May 292009

Thank you, friends. Let the healing begin!


  24 Responses to “Thank You, Friends”

  1. I cannot claim to be some sort of expert, but fans of Big Star can discover a whole wealth of GREAT Memphis power pop. Those Big Star players and various others were associated with other things.

    One of the most obvious is the Rock City record. It’s available on cd from Lucky 7. Looking at Amazon, it looks like this thing is out of print, but if you can find it, it’s worth it. This is the pre-Alex Chilton Big Star led by Chris Bell. There are a couple of #1 Record tunes featured here. You can definitely tell this stuff was the birth of Big Star in sound and approach.

    Maybe some of that stuff will see new release on the upcoming Rhino boxed set.

    Lucky 7 also put out a collection called Rockin’ Memphis that seems to be out of print also (methinks the label is defunct). There’s an import called Thank You Friends: The Ardent Records Story that features many of those cuts (including some Rock City). That Hot Dogs record of “I Walk The Line” is worth the price of admission. It’s a stone-cold classic.

    The Van Duren stuff is pretty great power pop, too.

    Another whacked-out Memphis gem is the Terry Manning solo record. It’s a weird mix of Memphis and psychedelia. “Savoy Truffle”!

    Even more information can be found here:

    Happy hunting!


  2. saturnismine

    speaking of healing (or perhaps its opposite?), whatever happened to that relatively new townsman, bobbybittman? did he bail?

    TB, do you have that rock city bit that may be out of print? if so, could you post mp3s to the old gmail account? i’d be ever so grateful…

    i’ll send you two free photon band cd’s and a cd of works in progress as a quid pro quo.

  3. BigSteve

    I have that Thank You Friends comp, and it’s pretty cool. Still I can’t believe they put some Tommy Hoehn on it but not the legendary Losing You To Sleep. I still have my vinyl rip of that album, and Wanna Meet the Scruffs? as well, if anyone needs to hear them.

  4. BigSteve

    Jeez saturn, the old gmail account is super top secret!

  5. BigSteve, what’s your take on that Hot Dogs cut? I have the Ardent 45 as well as the full length album. When I did the Stax tour. there’s a small dispay on Big Star, which is cool. Amongst all that soul, there’s this little note about Big Star. As you are walking out of the tour, there’s all these albums on display. One of them is The Hot Dogs!


  6. saturnismine

    oops! shhhh! what gmail account?

  7. BigSteve

    The Hot Dogs hadn’t caught my ear before, so I went back and listened just now. I Walk the Line edged a little too far into Black Oak Arkansas territory for my tastes, though it’s certainly interesting in a pre-punk kind of way. I prefer their other cut on there, Let Me Look at the Sun. It’s a strange mix — a little countryish, a little psych, definite CSN influence — very much of its time. The Terry Manning stuff on there is really something.

    I don’t know if anyone else has read Robert Palmer’s book A Tale of Two Cities: Memphis Rock & New Orleans Roll. It’s from 1979, long out of print, but available at many libraries. The central idea, if I recall correctly, was that New Orleans music is a continuous series of overlapping developments, in the sense that the horns players who played with Fats Domino also had gigs playing traditional jazz, which had never really died out, and people who played hard funk in the 70s, like Art Neville and Eddie Bo, had played straight R&B in the 50s and 60s.

    Memphis on the other hand produced distinct explosions of creativity which seemed to come out of nowhere and then go back there. He was writing mainly about mid 50s rockabilly and mid 60s soul (and maybe an earlier jazz era?), but I think the early 70s pop music scene there qualifies too.

    Speaking of the genius that the Bluff City oozes, I see Jim Dickinson has a new album out, and he’s probably a counter-example of Palmer’s thesis. He’s put together a pretty nice resume, and one that covers many decades.

  8. I’ve always been fond of that Hot Dogs cut in a trange way. Those “whoos” and that ridiculous falsetto just drive that cut over the top. It’s sad that that record has really fallen by the wayside and has never seen the ligth of day. You can get a Japanese import for a kajillion bucks and, as much as I like it, it’s just not worth the dough. I burned myself a copy of the vinyl which does just fine.

    Dickinson is something a legend around my band’s parts (Hernando). His recent solo records are pretty good and Dixie Fried is a classic. Have you heard the live record he did with Chuck Prophet?

    Besides the Dickinsons, the Selvidge family is in close proximity. Steve Selvidge has a decent array of acoustic blues albums that are worth a look or two. The man possesses an incredible singing voice. Selvidge can also be heard on several Dickinson projects, most notably Mud Boy & The Neutrons. Sid has a rockin’ kid named Steve who is in Memphis band-of-the-year Secret Service. This is straight up rock music of the great ridiculous variety.

    I was turned onto alot of the Memphis power pop by my own self-discovery, but also through former Memphian (and Legba Records proprietor) Greg Cartwright. Greg is also known as Greg Oblivion, who along with Jack Yarber, began a huge garage rock rennaissance in Memphis back in the 90s. Greg went on to form Reigning Sound, who made a record with Mary Weiss a couple of years ago. Any of those Reigning Sound records are pretty great and I still think theirs was one of the best live shows I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness (I thought to myself that this was I close as I was ever going to get to seeing The Beatles at their rawest in Hamburg.). I wish I could say that Greg was a friend, but I know him and he has turned me on to some really great music.

    Sorry to ramble on so, but there is definitely something about the music from Memphis that touches my soul in profound ways. Particularly that of Big Star and their surrounding partners/myth. Again, seeing that video yesterday was close to being born again again.


  9. 2000 Man

    I have days where I think Greg Cartwright is singlehandedly gonna save rock n roll for all of us. When The Reigning sound’s Too Much Guitar came out I grabbed it at my favorite store, and that night John Doe came to the bar next door to the store. John came in and asked for Too Much Guitar, and they thought it should have been there, but it wasn’t. They keep a list of who buys what cuz every tenth you get a free one, and it turned out I bought it. John said, “No problem, I’ll take something else (I can’t remember what it was right now), and it turned out I bought that, too. So John Doe wants my record collection!”

    The Compulsive Gamblers were great, too but those are all out of print. Greg is doing a couple of shows with The Oblivians and The Gories, one each in their hometowns. I wish I could go.

    Oh yeah, Time Bomb High School is one of the greatest albums ever made, by anyone at any time.

  10. BigSteve

    That Mary Weiss record was better than it had any right to be. An unexpected pleasure.

  11. Yeah, Greg’s an awesome guy and a great writer. He knows music and he loves it. I was sad to see him leave Memphis, but my pocket book thanked him. Besides his band being one of the coolest, his store was pretty great.

    One of the coolest things to me about living in Midtown Memphis was you never who you could bump into. I’m sure anyone who has lived in a musical town had similar experiences. You could be in Shangri-La Records looking at an LP and literally be rubbing shoulder with a dude who played on it. Stax, Sun, Ardent, and Hi…so much great American music sprang from those fertile grounds. I don’t what made going into the local grocery store late at night and seeing Greg wearing his ever-present jacket so cool, but it was. If only Chris Bell had been around…


  12. Mr. Moderator

    Apropos of nothing, can I ask all baseball fans who may find themselves scratching their heads over NL players to vote in as starters for the All-Star Game to consider a Phillies player? These guys are the defending World Champs, you know, and they’ve got talent and mental toughness that’s a real joy to watch. I hope some of you just had a chance to watch the double play from Rollins to Utley to Howard that just took place. It was a thing of beauty. Come on, Rock Town Hall’s baseball fans, help me stack the NL roster with red pinstripes!

  13. hrrundivbakshi

    I was in Memphis many years ago, having breakfast in a greasy spoon not too far from Sun Studios, when I realized I was having a short stack of pancakes not two tables over from Rufus Thomas!

  14. Ten thousand hell yeah!s to the folks bringing up Greg Cartwright. If we’re going to expand the conversation into newer Memphis rock, can we also tip our hats to the mighty Grifters? What’s that line from AllMusic… “If Guided by Voices are the Beatles of 90s lo-fi rock, then the Grifters are the Rolling Stones”? Godlike. Among active bands, I highly recommend Dragoon. That’s the rhythm section from the Grifters with the lead singer of Dischord punks Trusty.

  15. mockcarr

    Appropos of something, Moderator, if you think your manager isn’t going to stack that all-star team with his own players, you’re nuts. People should vote for deserving players on teams who have low attendance, and less media exposure, because the big markets and internet fanboys will always outvote them despite what the first half performances look like.

  16. Mr. Moderator

    Mockcarr, I don’t want to place all the burden of putting Raul Ibanez on the All-Star team on our manager, Charlie Manuel. I’m asking people – The People – to consider voting for the class act of 2009’s NL outfielders to date, Ibanez, rather than the suspended steroid cheat Manny Ramirez, any number of good-not-great Cardinals outfielders, softie Carlos Beltran, and so forth. I don’t see Ryan Braun everyday, but whenever the Phils play the Brewers he doesn’t strike me as being worthy of being a leading vote-getter among outfielders. Raul should be starting, that’s mainly what I’m saying. If there’s a question in voters’ minds about any other position player, select a Phillies player. They won the World Series for the NL, for cryin’ out loud. Let them try to win homefield advantage for this year’s World Series, regardless of what NL team gets there in 2009!

  17. “Stax, Sun, Ardent, and Hi…so much great American music sprang from those fertile grounds.”

    Last year drove from Atlanta to Memphis and recorded 5 songs (live)at Sun and then spent the whole next day at the Stax museum… you can feel the spirits there with you. No wonder such great music still comes outta this place…

  18. The killer thing about Ibanez is, the only slag against him in the past was his defense. But now, playing the smaller LF in Citizens’ he’s way above average. Basically, he’s awful at coming in, great at going deep to make plays. Now that he’s in a smaller park playing shallow every day, he’s set up for success.

    Great article on Raul:

  19. On the subject of Memphis bands, I’d be curious to hear what townsfolk think of the North MIssissippi All Stars. I always feel liked I should like them, but I can’t get too into ’em.

    Spare a good thought for NMA papa/producer extraordinaire/roots music weirdo Jim Dickinson, who’s in the hospital with heart trouble according to some friends from Memphis.

  20. Mr. Moderator

    sourbob, a friend dragged me out to see them a year or two and I was terrified of hating them. Instead I liked them a lot. It may have been helped by the fact that they played semi-acoustic, but they were well worth seeing live. I still haven’t bought a studio album by them, being unable to shake the same fears I had going into the live show. My concert report to the Hall can be found here:

  21. I have one of their self-distributed cassettes from back in the day, a four song tribute to Fred McDowell they did and it is AWESOME. But the newer stuff of theirs I heard veers dangerously close to jamband territory, and that seems to be the circuit they’re on. That’s why I’ve shied away.

    But good reviews from you and a few other friends are making me reconsider them.

    That might be a good town hall topic (assuming it could be worded better than this): good bands you might miss out on if you judge them by which bands/circuit they tour with.

  22. Regarding The Allstars:

    Their first LP caused a pretty big stir in these parts. Being Dickinson’s kids I’m sure helped. Then came the second album, which was actually produced by Daddy Jim. The first was pretty straightforward Hill Country blues covers. “Shake ‘Em Down” and “Po Black Maddy.” The second album was their first to feature original material. Alot of the old fans had a problem with it, but I like it. It reeks of boogie (World Boogie, perhaps?) in the vein of ZZ Top. I might go so far to say that this could be mistaken for some lost Top album from the vaults.

    Then came Polaris. Polaris was their last one for their label (Artemis). It has its moments, but it tries too hard to be experimental or something. I can’t fault the guys for trying, but it fails more than it works.

    I’ve got the jammy live Hill Country Revue album because it was promo and I never bought the last two or three records.

    I do own the Spencer-Dickinson disc and like it for what it is.

    None of it relevatory and essential, but fans of Kimbrough and Burnside won’t be offended by Shake Hands With Shorty. ZZ Top fans will probably like 51 Phantom (I like it.). After that, I can’t honestly say one way or another.

    Per Greg Cartwright: One of the many times I was in his shop, we were talking about the Allstars and their lineage. They were in a band in the 90s called DDT. Before that, who knows. Greg was telling me about how the Dickinson kids were on a bill with one of his bands and they sounded like Red Hot Chili Peppers! He said that he realized that no matter what music you’re exposed to as a child and perhaps the Memphis music royalty that probably spent alot of time at the Dinckinson home, at the end of the day, when you’re a teenager, you end up sounding like all the other hit bands of the day…


  23. trolleyvox

    I have that Hot Dogs record. It plays like an Autumn Carousel spin-off band, almost a parody of early 70’s bell bottom rock. Bonus points for the words “lady” and “woman” in the chorus lyrics to one of their songs.

  24. 2000 Man

    I’ve tried to like NMA, but I haven’t been able to get into them. They always seem a little too Jam Bandy to me. One minute I like what they’re doing and the next I’m falling asleep or getting fidgety wanting to change the record.

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