Another little mystery

So I’m over at Funky 16 Corners not too long ago, digging what my friend Larry had cued up.

He’d dropped both sides of “Do What You Wanna Do,” a single I’d never heard, from Frank Howard and the Continentals, a group I’d never heard of.

When I think of Frank Howard, I think of the guy who used to play baseball for the Washington Senators. The guy whose cocktail lounge — and that’s what it was, a lounge, and not a bar — I used frequent in the early ’80s. But I digress.


Barely 20 seconds into “Do What You Wanna Do (Part I),” an obscure 1969 single on the DeLuxe label, I got an odd sense of deja vu. I’d heard this before. More precisely, I’d heard this bass line before. But where?

So I played it over and over, wracking my brain, trying to solve that little mystery. After about 20 minutes, it rolled into my head. Oh, I heard it here.

blasters lp 1981

“I’m Shakin’,” the Blasters, from “The Blasters,” 1981. The LP appears to be out of print but the song is available digitally.

Instead of the bass line, it’s the sax line, but it’s the same.

Wanting to accurately document this for Larry, I did a little digging and found this was a cover of a Little Willie John song from 1960. Which I’d never realized. Just never paid all that much attention 30 years ago, when this was one of my favorite LPs, getting lots of time on the turntable.

Then along comes my friend Derek, who’s sending out the “daily” portion of his equally wonderful Derek’s Daily 45 blog in a blaze of glory this month.

On the second day of his retrospective, The Best of Daily 45, Part 2, Derek dropped this, the final clue to that little mystery.

im shakin little willie john

It was Little Willie John’s original 1960 version from the King 7-inch, which I’d never heard. Same sax line.

And that is how you solve a little mystery. With a little help from your friends.

(Now why Larry and Derek, little-known but influential curators and champions of little-known but influential American popular music, are not getting MacArthur Fellowships — the genius grants — is another little mystery.)

Please visit our other blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.


Filed under October 2013, Sounds

2 responses to “Another little mystery

  1. Mojo

    Wow, thanks for the post. Where do I start?

    I’m happy to tell you that Frank Howard is alive and well and living in Nashville, TN. He was one of the many early R&B, Blues & Soul Nashville greats that came up on the Jefferson Street scene in Nashville. (Akin to Hastings Street in Detroit, Beale Street in Memphis, etc..)

    This record is on De Luxe with The Continentals, but his most regular band was The Commanders. Frank and both of the Commanders are all still living in Nashville. The record was produced by famed WLAC Nashville DJ Hoss Allen, a hip jive-talking DJ who most people thought was black. Hoss also had a great but short-lived funky music TV show called “The Beat!!!”, of which all episodes have been released by Bear Family Records. The show was great! Dancing local Dallas high school girls go-go dancing on big boxes, TONS of great music by in It was filmed in Dallas, TX, because Hoss had access to a then new color TV studio. He took mostly Nashville musicians to make up the house band (Nashville blues great Johnny Jones on guitar and sometimes as bandleader along with Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Billy Cox (Band Of Gypsys) on bass and more. Many of the guests on the show were Nashville based musicians, including Frank Howard & The Commanders. I think the clip below was lip-synced but I can happily report that most of the songs on the show were played/recorded live (I’ve never forgiven Dick Clark for having all of those great bands over the years NEVER actually play live on American Bandstand…) Sorry, it’s hard to not make this comment about The Beat!!! because it was SO DAMN GOOD. Do yourself a favor by finding these DVDs. There are lots of clips on YouTube too.

    Frank Howard & The Commanders on The Beat!!!: “I’m So Glad”

    The Commanders once included some guy on guitar named Jimi Hendrix. They have a track titled “I’m So Glad” on the “Jimi Hendrix – West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology” boxed set. (CD1,Track 8)

    By the way, I do a blues, R&B, soul, +more radio show called “Spoonful” here in Nashville most Saturdays for 5 hours from 9am-2pm on 1470 AM, WVOL (streaming on and on free smartphone radio apps like TuneIn Radio). I often play older local Nashville records, Frank Howard included. Frank actually calls the show and thanks me for playing his and other Nashville artists, and often puts me on the trail of great tunes to search out and play. Fun random fact: Oprah Winfrey had her first job reading news stories on WVOL when she was in high school here in Nashville.

    I’ve seen & filmed Frank Howard & The Commanders perform a handful of times here in Nashville over the past years. This music was revitalized by a Country Music Hall Of Fame exhibit titled “Night Train To Nashville” back in 2004. They also released two double CDs compiling some spectacular music. The last time I saw them was just before Memorial Day this year at a club called Carol Ann’s, where Jimmy Church (also seen on The Beat!!!, honored them. Frank stated that it would likely be their last performance due to health issues of some of his band mates. I filmed it but unfortunately some bozo stole my video camera and case containing the tapes a few days later!)


    More Links:
    Info about Frank & the Commanders w/Jimi Hendrix

    Incomplete Discography:

    Frank Howard & The Commanders: My Girl (on The Beat!!!)

    Frank Howard & The Commanders: Try Me (on The Beat!!!)

    “The Beat!!!” TV Show playlist:

    Another “The Beat!!!” TV Show playlist:

    Yet another “The Beat!!!” TV Show playlist:

    Still another “The Beat!!!” TV Show playlist:

    Yes another “The Beat!!!” TV Show playlist:

    Believe it or not, another “The Beat!!!” TV Show playlist:

    “The Beat!!!” DVD set from Bear Family Records:

    Night Train To Nashville CD, Vol.1,-Souvenir-Book-%26-Poster-Bundle.html

    Night Train To Nashville CD, Vol.2

    Story about Night Train To Nashville exhibit:

  2. Mojo

    Oh and by the way, I forgot to mention that this song, “Do What You Wanna Do” was sampled by the Beastie Boys on “Shazam” back in 2004! I wonder if Frank knows that, I’ll have to mention it to him.

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