Archive for Johnny Otis

Happy New Year!

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , , on December 28, 2012 by 30daysout

new year pin-up1

Here’s hoping you had a fine 2012 … and that you will experience a great 2013. See you in the new year.

Here’s a little New Year’s Eve playlist, complete with a few apocalyptic “over the cliff” tunes tossed in.

MP3: “Happy New Year Baby” by Johnny Otis & His Orchestra

MP3: “New Year’s Eve” by Tom Waits

MP3: “Happy New Year” by ABBA

MP3: “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” by The Head and the Heart

MP3: “New Year’s Resolution” by Otis Redding & Carla Thomas

MP3: “Don’t Drink and Drive, Duh”  Public Service Announcement by Pee Wee Herman

MP3: “Queer For The New Year” by Blowfly (NSFW)

MP3: “Happy New Year” by Lightnin’ Hopkins

MP3: “Funky New Year” by the Eagles

MP3: “Auld Lang Syne” by Rod Stewart

YouTube: New Year’s Eve Countdown/”Sugar Magnolia” by the Grateful Dead, 1980

MP3: “Life During Wartime” (live) by Talking Heads

MP3: “Soylent Green” by Carbon/Silicon

MP3: “Dancing With Myself” by Billy Idol

MP3: “Party At Ground Zero” by Fishbone

Jimmy Castor and Johnny Otis: R.I.P. (and N.S.F.W.!)

Posted in News with tags , on January 20, 2012 by 30daysout

Jimmy Castor

Rough week for fans of raunchy R&B: we lost both Jimmy Castor, creator of the timeless “Troglodyte,” as well as the highly influential Johnny Otis, best known for “Willy and the Hand Jive.”

Saxophonist Jimmy Castor, who headlined the Jimmy Castor Band, and whose biggest hit, 1972′s “Troglodyte (Cave Man)” has been sampled by the likes of Madonna, Kanye West, the Wu-Tang Clan, N.W.A., Christina Aguilera and Blackstreet, died Monday in Las Vegas. He was 64.  Castor’s songs were known for featuring a recurring cast of characters including a caveman who chants “gotta find a woman, gotta find a woman,” and the irrepressible, full-figured dancer Bertha Butt.

The title track of his 1972 album It’s Just Begun was prolifically sampled for a dance sequence in the 1983 movie Flashdance and later by a range of performers including 2 Live Crew, the Spice Girls and actor Mark Wahlberg during his earlier career as Marky Mark. Other Castor records have been sampled by Kanye West and Mos Def.

Washington Post obit on Jimmy Castor

MP3: “Troglodyte (Cave Man)”

MP3: “Bertha Butt Boogie”

MP3: “The Return Of Leroy (Part 1)”

Johnny Otis

Johnny Otis was an influential, singer, writer and record producer and was known as the “Godfather of Rhythm and Blues.” He died Tuesday in Los Angeles at the age of 90.  Otis wrote and performed the 1958 smash hit, “Willy and the Hand Jive.”  He is credited with discovering and nurturing R&B stars such as Little Richard, Jackie Wilson, Little Esther Phillips, Etta James and Hank Ballard. His son Shuggie Otis, a great guitarist, is also known for writing the 1977 hit “Strawberry Letter 23.”

Despite his mainstream success, Otis was not afraid to go “blue”: in 1969 he released an album under the name Snatch and the Poontangs filled with not for broadcast language and included songs such as “Two Girls In Love (With Each Other)” (you can guess what that’s about – despite the lack of actual lyrics) and “The Pissed Off Cowboy” about a cowboy who smells like horse shit. Of course, his classic in this genre is “The Signifying Monkey,” which is probably played nightly by some crazed, drunken bar band somewhere.

San Francisco Chronicle obit on Johnny Otis

MP3: “Willy and the Hand Jive”

MP3: “The Signifying Monkey (Part 1)” (Not Safe For Work!)

MP3: “Two Girls In Love (With Each Other)” (Not Safe For Work X 2!)

Here We Are Again: Happy New Year!

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2011 by 30daysout

Here’s hoping you had a fine 2011 … and that you will experience a great 2012. See you in the new year.

MP3: “Happy New Year Baby” by Johnny Otis & His Orchestra

MP3: “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year” by Lee “Scratch” Perry & Sandra Robinson

MP3: “New Year’s Resolution” by Otis Redding & Carla Thomas

MP3: “Queer For The New Year” by Blowfly (Not Safe For Work!)

MP3: “New Year’s Resolution” by Donovan

MP3: “Funky New Year” by the Eagles

MP3: “Corrido de Auld Lang Syne” by Little Bobby Rey & Band

MP3: “Sing The Changes” (live) by Paul McCartney

MP3: “The Great Hank” (live) by Robert Earl Keen

MP3: “Party At Ground Zero” by Fishbone

MP3: “My New Year’s Wish For You” by Franklin MacCormack

MP3: “Happy New Year” by ABBA

MP3: “Happy New Year Blues” by Mary Harris

MP3: “Happy New Year” by Lightnin’ Hopkins

MP3: “The End’s Not Near” by Band of Horses

MP3: “Happy New Year” by the Twins

MP3: “Auld Lang Syne” by Chris Isaak

MP3: “New Year”s Eve” by Tom Waits

YouTube: “New Year’s Day” by U2

Rock and Roll Graveyard, Part 1

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , on December 28, 2010 by 30daysout

Teena Marie

The passing of R&B singer/songwriter Teena Marie on the day after Christmas (and, recently, Captain Beefheart) got us to thinking about these rock and roll tragedies, and how many of them happen during the holiday season.  Otis Redding’s plane crashed in December 1967, while John Lennon was gunned down in December 1980.  James Brown passed on Christmas Day 2006, Beach Boy Dennis Wilson drowned a few days before New Year’s 1984 and guitarist Randy California of Spirit disappeared in a California riptide on the day after New Year’s 1997.

A word here about Teena Marie: she burst onto the scene in the late 1970s as a teenaged protege of funkster Rick James, and until she appeared with him on a 1979 episode of “Soul Train,” many listeners thought she was black.  Teena Marie was a white act signed to Motown Records, and her music combined rock and R&B to make her an influence on present-day acts like Rihanna and Beyonce.

MP3: “Lovergirl” by Teena Marie

MP3: “Can It Be Love” by Teena Marie

OK, let’s turn back the clock a bit to the 1950s and take a look at another R&B great – Johnny Ace.  Originally from Memphis, this preacher’s son originally played in a band that had B.B. King as its guitarist.  When King left, Ace took over the band and in 1952 Johnny Ace and the Beale Streeters became one of the first acts to record for the fledgling Duke Records.

A great pianist, Ace showed his skill on instrumentals like “Ace’s Wild” but he most often accompanied himself on smoky late-night tunes like “Angel” and “Cross My Heart.”  Touring heavily, Ace put together a string of hits that included “Please Forgive Me,” “The Clock,” “Yes, Baby,” “Saving My Love for You,” and “Never Let Me Go.”

Radio loved this guy, and so did concert audiences – usually on a bill with Big Mama Thornton or Duke label mate Bobby “Blue” Bland, Johnny Ace was quite a big star in 1954.

The late, great Johnny Ace

It was Christmas 1954, and Johnny Ace was about to play a gig in Houston’s City Auditorium.  Backstage, he was fooling around with a pistol and scaring other musicians by waving it around carelessly.  When somebody told him to be careful, Ace laughed and said “It’s okay, it isn’t loaded.”  He put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger – you can guess the rest.  Some reports say Ace was playing Russian roulette, but eyewitnesses confirmed the first version of the story.

After his funeral in Memphis the day after New Year’s, Johnny Ace had a monster posthumous hit with “Pledging My Love,” cut in Houston with Johnny Otis earlier in 1954.   Fueled by morbid interest in the singer’s untimely death (he was only 25), “Pledging” rocketed to No. 1 on the R&B charts and stayed there for 10 weeks, and on the pop charts it broke into the Top 20.  In the year after Ace’s death Robey continued to raid the vault and Johnny Ace scored a handful more hits before receding into the mists of legend.

MP3: “Ace’s Wild”

MP3: “Cross My Heart”

MP3: “The Clock”

MP3: “Saving My Love For You”

MP3: “Pledging My Love”

He was remembered most famously by Paul Simon in 1983, who wrote and sang “The Late Great Johnny Ace,” which also made reference to the murder of John Lennon.  Simon first performed the song in 1981 during the Simon & Garfunkel reunion in New York’s Central Park.   Near the end of the performance an audience member rushed the stage, causing Simon to pull away from the microphone.  As security yanked the guy away he yelled to Simon, “I gotta talk to you, I gotta talk to you.”  Visibly shaken, Simon continued the song but it was a scary moment as seen on video.

Well, Happy New Year!

Posted in Rock Moment, Rock Rant with tags , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2010 by 30daysout

Last night, while aimlessly flipping through TV channels, I stumbled upon a Fox News Channel commentator bitching about President Obama vacationing with his family in Hawaii for the holidays. Now on Fox they’re always bitching about Obama, but I thought: “The dude can take a holiday vacation with his family.  I’m taking a holiday vacation, even if it’s only one day. You should take one too, Mr. Fox News Channel.”

Then I realized, that was the first time in about two weeks of this holiday season that I had even given a passing thought to President Obama. Or any president or politician, for that matter. Yes, I understand that presidents and politicians make decisions that affect our lives; and I apologize to those who are thinking right now that I’m just a vapid little rock and roll lightweight.

But the truth of the matter is, I don’t think about this stuff too much unless I am getting a regular dose of Fox News Channel, or CNN, or any of the others.  They gotta talk about something to stay on the air for 24 hours and I guess presidents and politicians are good subjects for that. Everybody on TV has an opinion, but I don’t have to listen to all of them.

So I suppose what I am saying is, celebrate the New Year by putting CNN and Fox on mute, forget about the president for a day or two and count your blessings. We’re gonna start a new decade in a day or so, and I’m sure it’s going to be as weird and challenging as the last one.

We’ll be here, taking ‘er easy for you and helping you rock out!

MP3: “Happy New Year Baby” by Johnny Otis & His Orchestra

MP3: “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year” by Lee “Scratch” Perry & Sandra Robinson

MP3: “New Year’s Resolution” by Otis Redding & Carla Thomas

MP3: “Queer For The New Year” by Blowfly (Not Safe For Work!)

MP3: “New Year’s Resolution” by Donovan

MP3: “My New Year’s Wish For You” by Franklin MacCormack

MP3: “Happy New Year” by ABBA

MP3: “Happy New Year Blues” by Mary Harris

MP3: “Happy New Year” by Lightnin’ Hopkins

MP3: “The End’s Not Near” by Band of Horses

MP3: “Happy New Year” by the Twins

MP3: “Auld Lang Syne” by Chris Isaak


More good stuff from last year’s post

Lost Classics! The Signifying Monkey

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , , on August 21, 2008 by 30daysout

Dickie & the Tornadoes, with singer Billy Cross (1980s)

The first time I ever heard of the Signifying Monkey was in the early 1980s, in a dive called the Riverside Tavern in Port Neches, Texas.  Just down the street from a Texaco plant, the bar attracted sailors off petroleum tankers in dock and it was a tough place to hang out to say the least.  I don’t know who was braver, the patrons of the Riverside or the musicians who played there. 

One of the bands we enjoyed there was Dickie and the Tornadoes, with lead singer Billy Cross (formerly a road manager for the Fabulous Thunderbirds) and one of their crowd pleasing tunes was “The Signifying Monkey.”  The song told the story of a badass little monkey who comes into contact with other, much larger and supposedly more ferocious jungle inhabitants and manages to overcome them all.  The Signifying Monkey character has a long history in African-American folklore (look it up) but we like him because the songs involve lots of cussing.

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