Paul Gonsalves playing at Newport, 1956.
When the featured saxophone player for the Duke Ellington orchestra introduced his solo for “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue” at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, a ‘platinum blonde’ concertgoer provoked the crowd to dance in the aisles. The raucous scene inspired the soloist Paul Gonsalves to blow through twenty-seven rollicking choruses, a famous and heroic effort that singlehandedly revitalized the orchestra’s slumping fortunes. In an interview with the New York Times many years later, the dancer, Elaine Anderson, also credited Count Basie drummer, Jo Jones, for emboldening her and the Ellington musicians, by rapping a rolled-up newspaper near the bandstand. “I went mad,” Anderson said, referring to the uninhibited wildness of her dancing. “And the madder I went, the madder Paul Gonsalves went.”
Many great studio and live jazz performances had yet to be recorded, and many great bandleaders would realize (one or more) signature moments in the ten years following Ellington’s triumph at Newport: Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and John Coltrane’s Village Vanguard material are but two examples. If jazz had coined a soaring new idiom—bepop—that would fuel post-war exhilaration, it would arguably become a more abundant form in the 1950s and 1960s, one that would ultimately interrogate convention with such discordant effects, it might’ve extinguished itself with furious abandon. Eventually, listeners would charge toward rock ‘n’ roll. (Have you heard of this phenomenon?) They charged, did these listeners, toward Elvis Presley of the U.S.A. and The Beatles of Great Britain. The Rolling Stones would emerge. Bob Dylan, too. These titans prospered. But surely, this wasn’t the only racket in town.
Kind devotees of this blog may recollect my jump blues post from a few years ago, one that attempted to summarize my lengthy foray, as anthologist, into that impressive, if nearly forgotten music. During said decade-long endeavor, I would encounter “other infectious tunes” that couldn’t be included, stylistically, but not for lack of merit. The descriptor, “titty shaker”, might’ve accompanied a given song, and whether the term blustered into vulgarity, it probably distorted some of the fine musicianship on display: saxophone, guitar, piano, and/or organ work. Jean-Paul Sartre, in his 1938 novel, Nausea, would banish such talk—“My titties, my lovely fruits”—to the head-swimming dolor of a Paris café, and besides, dear reader, I shake to this music, I, a man who sporteth not shakable bosoms. Let us not designate a sex, a cleavage. The person shakes! Elaine Anderson (as well as the entire Newport Jazz Festival) still shakes to the Paul Gonsalves saxophone workout!
The ‘platinum blonde’ Elaine Anderson dancing.
Once the jump blues compilation neared completion, I experienced the melancholy of discovering no new (old) music. Noting my mopey disposition, a friend encouraged me to double back. Thinking that I might modestly compile two hours of these “Shakers”, I embarked, instead, upon another voyage rife with eventful discovery. I would often admit “I can’t believe what I’m hearing” in response to a string of obscure recordings, many of which don’t exist in digital platforms such as iTunes or Pandora. I commenced to acquire these songs, twenty-five at a time, until I’d amassed 600 of them, produced by 500 different leaders or bands. They fit, broadly, into two categories—Shakers and R&B Shakers—yet most of the songs share traits, virtually none of the music offers any suggestion of burlesque, more than half the songs don’t employ lyrics. Most of the tunes were recorded between 1958 and 1964, an important little period that would give way to the British Invasion.
Before we continue, please understand that I have no idea what I’m talking about. The many genres (or subgenres) represented in my Shakers compilation—early rock, instrumental rock, instrumental rockabilly, early R&B, garage, surf, Latin, reggae, soul, northern soul, early punk, and so forth—each require a substantial volley of scholarly activity, in order to comprehend various dynamics. Some of the leaders and bands—Link Wray, Duane Eddy, Sandy Nelson, Johnny and the Hurricanes, Bill Black’s Combo, King Curtis, Gary “U.S.” Bonds, Huey “Piano” Smith, Barry White, Little Willie John, and a few others—would deservedly garner broader attention for their vibrancy, but the vast majority of the Shakers compilation features nearly-forgotten fast-cookers. I’ve listened to a lot of records, but I’m undoubtedly missing a lot of records. And if I’ve learned one thing, it’s never to overlook the B Side.
I’ve previously posted songs by J.C. Davis (“The Splib, Part 1”), Frank de Rosa (“Irish Rock”), Willene Barton (“Rice Pudding”), The Royaltones (“Royal Whirl”), and the luminous Plas Johnson (“Downstairs”). Some of my other favorites include The Yum Yums (“Gonna Be a Big Thing”), The Monitors (“Mama Linda”), Piano Slim (“Squeezing”), Cozy Cole (“Cozy’s Mambo”), Big Bo Thomas and the Arrows (“Big Bo’s Iron Horse”), the Nomads (“Icky Poo”), The Saxons (“Camel Walk, Part 1”), The Revelairs (“Ridin’ High”), Al Duncan (“Cossak Walk”), and The Ricco-Shays (“Damascus”). These are but a few of the outrageous dancers, stompers, rockers, grinders, head-bouncers, groovers, crawlers, swingers, walkers, and shakers. I deejay off this music just about every Thursday night at the Black Squirrel in Adams Morgan. “Come on down”, as they say.
Today, I’ve posted a Shaker from 1962 or 1963, “The Sinner”, by the Terri-Tones, and an R&B Shaker from 1960, “A Night with Daddy G, Part 1”, by the Church Street Five.
“The Sinner” by the Terri-Tones (1962 or 1963).
A Canadian group, the Terri-Tones were named for leader Terry Kelly, who described the band’s chief output as “R&B-sourced instrumentals.” Wives and girlfriends of the musicians can be heard whispering “Sinner” just before the band launches into a piece that defies category, but includes unequal parts of frantic horn charging off a cliff, guitar boogie shuffle, early chime of surf constellation, western (movie) motif, and the gnawing bells of incisive realization. It occasionally slows for the band’s benefit as well as ours. The A-side, “Go”, appears in the Shakers compilation as well. (Wives and girlfriends holler “Everybody go!” just before the band rockets forward.) The Terri-Tones played in Canada and the States, and backed Dick Clark’s Caravan when it toured through their burgh. To this blogger’s knowledge, they recorded only two songs, even as they demonstrate a greater knowledge of “the sinner” than everybody else.
“A Night with Daddy G, Part 1” by the Church Street Five (1960).
Gene “Daddy G” Barge founded The Church Street Five, which recorded for Legrand Records in Norfolk, Va. A saxophonist who admired Lester Young and played on Chuck Willis’ hit, “C.C. Rider” and Jimmy Soul’s hit, “If You Wanna Be Happy”, among others, Barge also played with heavyweights Bo Diddley, Jackie Wilson, and Muddy Waters, among others, and knew everybody. (Even as he is Gene Barge, with a G, his nickname derives from a Norfolk pastor.) Barge never prospered off his recordings, and taught high school in Norfolk before working for Chess Records in Chicago. “A Night With Daddy G” was divided into two parts, an A-side and a B-side, (both are R&B Shakers), before Gary “U.S.” Bonds recorded lyrics to the song, by then repurposed as “Quarter to Three”, an eventual number one hit. Barge honks wildly on “Quarter to Three”, “A Night with Daddy G”, and everywhere else. There is no finer party. Amen.
Sources of Information:
New York Times article on Elaine Anderson
Wikipedia entry for album Ellington at Newport
45cat listing for The Terri-Tones
Wikipedia entry for album Ellington at Newport
45cat listing for The Terri-Tones
Brock University Hearabouts page for the Terri-Tones
Bill Dahl page for Gene Barge
Wikipedia page for Gene Barge
Virginia Living article“A Nite with Daddy G”
Likely personnel for “The Sinner”: Terry Kelly (bass), Wayne Malton (keyboards), Kerry Cornelius (saxophone), Tony Langlaan (drums), and Gary Delaney (guitar).
Likely personnel for “A Night with Daddy G”: Gene Barge (saxophone), Nabs Shields (drums), Junior Fairley (bass), Willie Burnell (piano), Leonard Barks (trombone), and voices.