Rick Galusha's Pacific St. Blues and Americana

Since inception (1989), Pacific St. Blues & Americana strives to be a discerning voice helping roots fans sift through the mountains of music released every year. We are not for everyone; we want to engage active, critical listeners that hear beyond d'jour. Interviews include: Johnny Winter, Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), Jerry Wexler, Tommy Shannon & Chris Layton, B.B. King, Dr. John, Robin Trower, Robben Ford, Mato Nanji, Joe Bonamassa, Harry Manx, Sue Foley, Marshall Chess, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Louvin, Kim Richey, Radney Foster, Eric Johnson, David Clayton Thomas, Al Kooper, Phil Chen (Wired, Blow By Blow), Ian McLagan, Art Neville, Southside Johnny, Miami Steve Van Zant, Nils Lofgren, Bruce Iglauer, Charlie Musselwhite, Studebaker John, Chris Duarte, Smokin' Joe Kubeck, Hamilton Loomis, Peter Karp, Roomful of Blues, James Harman, Hadden Sayers, Malford Milligan, Melvin Taylor, Otis Taylor, Dave Alvin, Coco Montoya, Jimmy Thackery, Marsha Ball, Maria Muldaur, Shelby Lynne, Magic Dick & J. Geils, Lil' Milton, BuddyGuy, Aynsley Lister, Matt Schofield, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Guy Clark, Joe Ely, James Cotton, Robin & Jesse Davey, Hugh Coltman (Hoax), Sean Kelly (Samples), John Entwistle (The Who), Mark Olson (Jayhawks), Walter Wolfman Washington, Anthony Gomes, Bob Malone, Chubby Carrier, Buckwheat Zydeco, Murali Coryell, David Jacob Strain, DeAnna Bogart, Michael Lee Firkins, Guy Davis, Jason Ricci, John Doe, Little Feat, Matt Woods, MikeZito, Peter Buffett, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Corky Siegel, Todd Park Mohr, Watermelon Slim, Magic Slim, Corey Harris,- - - - - - ------------------------Radio archives: http://www.kiwrblues.podomatic.com/. Playlists: http://www.omahablues.com/ Reviews featured in http://www.blueswax.com/. Email: KIWRblues@gmail.com Live online; Sundays 9 a.m. (-6 GMT) http://www.897theriver.com/

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Album Review: Vee Jay Records boxset

Vee Jay Records boxset
Various Artists
Writer: Rick Galusha

The landscape of music recording is littered with now legendary recording labels including; Sun, Chess, Stax and Atlantic. Long before Gary, Indiana’s Jackson Five became a Motown phenomenon, Vee-Jay Records was making history as a successful label owned and operated by a married African-American couple; Vivian Carter and James Bracken; much like Stax the label name is an amalgamation of the owner’s names.

Eventually the label would move down-the-road to Chicago. Within the blues idiom perhaps their most significant signing was also their best; Jimmy Reed who got 17 charted singles with Vee-Jay. According to their website (www.vee-jay.net), “When we first met Jimmy Reed in 1953, he was actually working in Chicago in the stockyards, where he was cutting up cattle. ..one day and we heard Jimmy play. We asked him, “Do you have any songs that you have written?” And he says, "No, but I’ve got some I made up.” And that was how we got Jimmy Reed…Jimmy was something else. He’d get drunk the day of the session, so I had a police officer that I’d get to “arrest” him the night before and take him to jail. I’d come down the next morning and pick him up and take him to the studio. I never told him that, because I don’t think he would have appreciated it that I put him in the tank overnight. That was the only way I could get him down to the studio sober. On most of his dates, he was dead drunk. If you notice, he slurred very badly. He could read, but he was playing guitar at the same time, so his wife would have to whisper the lyric in his ear. Sometimes, you could hear her leaking through on the microphone.”

Other famed blues artists aligned with Vee-Jay included; Billy Boy Arnold, Eddie Taylor, Elmore James, Jay McShann, John Lee Hooker, Camille Howard, Hank Ballard, Pee Wee Crayton, Snooky Prior, The Staple Singers, Jerry Butler, The Five Blind Boys of Alabama, Betty Everett, Little Richard and Billy Preston. An observant eye will notice a significant overlap with the New Orleans/ Los Angles based ‘Specialty Record’ label.

Specifically tracks that blues fans will enjoy include; Jimmy Reed’s, ‘Ain’t that Loving You Baby,’ John Lee Hooker’s, ‘Dimples,’ Gene Allison’s, ‘You Can Make It If You Try,’ Elmore James’ ‘It Hurts Me Too,’ and Betty Everett’s, ‘You’re No Good’ as later covered by Linda Ronstadt or Gloria Jones’ ‘Tainted Love’ as later covered by Soft Cell.

Most rock fans will favor a faint memory that it was Vee-Jay that released the first four American singles for the Fab Four as Beatlemania kicked off in the United States. However their reaches into pop music included, The Four Seasons and their song, ‘Sherry,’ The Dell’s, ‘Oh What a Nite,’ Hank Ballard’s original version of, ‘The Twist,’ Dee Clark’s ‘Raindrops,’ and Gene Chandler’s, ‘Duke of Earl.’

In general this is a very interesting snapshot of a successful regional record company that for a brief moment lived in the crux where ‘the blues’ melded into ‘rock n’ roll.’ It is clearly not a collection of songs that everyone is going to “must own” but it is a very tasty supplement to a healthy collection or at the very least a fine foundation from which to begin a musicological exploration into the history of modern American music.

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