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Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

Chuck Berry and the Celebrity Death Pool

 "This whole damn thing started with Chuck Berry" or maybe it started with Louis Jordan?

"It was rockin', it was rockin'
You never seen such scufflin'
And shufflin' 'til the break of dawn"

 

The guitar figures are Chuck Berry...no one else...developed along with the arrangements he did with Johnnie Johnson, the pianist on most of Chuck's songs...lyrically, different thing, though Chuck was way ahead of most people in that department too...obviously there are references to Jordan's stuff and likely others...what Berry did didn't evolve from nothing, there are influences and roots for everyone who goes a new direction...same for Jordan...

Having said that, your point is well taken, as jump blues does incorporate elements of swing, jazz and boogie...and Jordan did use the electric guitar back in the 40's before Chuck came along, and also pioneered the use of the electric organ in later recordings... so I'm sure he was on Chuck's radar...but the stuff that influenced the Stones, etc. was Chuck and the guitar figures and use of the pick to chord and be percussive at the same time...

Agreed Mr. Hunter.  The elusive goal to define "first"!  

 

Elusive it is...I can't speak for Ed (who worked in the music business most of his life and is extremely knowledgeable and mindful about musical history), but I know we are close in age...whenI was 5 -6 my dad used to take me to a record store, and the 45's I got were Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee, this is 1959-60...and then the British invasion came later and those folks were heavily influenced by those artists...those were really my formative years...my dad had Louis Jordan and I heard it...I also heard Benny Goodman, Les Paul, Joe Venuti and the Dukes of Disneyland...that stuff all plays a part...as does Bob Wills and gospel music...it all led somewhere

It all owes something to what came before it...I don't know that Ed meant "Rock and Roll" exactly when he said this is where it started, but Berry did some things with the guitar and his songs that changed some things for sure...and the music business itself expanded exponentially over the next couple of decades owing to all of that...don't know if that's what Ed meant...I took it that way...when you watch "Hail, Hail, Rock and Roll" and Chuck is correcting Keith Richards on how to play his guitar figures and voicings and busting his chops and Keith is struggling to play it the right way...that's what I think is meant by Chuck being a starting point...

Depending on where you pick up the timeline, it's a continuation of what came before...where my life picks up, it's Chuck Berry...

 

When I worked at Tony’s Gas station in High School I always had this in my head –

Working in the filling station….too many tasks….wipe the windows, check the tires, check the oil, dollar gas.   

It’s still my favorite Chuck tune.

Who pioneered Rock and Roll?  It’s hard to argue against Louis Jordan but Rocket 88 came out in 1951 so I’m putting my money on Ike Turner!      

As far as Death Pools, I was in an Irish Bar in Atlanta in 1987 and the number one person in their pool lasted till January 1995.   My mother in law would be pissed if she knew that Rose Kennedy outlasted her by 2 days.           

I checked out the 2017 list and #7 made my day. One can only hope (as I type this with my fingers crossed).

 

Is that Albert Lee?

I believe it is.

Indeed it is Jack...it's a long way from the days of Heads Hands and Feet, and the old boy can still "Tear It Up"...great song, and great solo...

I love the lively French audience.

 

Interesting discussion.  I grew up on Chuck also with Johnny B. Goode being the first rock song that I learned all the words to. He was a songwriting genius not only in terms of his phrasing but capturing the teenage spirit.  I agree that Louie Jordan was a big influence on his writing.  For his stage antics I think you can credit both Jordan and T-Bone Walker.  

As to who was the first rock and roller, the wonderful out-of-print book What Was The First Rock and Roll Record (Steve Propes, Jim Dawson) agrees that it was an evolution, not a sudden explosion, and many different musical styles (gospel, western swing, country boogie, electric blues, jump blues) went into the mix that Bob Seger calls "Old-Time Rock and Roll".   Noted critic Dave Marsh agrees in his preface to the Propes/Dawson book that no one musician can take credit.  In fact, the fun Propes/Dawson book chronicles in detail 50 songs that influenced, or were part of, early rock and roll. 

As an electric blues fan I would also note that Chuck put out some really good authentic blues tunes.   It is my dream to have been a fly on the wall in the Chess and Studios around 1956 to see Chuck, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Willie Dixon, Bo Diddley, etc.

Hi there. Thanks for all the comments. Just thought that I'd respond to the unanswerable question about who started rock n' roll. All you need is a search engine and time on your hands to come up with dozens of songs somebody has anointed as 'the one'. In an interview with Chuck that is taken from the Bio documentary I think he says pretty clearly that there were a whole bunch of players and songs out there that could be tagged as rock before he came along. But as with the story above about 'Maybellene' speaks of, he was likely the first who directed his lyrical content to teenagers. That's really the main differential that makes sense to me...the audience. Rock is more about a cultural and generational shift then just the music, and from the radio shows and films from Alan Freed to Chuck's dance moves and riffs, they simply weren't playing to mom and dad, but rather junior and sis.  

I recently learned this Bill Monroe tune that he first recorded in 1945.  I'm pretty sure that he wrote it much earlier.  Even without electric guitars, it sure sounds like Rock N Roll.      

 

As an example of the endless debate you can have about the origin of rock n' roll, a good music friend tags Big Joe Turner's Shake Rattle & Roll as a first.  While I love the double entendre lyrics of the writer (Charles Calhoun), the 12-bar blues structure puts it more in the jump blues category in my mind.  My argument to the friend is that Rocket 88 by Jackie Brentsen and the Delta Cats (with maybe Ike Turner on piano) was the first because of the driving beat that was distinct from a blues shuffle.  Most folks have read the story about the accidental fuzztone guitar sound coming from the damaged amp.  Also, it was a song about a car.  And the honking sax.  And the party-atmosphere vocals. And it was recorded at Sun Studio. What else do you need?  

In my inbox this morning, the ND Editor says, "[Chuck Berry] also had quite a few demons, making his legacy complicated." What great artist does not have "demons"? This complicates his legacy? How? Separate the art from the artist if that helps you. I accept Chuck as seminal to the genre, and as Ed points out, to the audience (and I forgive him, although difficult, that MyDingaLingThing*). The King Is Dead, Long Live the King! 

(*I knew the guy that played bass on the tour supporting that unfortunate hit, interesting tale if you want to hear it.)

Tell it Will...

As Keef himself once said, Chuck was all about the dollar first, and was pretty cynical about being the seminal to Rock and roll...he just wanted to get paid in cash, and if you did that, he'd play with any crappy bar band anywhere...I have friends who played backup behind him once, and they were not a crappy bar band, but he was pretty clear to them he didn't care if they could play or not...so it's Karma or poetic justice or whatever that his biggest hit was "My Ding-a Ling"...he didn't value the art nearly as much as the commerce...

Yeah, Will, that sounds like a tale worth telling. 

I caught a couple of Chuck's shows in the Duck Room at Blueberry Hill in U. City in the late 90's. He was funny and engaging when I saw him. I was happy to see him in the same way I was thrilled to see Clarence "Gatemouth"'Brown at Off Broadway in St. Louis around the same time, and John Lee Hooker at Penn's Landing in Philly in the early 90's.  

I told a buddy who owns a roots music club here about those Chuck Berry shows and he contacted Joe Edwards in St. Louis, who owns Blueberry Hill and other venues to ask about how to go about booking Chuck.  Joe told him those shows at the Duck Room  were based on their friendship and that Chuck usually has a $50,000 minimum or something to that effect.  I think we paid $20 or $25 circa '97-'00 and the Duck Room might hold 150 people would be my guess.

Jim, he probably didn't care much about the backing band as he was the band. As for being paid in cash before you start the show if possible, after 10 years of doing this, I totally get that.

As for the dingalingthing story: I was at a holiday party given by our local historian (RIP), a wise and very intelligent guy, knew everything about the Civil War and so much more. I was surprised to see a large electric bass sitting on the stairs on the way down from his library. I asked him about it. He said he played some, and once did a national tour with some guy who had a big hit at the time. I asked who? He said Chuck Berry. I almost fell the rest of the way down the stairs. "You backed Chuck Berry?" I was speachless. I asked, Do you know who Chuck Berry is? He truly did not. He said something about him being a one hit wonder. Hey he was a Civil War scholar, clearly not a rock and roll scholar! 

That's a man who may have studied a bit too much...if you spend too much time in the catacombs pouring over the archives, you might miss that you were part of "musical history"...thanks for the story...good one!

You are right about Chuck being the band...and also about getting paid...Chuck was actually somehwhat complimentary of the musicians that I knew afterwards...but before he made it clear that his expectations were pretty low...must've been something he encountered fairly often given his business model...I believe his guarantee at the time was $10K in cash...the guy who owned the place is deceased now, but he said that was what he paid, and it sounded like a lot of money at the time ...this was a while after "Ding a Ling", but still a really long time ago...well before 1980...I was either in college or just out of it, so maybe 77-78...

A friend, a very talented drummer, had a very similar experience backing Bo Diddley mnay years ago.  But then again I saw Bo Diddley once and don't recall if he even had a backing band. It was all about the money (and about Bo).

Bo did play "solo electric" sometimes...

It's understandable on some level...those artists (Bo, Chuck, Little Richard) didn't make any money for their recordings and none for songwriting either, their only real income was from playing live...someone else did make a lot of money...I can see how their focus became what it did...

I saw Bo Diddley about 10 (?) years ago, he had the best backing band a guy could ask for - The Skeletons. 

 

I saw Chuck nearly 30 years ago now with one of the best backers he ever had - Ron Wood.   It was at the Ritz in NYC and the late show was sold out so we had tickets to the early show.   When Ron and the band hit the stage, Chuck wasn't even in the building.   Ron was stalling for time and even took requests from the crowd.   We all got to hear a great version of "Love in Vain".   

I was recently listening to a CD compilation of New Orleans hits that I picked up used and can't remember the name of but on there was a song by a group called The Bees who recorded a song called "Toy Bell" in 1954. To my great surprise it was that stupid Chuck Berry hit "My Ding A-Ling". It was sung by this male singing group sort of in the style of the Drifters and wasn't near as obnoxious as the Berry version but seemed even more explicit, especially for 1954.

Then I was listening to a great live album by the Youngbloods recorded from a live studio broadcast on the San Francisco radio station KSAN in 1971 called "Beautiful!--Live in San Francisco 1971" and they cover Chuck's "You Can't Catch Me." In the liner notes it's mentioned they were one of those pick-up bands Berry used early in the Youngblood's history and when Jessie Colin Young played some fancy licks on his bass Berry glared at him and told him to stop that shit and that he (Jessie) must not know much about music. Years later after the Youngbloods had made it they backed Chuck again and thought he'd be really glad about it. Instead he came on late--about 3 acts late--played his set and left without saying a word to them.

Chuck was a man of few words, or no words I guess, he did make small talk with my friends but very small, he jumped in the Cadillac and left pretty quick because he was paid before he played...I always liked the Youngbloods and some of Jesse's solo records as well..."On the Road" is a great live record too...

Nuther good reason to get paid before you play, for me seems to add a couple hours early morning to an already long night. I'm with Chuck on all this all the way. Saw the Youngbloods here at UB's Clark Gym; loved their version of Okie: "We still take in strangers if they're haggard...."

"Hippie from Olema", Banana wrote that one which I loved that as well....there was more than one parody of Merle's tune..."I'll Fix Your Flat Tire, Merle"..."I heard you had an adventurous youth, makin' love in a telphone booth, and I hear you even did a little stretch in jail"...another fine song...Nick Gravenites wrote that I believe...

Get paid before you play...when I was in high school the band I was in got stiffed once after playing 3-4 sets...my dad went back and got the money for us...not sure what he said to them, but we got paid...

 

Yes I heard Merle wasn't too happy about the Youngblood's "Hippie From Olema" at the time but from what I've read about him in the years before he died he had mellowed a lot and probably wouldn't give a shit about that parody. He said when he released that dope-smoking song with Willie Nelson just before he died that he said that they didn't smoke marijuana in Muskogee--not him.    I never heard what he thought of Kinky Friedman's parody, "Asshole From El Paso."

Just in case anyone cares, that Cd of New Orleans hits was called, "Highlights From Crescent City Soul--The Sound of New Orleasn 1947-1974" and featured 30 songs by well-knowns such as Fats Domino, Earl King, Irma Thomas, Ernie K-Doe, Dave Bartholomew and Smily Lewis but also such unknown-to-me artists like The Spiders, Clarence Garlow and Benny Spellman. A pretty cool compilation.

That would have to be a pretty great record to have...there's one copy on Amazon...$43...

Really! At 6.99 I guess I made quite a score...

I guess it is the scarcity of the item...that's $43 and it's used but in good condition...3rd party seller, so you have shipping on top of that...

 

Well done Dennis!  The discount CD bin diving unearths another quality bargain!

"It was a blues born of American slavery and made by slavery's children, each evolution swallowing whole what preceded it, blues swallowing minstrelsy, ragtime swallowing blues, jazz swallowing ragtime, Tin Pan Alley swallowing jazz, pop swallowing Tin Pan Alley, rock and roll swallowing pop,  hip-hop swallowing rock and roll...."

from the novel Shadowbahn by Steve Eriksson

"There were James Brown records sitting in the ground fifty million years ago."

from the song Interviews by The Alpha Band

I had never heard of the novel "Shadowbahn" but the author sounded familiar so I Googled him. I discovered there is a Steve Erikson who wrties fantasy novels but he didn't write "Shadowbahn." That was written by Steve Erickson who also wrote the 1989 novel "Tour of the Black Clock" which I did read but didn't care for. It was just too experimental for my taste which craves realism in a novel. But the reviews for "Shadowbahn" made it sound more interesting even though it too is described as "experimental" which the author apparently hates, but music is an important ingredient of the novel.

For my taste I much prefer something like "The Nix" by Nathan Hill, "A Fraction of the Whole" by Steve Toltz and for an author who is fairly "experimental" but mostly sticks to reality there's the great Tibor Fischer and his novels "The Thought Gang," "The Collector," "Good to be God," or his short story collection "Don't Read This Book If You're Stupid."

I'm not done with "The Nix" yet Dennis, but it is one hell of a book...

Experimental and a bit of a mind-fuck. I liked it but not sure I'd recommend it. But it was enjoyable and at times challenging to parse the music references.  Some I picked up...(a couple Americana tidbits below)..how many did I miss (too lazy to google)?

A bilingual countdown "Uno! Dos! One two tres cuatro!" to American chaos by way of Texas (via Memphis).

Tacked over the diploma is an old album cover of five guys in cowboy hats standing on the flat plain. Small white script at the bottom of the album reads More a legend than a band.

I'm not sure in which novel but I'm pretty certain John Dufresne mentions the Flatlanders in one of his books.

It's always a treat, and often a surprise, to find out an author has good taste in music by a reference he/she slips into their book.

 

It is a treat indeed..."The Nix is quite a book"...depends on who you are recommending to I suppose...anyway, not done yet, but I like it a lot...

I believe Sam the Sham's real name was Domingo Samudio...hence, Sam...

The Flatlanders...that was recorded when I was a senior in high schoool...glad I didn't hear it then...I'd have hated it...