Monthly Archives: February 2008

Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 51

Sleepy LaBeef, national treasure and human jukebox, has covered thousands of songs.

Though many are obscure, others are familiar. It’s always interesting to hear Sleepy interpret a song you’ve heard many times by other artists. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We’ve had both here.

Today, it’s a blues tune done first by Muddy Waters in May 1955. “Mannish Boy” has its roots in the Bo Diddley blues number, “I’m a Man.” It’s a rewrite, a reworking of that tune, which came out in March 1955.

Sleepy isn’t the only one to cover “Mannish Boy,” as you well know. Among the others: Jimi Hendrix, Paul Butterfield, the Band, the Rolling Stones and Hank Williams Jr.


“Mannish Boy,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “Rockabilly Blues,” 2001.

Sleepy recorded this version at Dimension Sound Studios in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, in 1981. His backing band is Scott Billington on harmonica, Bobby Keyes on guitar, Harry Duncan on piano, Russell Keyes on bass and Rick Nelson on drums.

Leave a comment

Filed under February 2008, Sounds

Midnight Tracker sampler, Vol. 3

Before David Lee Roth gone solo in 1985, there was Louis Prima.

Before Kid Rock at the Grammys, there was Prima at Keely Smith’s side.

Tonight on The Midnight Tracker, we have proof.

Check out Side 1 of “The Wildest!” That’s the classic 1957 album by Prima, Smith and their incendiary backing band, Sam Butera and the Witnesses.

Here’s a medley that helped set the tone for rock ‘n’ roll … even if the tunes that make up the medley were already 30 to 40 years old when Prima put them together.


“Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody,” Louis Prima, from “The Wildest!” 1957.


Filed under February 2008, Sounds

Maybe I should have listened

Perhaps the Daves were on to something.

“Come out and live with us,” they said. “All you need is six months.”

The Daves were a couple of years ahead of me in high school. They were good athletes and good students. They knew how to have fun, too. We hung out, partied, whatever, with the same group of guys in the summer.

I’ve long since forgotten exactly when we had that conversation, but it must have been 1975 or 1976. Having come from a family of rather modest means, I was going to the two-year University of Wisconsin campus in my hometown of Wausau. A good school, but not exactly exciting.

One evening, probably after summer basketball and almost certainly over a cold beverage of some kind, the Daves made an intriguing suggestion:

“Come out to California and live with us. All you need to do is be there six months, establish residency and then you can pay the resident tuition.”

The Daves — two guys from central Wisconsin — went to San Diego State University. That sounded good to a kid from central Wisconsin. Real good. I could handle the sun. I could handle the beach. I was willing to try handling the legends that are California girls.

I never made it to SDSU, though. I was 18 or 19, and I was too clueless, too naive to figure out how to eke out a living for those first six months needed for resident tuition. All I really knew how to do was go to school.

I got to thinking about San Diego again this week as I repeatedly shoveled more snow onto the three-foot-high piles on either side of the driveway. It’s been a long winter. If these kinds of winters return with any regularity, I’ll entertain the notion of being a snowbird when I retire.

And, of course, the lovely Janet was in San Diego on business for four days.

“I think we have to come here on vacation,” she said when she called each night. “I think you’d really like it.”

That, I figured out a long time ago.


“California,” Charlie, from “Fight Dirty,” 1979.

Charlie is a British rock band that got occasional FM airplay in the late ’70s. You may remember the lovely ladies on their album covers. The music was all right, too, with sharp songwriting, lots of hooks and crisp vocals.

This tune tells of someone who went to California in the ’70s and experienced its dark side, yet is drawn back to its sun and sights.

Would that have been my experience? Or would I, like the Daves, have gone to school at SDSU and eventually wound up back home in Wisconsin?


Filed under February 2008, Sounds

In the presence of greatness

One of the great things about our local music scene is our local casino and the acts it brings in. Of course, the intent is to get people in for the music and keep them for the gaming.

But you can’t argue with that strategy when they bring in a New Orleans music legend for a three-night stand of free shows at an intimate little lounge on the edge of the noisy gaming floor.

Allen Toussaint — the great R&B writer, producer, arranger and most recently performer — played a marvelous set on Tuesday night.

A gentle, delightful man with a sparkle in his eyes (and his tie and his shoes), Toussaint nodded hello as he walked past me and onto the stage. Sitting hard to his right at the edge of the stage, I watched over Toussaint’s shoulder as he gracefully and seemingly effortlessly worked the piano.

Toussaint’s 90-minute show was a delightful trip through his life and career. He sat down and started with a couple of instrumentals. He followed with Chuck Berry’s “School Days,” a song he said he wished he’d written. He then swung into a medley of some of his tunes that were covered by other artists.

Toussaint also played a long, rollicking instrumental piece that purported to explain how he learned to play the piano, going from simple child’s melodies to more polished classical, jazz and R&B passages. He ended the evening with a gently winding monologue that told the story of how he came to write “Southern Nights.” (Yes, that “Southern Nights,” the Glen Campbell hit from 1977.)

I’m late to the party when it comes to Allen Toussaint and all the tunes he’s written and performed.

Most of what I know and have heard has come from Dan over at Home of the Groove, a terrific place to learn about New Orleans music. In fact, Dan wrote about Toussaint just last month.

Much of the rest of what I know and have heard has come from Larry over at Funky 16 Corners. A year ago, Larry laid down several Toussaint-produced tunes in his NOLA Soul Pt. 1 mix.

Gents, thank you. If you’re new to Toussaint as I was, enjoy these tunes.


“Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky,” Allen Toussaint, from “Allen Toussaint,” 1971.

And these three tunes, all written by Toussaint and performed here by him on Tuesday night, yet among those more memorably covered by others.


“Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette),” the Amazing Rhythm Aces, from “The Amazing Rhythm Aces,” 1979. Done first by Benny Spellman in 1962 and also covered by the O’Jays. One of my favorite songs.


“Fortune Teller,” Benny Spellman, 1962, from “Mojo Presents Stoned,” a compilation CD distributed with Mojo magazine last September. It’s the original B side to “Lipstick Traces,” yet probably is far better known today, thanks to covers by the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Hollies, the Tony Jackson Group and most recently by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss on their “Raising Sand” album, released last year.


“A Certain Girl,” Warren Zevon, from “Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School,” 1980. Done first by Ernie K-Doe, also in 1962.


Filed under February 2008, Sounds

Midnight Tracker sampler, Vol. 2

Tonight on The Midnight Tracker, it’s Side 1 of “Feel Good,” a 1972 album by Ike and Tina Turner.

There’s only one cover among its 10 cuts, but the nine tunes written by Tina Turner really cook.

Though it’s barely two minutes long, the fourth cut, “I Like It,” manages to work in some nasty Hammond organ, a solid bass line, energetic horn charts and plenty of wah-wah guitar.

I’m sure you have a pretty good idea what Miss Tina likes on this one.


“I Like It,” Ike and Tina Turner, from “Feel Good,” 1972.

(The album link is to a 2006 Australian release that puts this album and the “Nutbush City Limits” album from 1973 on the same CD.)

1 Comment

Filed under February 2008, Sounds