by Robert Wilkinson
We begin our musical weekend celebrating great talents who had birthdays this past week. Our lead off artist is one of the great sax virtuosos of the 20th century. Everyone loved this guy and his work! The other two were also hitmakers in their own time.
King Curtis (born Curtis Ousley, February 7, 1934 – August 13, 1971). He was one of the great tenor, alto, and soprano sax players of the middle of the 20th century, playing just about every style there is. From Wikipedia, we read
As a student pursuing music, he turned down college scholarships in order to join the Lionel Hampton Band. During his time with Hampton, he was able to write and arrange music and learn guitar. In 1952 Curtis decided to move to New York and became a session musician, recording for such labels as Prestige, Enjoy, Capitol, and Atco. He recorded with Nat Adderley and Wynton Kelly, Buddy Holly, and Andy Williams.
Stylistically, Curtis took inspiration from saxophonists Lester Young, Louis Jordan, Illinois Jacquet, Earl bostic, and Gene Ammons. Known for his syncopated and percussive style, he was both versatile and powerful as a musician. He put together a group during his time as a session musician that included Richard Tee, Cornell Dupree, Jerry Jemmott, and Bernard Purdie.
Here are some great clips of his better known tunes.
“Yakety Yak” by the Coasters
"Reminiscing" by Buddy Holly
From 1960, an audio-only studio recording of King Curtis with Nat Adderley, Wynton Kelly, Sam Jones, and Belton Evans coolin’ on the smooth groove of “Jeep’s Blues”
From 1962, the Sax Man in a twisting, groovin’ period piece with a Farfisa organ playing the lead, set to a strange movie clip! “Mr. Crow”
From 1963, the studio version of “Misty”
From March 1964, the studio version of “Soul Twist”
Here’s a great live performance by King Curtis and the Kingpins of “Memphis Soul Stew”
“Games People Play” with Duane Allman
From 1967, “In the Pocket”
From 1968, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
Recorded one week before he was murdered, I found some audio-only clips from “Live at the Fillmore West,” with the Sax Man accompanied by Billy Preston and the Memphis Horns! While I couldn’t find all of the tracks, these are in the order of the set list.
On the “Imagine” album, he played the wailing sax backing John Lennon in JL's pounding psychedelic masterpiece! "I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier Mama I Don't Wanna Die"
From 1971, live at the A&R Studios, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, featuring Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, and King Curtis, in a full audio-only 70 minute concert! King Curtis with Delaney and Bonnie and Friends
Also from 1971, a video of King Curtis and and Kingpins performing “A Whiter Shade of Pale”
We’ll close this tribute with some great video clips from Montreux in 1971 a couple of months before he died. Welcome to the awesome duet of King Curtis and Champion Jack Dupree live! They’re in the order of the set list.
“Get With It” (audio-only)
They closed Montreux with “I’m Havin’ Fun” (audio-only)
Here’s the entire 39 minute Montreux set, audio-only! King Curtis and Champion Jack Dupree Blues at Montreux 1971
For our encore, the studio version of “Hot Potatoes” (the theme from Soul Train)
And for our second encore, the Master of the Sax grinding through “Harlem Nocturne”
Here are a couple of albums of great tunes!
Thanks for everything, Mister King Curtis. You died waaaay too young. I guess you shouldn’t have punched that junkie who stabbed you on a hot summer night on the upper West Side. But if you knew he would, I’m sure you wouldn’t have gone there. RIP to a beloved legend...
We now turn the spotlight on Warren Smith (February 7, 1932 – January 30, 1980). One of Sam Phillips’ original stable of rockabilly artists at Sun Records, his first record outsold the initial offerings by Elvis, Johnny, and Carl! From Wikipedia,
Phillips liked what he heard, and decided that "Rock & Roll Ruby", a song credited to Johnny Cash, would be Smith's first record. (Smith later claimed that "Rock & Roll Ruby" was actually written by George Jones and sold to Cash for $40.) Smith recorded it on February 5, 1956. Phillips, who was hedging his bets over whether rock and roll would maintain its popularity, released that record with a country crooner, aptly named "I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry", on the flip side. By May 26, "Rock & Roll Ruby" had hit No. 1 on the local pop charts. Smith's first record for Sun went on to outsell the first Sun releases by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.
While he was fairly obscure, here are some of his biggest on Sun before he left for country music.
The flip side of "Ubangi Stomp," “Black Jack David”
“Baby Let’s Play House” (Yes, this was an early Elvis hit, but back then artists often covered the same song as others on their record labels.)
From 1957, "Miss Froggie"
For the finale today, the flip side of "Miss Froggie" and a bigger hit, a tune written by Sun record colleague Roy Orbison! “So Long I’m Gone”
The last of our trio features Alan Lancaster (7 February 1949), bass player and co-founder of the Status Quo. I remember groovin' to their very psychedelic phase shifting first hit in 1968, "Pictures of Matchstick Men." Here's another from that era, "Ice in the Sun."
We’ll close this brief set with 25 great minutes of Status Quo Live in 1970
For our first encore, we now move and groove to 14 minutes of Status Quo live in Glasgow in 1976! "Roadhouse Blues”
For our second encore, from 1984, a one hour live show at the Milton Keynes Bowl! The Status Quo – End of the Road 1984
In a weird coincidence, it's the birthday of Walter Scott (February 7, 1943 – December 27, 1983) frontman for Bob Kuban and The In-Men who are one of the great "one hit wonders" in pop history. He sang "The Cheater," which made it to #12 on the charts in 1966. In a weird "Twilight Zone" twist, his wife's lover murdered him and they both did time. For your Twilight Zone experience for the evening, here's "The Cheater." For those who are into murder mysteries, here's a 30 minute clip that goes into The Walter Scott Story
© Copyright 2018 Robert Wilkinson