Friday, 24 June 2016

Dilly Dilly

Another ridiculously obscure record I know next to nothing about, but felt compared to share with you.

I Won’t Say I Love You, recorded by Don and John Lampien, is a pretty standard, pretty dull country tune, but what pushes it well in to the realm of the absurd is the outrageously out of time and out of tune drumming. It’s Helen ‘Shaggs’ Wiggin terrible: whoever is playing drums on this (and I have my theory) is almost as bad a drummer as Paul McCartney!

The record does not credit an author, but I’d hedge my bets that Don wrote it himself. But what on earthy is going on with the B-side? A ‘medley’ of the standard Sheik of Araby and the uncredited (on the label, anyway) 1910 show tune , the song is sung as a duet between Don Lampien and Quacker, the cute duckling who appears in several Tom and Jerry cartoons.

Lavender Records, of Seaside, Oregon, had previously issued 45s by The Impacts (Don't You Dare b/w Green Green Field, around 1968) and local beat band The Fugitives. There were at least two dozen singles released on Lavender, with one of the first being Jerry Merett and the Crowns’ Kansas City Twist (1960). Owned by Pat Mason, an agent and promoter who for two years managed Gene Vincent (the story has it that Gene spent a year living in Pat Mason’s basement!), Mason also owned the Cascade Club and booked both national acts and local bands to perform there. Groups played the Cascade (which was at 3202 Jasper Road) at weekends: during the week the premises served as a recording studio, and it was here that Pat would cut his Lavender 45s.  

‘I had a nice club here in town in the 1960's,’ Mason told Blue Suede News magazine. ‘This is a resort town, so we had some national acts in the summer time. My club is where bands like the Kingsmen, Don and the Goodtimes, and Paul Revere and the Raiders cut their teeth musically. This is the part of the country where these future national bands started.

‘I had a small record label called Lavender, and we would press a few hundred copies of a song to promote a band. Sometimes we gave the records out at teen dances or sold a few copies. We never dreamed the records would be collector items like they are today. I asked Jack Ely and the Kingsmen to cut "Louie, Louie" for Lavender Records for promotion reasons. It turned out so good that it was a local hit on another label and finally hit nationally a full year later on the Wand label out of New York.’

It seems like the Lampiens were from Seaside itself, and that their record was more a vanity project than a tool for a band to book gigs. Although definitive information is non-existent, from what I can make out Don and John were a father and son act, rather than brothers, with Don on vocals and the very young John trying his best on percussion. Donald Max Lampien was born on June 13, 1928 and died, aged 74, on September 11, 2002; John Lampien, as far as I know, is still alive, somewhere in his late 50s and living in Toledo, Washington. If my theory is correct, John L would have been born around 1956 and probably hadn’t reached his teens by the time this 45 was recorded. Pat Mason died in 2001 at the age of 93.


Friday, 17 June 2016

Happy Father's Day

It’s Father’s Day (or very nearly), and what better way to celebrate that to enjoy the heartfelt strains of a little girl, and her love for her daddy?

Wendy Sings With Mommy and Daddy was issued some time in the early 70s. Although not credited on the front cover, little Wendy and her parents are otherwise known as the Folmer Family, a cute and happy collection of Christian worshipers, singers and occasional preachers.

Little Wendy Folmer was just six years old when her parents dragged her into a recording studio to do her stuff all over this horror. Wendy Sings With Mommy and Daddy was issued by Baldwin Sound Productions, a Mechanicsburg, PA based label that specialised in wholesome Christian pop and that was run by one Donald P Baldwin. Don also owned a well-equipped recording studio that was established in 1966 and was more open to secular activity: blues harmonica legend Sonny Terry recorded there, as did Dan ‘Instant Replay’ Hartman (who produced a single there by an act called the Hydraulic Peach!)
I can’t tell you much more about this album, although one listen to the brace of tracks I’ve selected for you today should tell you just about everything you need to know. Luckily all three of the Folmers seem to still be with us, and they are still involved in  the Christian community. Even more luckily they have decided not to carry on with the family singing business. If you need more after listening to Something's Happened to Daddy and How Far Is Heaven then you can find the whole album on the internets (thanks to fellow bloggers Music forManiacs and Mr Weird and Wacky) if you want. God help you.


Friday, 10 June 2016

Do Us All A Favour

Everything is better when it comes with a ‘four to the floor’ beat.

Or so it seemed for a short while in the early 80s, when the British charts were deluged with discs featuring a medley of hits stapled roughly to a disco rhythm. The trend started back in 1976, when the Ritchie Family scored their biggest hit with The Best Disco in Town, which incorporated various pop hits of the day.

In1977 Disconet, a DJ subscription service that put out discs exclusively for club and radio use, issued The Original Beatles Medley, official recordings by the lads, snipped and stapled together over a disco beat. Although the Disconet 12” has long been believed to be a bootleg, Disconet was a legitimate operation and that all of the medleys they produced (including those for Elvis and Michael Jackson) were officially sanctioned. However for one reason or another – presumably because Apple hated the rough and ready medley that Disconet’s Ray Lenahan produced but that capitol seemed to endorse – the Original Beatles Medley soon vanished and it quickly became a collector’s item. Pirate copies appeared and, in an effort to fill the void, Atlantic records issued the dreadful Disco Beatlemania, which featured a covers band imitating the Beatles over that relentless disco beat rather than snippets of the original recordings, and EMI France issued the similar Unlimited Citations by Café Crème.

Then, in January 1981, as the world was recovering from the shock of John Lennon’s murder, came Stars on 45. Another Beatles medley, this time recorded by a studio band put together by former Golden Earring member Jaap Eggermont, Stars on 45 was a huge international hit – Number 1 in Holland and the USA, Number 2 in the UK. Suddenly the floodgates were open, and anyone who was anyone had a disco medley of their songs issued, either by their own record company (remember Squeeze and Squabs on Forty Fab?) or by cover acts climbing on a very lucrative bandwagon, such as Platinum Pop by This Year’s Blonde (Blondie). There was even the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra whose Hooked On Classics (Parts 1&2) was a massive UK hit, and spawned it’s own imitator in the guise of the Portsmouth Sinfonia and Classical Muddly – itself a Top 40 UK hit!

It was endless: Lobo’s Caribbean Disco Show, Tight Fit’s Back to the 60s, Gidea Park’s Beach Boys Gold and (Four) Seasons of Gold and so on. Unsurprisingly EMI, the company that owned so many of the original recordings that were being plundered, decided to get in on the act with official medleys from the Hollies (Holliedaze), the Beach Boys and, naturally, The Beatles (The Beatles Movie Medley).

There are many, many records I could have chosen from this era to illustrate just how awful it was, but this obscurity is a prime example of how any tu’penny ha’penny band could, and would, sell it’s soul for a stab at chart stardom.

Antmania is, obviously, a medley of hits by Adam and the Ants (then at the height of their popularity). However this is not an officially sanctioned CBS release (although, by a quirk of fate, it was distributed by a company owned by CBS), rather it’s a cover issued on the tiny Eagle Records label in 1982 by the otherwise unknown Future Heroes... a band that clearly knew nothing whatsoever about the post-punk, new wave stylings of Mr Ant and his crew.  

To get an idea of what Future Heroes were actually like, flip the single over for Hold On, a poor disco/funk number written and produced by Dave Myers. Information on Future Heroes is impossible to find: I do not know, for example, if the Dave Myers that wrote and produced this dross is the same Dave Myers of Hairy Bikers fame (although I’m trying to reach him to find out). He produced a number of non-hits around 1981/82 then seemed to disappear. This was, unsurprisingly, the only single issued by Future Heroes.

Still, here it is, a sad footnote in a sad period for pop music.


Friday, 3 June 2016

Ooh! Ooh!

Anyone who watched Saturday morning cartoons in the 70s will recognise that as the exclamation uttered endlessly by Botch, assistant zookeeper at the Wonderland Zoo on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon Help! It's the Hair Bear Bunch. If you were an attentive child you would have noticed that the actor who voiced Botch also provided the voice of Sergeant Flint in another H-B Saturday morning staple, Hong Kong Phooey.

If you were a little bit older, or perhaps if you later watched the BBC2 re-runs of the US TV sitcoms The Phil Silvers Show and Car 54, Where Are You?, you would have eventually realised that Botch, Flint and both Car 54’s Gunther Toody and Bilko’s Rupert Ritzik were all portrayed by the same man – actor Joe E. Ross.

Born in 1914, Ross was a blue comedian whose career was interrupted by World War II: he served in the United States Army Air Corps and was stationed for a time in England. Discharged after the war, Ross went back to his former career of announcer and comic in Hollywood. He appeared in Irving Klaw's feature-length theatrical film Teaserama (1955), a re-creation of a burlesque show which starred Bettie Page and Tempest Storm. Before making the movie Klaw was principally known for producing bondage photographs which he sold through the mail.

In 1955 Ross was spotted by Nat Hiken and Phil Silvers, who were planning a new TV show called You'll Never Get Rich (which became The Phil Silvers Show but is probably best known as Sgt. Bilko). Ross was hired on the spot and cast as the mess sergeant, the henpecked Rupert Ritzik. Ritzik was a hit with viewers, his ‘Ooh! Ooh!’ catchphrase, which came from Ross's frustration when he couldn't remember his lines. After The Phil Silvers Show ended in 1959, Nat Hiken created Car 54, Where Are You? casting Ross as Patrolman Gunther Toody of New York's 53rd Precinct. Fred Gwynne (better known as Herman Munster), played Toody's partner, Francis Muldoon.

Like The Phil Silvers Show, Car 54, Where Are You? was a huge success, and it wasn’t long before an enterprising producer at Roulette Records decided it would be a good idea to drag Ross into a recording studio. The resulting, Love Songs from a Cop, was issued in 1964, the year after Car 54 went off the air. Roulette was run by Morris Levy, a notoriously shady individual, described as ‘one of the record industry's most controversial and flamboyant players’ by Billboard and as ‘a notorious crook who swindled artists out of their royalties’ by Allmusic. Featuring covers of such staples as Hello Dolly and When You’re Smiling Love Songs from a Cop is a horrible record, and about as funny as herpes. Produced by the infamous Hugo and Luigi, at least the sleeve notes acknowledge that Ross ‘is not about to give Frank Sinatra concern’. Surprisingly the album was also issued in the UK, by Columbia. 

This would not be Ross’s only foray into the recording world: in 1973 Laff Records, which usually specialised in African-American comedians, released his album Should Lesbians Be Allowed to Play Pro-Football? On the cover Ross looks tired and bloated. Apart from a few cameos in some terrible exploitation movies, and the occasional job as a voice artist for Hanna-Barbera his career was over. Ross died in 1982: his grave marker reads ‘This Man Had a Ball’.

Anyway, here’s a brace of tracks from Love Songs from a Cop: Ma (She’s Making Eyes at Me) and Are You Lonesome Tonight.


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