley Publishing Bonanza

X. Poor Gal

XI. I’se Got a Gal and You Got None: A Countess-Composer and an Actress-Aviatrix Popularize “Li’l Liza Jane”

XII. Intermission Number Three: Effie Lee Newsome’s “Charcoal, Leddy, Charcoal” and Betty Vincent’s “Problems of the Heart”

XIII. “Liza Jane” Meets the Media: Film, Animation, Radio, Television

XIV. The Lomaxes

XV. The Constellation That Connects Langston Hughes and David Bowie, Antonín Dvořák and Nina Simone

XVI. Portrait of a Young Enslaved Woman Standing Still in the Cathedral Silence of the Deep Woods after a Dance

Appendix 1: Loose Ends

Appendix 2: Sheet Music or Notated Music of Major Variants

Also included are an Apologia and Acknowledgments in the “front matter” of the book as well as Notes, Works Cited, and Index at the end of the book.

Thursday, October 12, 2023


The great Frankie Lee Sims

Spanning a seven-year period from 1957 to 1964, these five shakers (all of which contain a ‘walk’) will move our bodies in the proper ways of raucous festivity. You will hear R&B. You will hear rock ‘n’ roll. To wit, you may learn how walketh the camel, how walketh the Cossak [sic], how walketh the cat. You will hear rockabilly. You will hear exotica. You will hear “Whooo-ooo-ooo!” Those who sporteth-not bosoms and those who sporteth bosoms alike will shake their bosoms. Apparently, “In wildness is the preservation of the World.” This comes from a bloke named Thoreau, from an essay entitled (aptly enough) “Walking.” Above all else, these five nearly-forgotten songs will propel us forward in wildness (and jumping) and in so doing we shall preserve the world.

Intro: Behold “Walking With Frankie” — an R&B shaker by Frankie Lee Sims from 1957.

26-word review: Here, the walk is a search (if not a prayer) in the registry of a driving pace with mischievous sax, insinuating guitar, and the gal? Aloof.

Best time and situation to play: Ten minutes to midnight, when doubt flickers.

Calories burned during the ‘walk’: Enough “for us to get together and be as two” (listen to the song).

Notes: A cousin to Lightnin’ Hopkins and noted innovator within the idiom of postwar Texas blues, Sims released only a handful of 45s during his lifetime although he did record enough material (circa 1960) for at least one LP. He served three years in the Marine Corps during World War II. He was, therefore, a soldier & a musician. We thank him for both.

Discography: Frankie Lee Sims. “Walking With Frankie” A-side b/w “Hey Little Girl” B-side. Ace Records 527. 1957. Jackson, Mississippi. Likely personnel: Frankie Lee Sims (vocals and guitar); Jack White (tenor saxophone); Willie Taylor (piano); Ralph Morgan (bass); Jimmy Mullins aka Mercy Baby (drums). Other musicians, if any, unknown. Composition credit: Frankie Lee Sims and John Vincent. 

Intro: Behold “Camel Walk” — a rock ‘n’ roll shaker by The Original Starfires from 1959.  

26-word review: Each of us has four limbs, same as the camel, and the sultry instructions may be obvious, but nevertheless, what do we do with the hump?  

Best time and situation to play: Round about 2am when everyone is blotto.

Calories burned during the ‘walk’: Enough to cover the 3am pancakes & stout run.  

Notes: We detect a little bit of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That A Shame” here and there — when the musicians decide to reassure us (somewhat). The ‘camel walk’ was a dance fad that reached regal heights with the likes of James Brown performing the moves onstage. There is also a surprising version (with church bells) by Magic Sam. Lots o’ camels. Lots o’ walks. Yep.

Discography: The Original Starfires. “Camel Walk” A-side b/w “Fender Bender” B-side. Pace Records P-101. 1959. New York. Musicians unknown [“Starfires” was a popular band name; some online speculation indicates that this band hailed from Florida.] Instrumentation likely includes lead and rhythm guitar, bass, drums, and saxophone. Composition credit: Jim Ford. [Also released on APT Records, a subsidiary of ABC Paramount.]

Intro: Behold “Cossak Walk” [sic]— an R&B shaker by Al Duncan from 1962.

26-word review: Cultures collide when an African American groove-drummer reimagines “The Twist” as a Cossack dance with an absolute MONSTER baritone sax prevailing. Wtf? as the kids say.

Best time and situation to play: To shock a party back into its fundamental mission, as when Sha Na Na or Billy Joel needs to be decisively cleansed from the air.

Calories burned during the ‘walk’: Enough to scale a peak in the Caucasus region.

Notes: Not to get too deep into the weeds, but Eugene Chadbourne writing in All Music Guide to the Blues calls this recording the work of an “obscure rockabilly dude” and not the legendary drummer Al Duncan, but we think Mr. Chadbourne is mistaken. This does appear to be the work of “one of the forefathers of groove” (and his collaborator Johnny Pate). We agree with Mr. Chadbourne on everything else, including how Duncan helped to develop the fundamental timekeeping or “metric feeling” of R&B.

Discography: Al Duncan. “Cossak Walk (Twisting in Moscow)” A-side b/w “Bawana Jinde” B-side. Stacy Records 933 XM. 1962. Chicago. Likely personnel: Al Duncan (drums) and Johnny Pate (bass); other musicians unknown. Composition credit: Johnny Pate.

Intro: Behold “Cat Walk”— a rock ‘n’ roll shaker by Tiny Fuller from 1963.

26-word review: Played ostensibly to drown-out the racketing sound of the freight train, the song startlingly projects the same locomotion that it’s meant to obscure. Which is which?

Best time and situation to play: 10pm when nothing has been broken (yet).

Calories burned during the ‘walk’: Enough to wrassle that swordfish on the record.

Notes: This rockabilly guitarist is nearly a complete mystery. What else can we say? The sound is not “tiny.” The harmonicaist cooperates. Perhaps the snippets of voice echo the yelps, etc., of western swing bandleader Bob Wills.

Discography: Tiny Fuller and His Combo. “Cat Walk” A-side b/w “Shock” B-side. Marlin Records 6301. 1963. Memphis, Tennessee. Personnel: Tiny Fuller (guitar); other musicians unknown. Composition credit: Tiny Fuller

Intro: Behold “I’ll Walk A Mile”— an R&B shaker by Bob Marriott and the Continentals from 1964.

26-word review: A pleading, howling, grooving piece that situates despair and triumph nearby as the singer confronts the dynamics of uncertainty: “take me in your arms” + “Whooo-ooo-oooo!”

Best time and situation to play: Anytime you’re in trouble with your sweetie pie. (Usually late at night after an understandable miscue.)

Calories burned during the ‘walk’: Enough to “walk a mile” at which point your sweetie pie will (usually) relent.

Notes: This was an integrated group, with an African American singer fronting a quartet of white musicians. The leader and his bandmates were inducted into the Kansas City Music Hall of Fame in 2021. Very deservedly so.

Discography: Bob Marriott and The Continentals. “I’ll Walk A Mile” B-side b/w “Night Train” A-side. Jayco Records 45-260701/02. 1964. Kansas City, Missouri. Likely personnel: Bob Marriott (guitar); Chuck Vallent aka Aubrey Washington (vocals); Larry Hensiek (drums), Cliff Manning (bass), and Ricky Lee (keyboards); maybe Butch Kelly (instrument unknown); other musicians, if any, unknown. Composition credit: Chuck Vallent.

Bob Marriott and the (fabulous!) Continentals

sources of information
Eugene Chadbourne. “Al Duncan.” AllMusic Guide to the Blues. Backbeat Books, 2003
45cat page for Al Duncan release on Stacy
Billboard May 19, 1962
Discogs page for Bob Marriott release on Jayco
Discogs page for The Original Starfires release on Pace
Discogs page for Tiny Fuller release on Marlin
Discogs page for Frankie Lee Sims release on Ace 
Edward M. Komara, editor. Encyclopedia of the Blues. Routledge, 2006
Jazz Discography page for Eddie Higgins (includes information on Al Duncan and Johnny Pate)
Kansas City Music Hall of Fame page for 2021 inductees, including Marriott and his band
Krazy Kat liner notes for Walkin’ With Frankie LP
Wikipedia page for Al Duncan
Wikipedia page for Frankie Lee Sims
Wirz discography page for Barrelhouse Records (establishes Tiny Fuller as a guitarist)
Wirz discography page for Frankie Lee Sims 

This “Walking” post is part of a double issue, Dear Reader. Do you need to RUN instead? If so, please see “Run Like Femke Bol.”


Sheer joy after a shocking comeback.

We begin this post, well, at the finish line. The setting is: the women’s 4x400-meter relay at the 2023 World Championships in Budapest. Three top teams — Jamaica, Great Britain, and the Netherlands — vied for the lead throughout the race. Entering the anchor leg, Jamaica had a good lead, with Great Britain following in second and the Netherlands a bit farther back in third. Yet the Dutch anchor was Femke Bol, a gifted athlete who had something to prove. Yes, she’d won gold at her signature event — the 400-meter hurdles — but had fallen right near the finish line in the mixed (i.e., men’s and women’s) 4x400 relay, disqualifying the team.

Often enough, writer-types (and other types) dismiss the importance of athletic competition, but they couldn’t be more mistaken. Overcoming a significant deficit right at the finish line, Femke Bol reminds us all to “believe in your game” and “keep pushing despite long odds” and “run for your teammates” or your community. This is not meant to take anything away from Jamaica and Great Britain whose athletes are world-class and whose teams finished second and third, respectively, by mere fractions of a second. They too were magnificent and earned their spots on the podium.

For me, anyhow, Femke Bol ran a race that depended on the craft of her calm, upright posture as well as the edginess of her finish — the great move she made at the end, when she sprinted for all she was worth. It is one of the greatest comebacks of all time. Her teammates are Eveline Saalberg, who ran the first leg; Lieke Klaver, who ran a magnificent second leg; and Cathelijn Peeters, who ran the third leg. To be fair, they all played a big role, and Femke Bol didn’t win the race by herself.

Don’t take my word for it though. Check out the following videos, which explore the results from a couple of different perspectives. Laten we gaan!

The whole race. 

The race, as seen from the perspective of
two teammates cheering from the stands

This “Running” post is part of a double issue, Dear Reader. Would you rather walk, instead? Check out these five walkers — but be prepared to jump! And shake!

Monday, September 4, 2023



Behold “Pleadin’” (above) and “Don’t Lie to Me” (below). A singer & drummer named Mercy Baby aka Julius W. “Jimmy” Mullins recorded these wild R&B numbers in the late 1950s on the now-defunct New Orleans label Ric Records. We suggest you medicate yourself appropriately and then consider the following 10 observations as you listen to these rollicking tracks.

10 Things to Consider About This Release

1. Mercy Baby is a pretty good stage name.
2. The drumming (by Mercy) and the hollering (by Mercy) are quite propulsive.
3. Notably, the guitar is played by one Frankie Lee Sims, a cousin of Lightnin’ Hopkins.
4. Never underestimate the B-side! Especially for the horns.
5. The topics – pleading and lying – seem to go hand-in-hand.
6. Apparently, pleading and lying can be great reasons to jump around!
7. Neither of these records prospered. Mr. Mullins himself died of a gunshot wound.
8. Once again great American music associates with tragedy and a paucity of commercial success.
9. These tunes appear in the very formidable Shakers Era.
10. Grab yr Sweetie Pie. Turn up the sound. & Shake everything on yr body!

Discographic Information

Mercy Baby. “Pleadin’” (A-side) b/w “Don’t Lie to Me” (B-side). Ric Records 955. Recorded in 1957 or 1958 in Jackson, Mississippi or in New Orleans. (Probably released in 1958; potentially released late as 1960). Likely personnel: Mercy Baby aka Julius W. “Jimmy” Mullins (drums and vocals); Jacquette Brooks (saxophone); Jack White (saxophone); Willie Taylor (piano); Frankie Lee Sims (guitar); Ralph Morgan (bass); other musicians, if any, unknown. Songwriting credit: Jimmy Mullins and Joe Ruffino.

Sources of Information

Discogs page for the release on Ric Records
45cat page for the release on Ric Records
Wikipedia page for Ric Records
Wikipedia page for Mercy Baby
Wikipedia page for Frankie Lee Sims
Cosimo Code page for Ric and Ron Records
Jeff Hannusch. I Hear You Knockin’: The Sound of New Orleans Rhythm and Blues. Swallow Publications, 1989
Jeff Hannusch. The Soul of New Orleans: A Legacy of Rhythm and Blues. Swallow Publications, 2001
Stefan Wirz discography page for Frankie Lee Sims