“Christmas Wrapping,” the Waitresses, 1981, from “A Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas,” 1994. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on the “Christmas Wrapping” EP. That also appears to be out of print, but the song is available digitally.) (KUT)
I’ll leave Miss Taylor to the blues enthusiasts and Mr. Carradine to the film enthusiasts.
Sam Butera, who was 81 when he died Wednesday in Las Vegas, almost certainly is the least known of the three. He was the frenzied yet disciplined sax player who helped forge Louis Prima’s wild, swinging jazz sound in the ’50s and ’60s. It wasn’t rock, but you could see it in the distance.
Butera and his band, the Witnesses, helped make Prima one of the top draws in Vegas. That’s Butera above at right, on stage with Prima and singer Keely Smith at the Sahara in 1957. Prima and Butera, native sons of New Orleans, played together from 1954 to 1975.
Here’s what Prima’s widow, singer Gia Maione, told the Las Vegas Sun:
“Louis Prima’s true ace in the hole for 21 years was Sam Butera. I don’t care what vocalists were with Louis, his true ace in the hole was Sam Butera. Side by side, Louis and Sam kicked Las Vegas’ butt for 21 years. …
“I really do not believe over all of these years that Sam Butera got the accolades he deserved as a tenor saxophone player. I defy anyone to name someone that played better tenor sax that Sam Butera.”
Even if you can’t place Butera, you know his sound.
David Lee Roth’s cover of “Just a Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody?” That’s Butera’s arrangement and sax solo. Butera never got paid for it.
That Gap ad featuring “Jump, Jive an’ Wail?” That’s Butera’s arrangement and sax solo. Butera was paid $371 and received three pairs of pants that didn’t quite fit. He had to pay to have them tailored.
Here, then, the real sound of Sam Butera.
“Night Train” and “Oh Marie,” both featuring Sam Butera on sax, from “The Wildest,” Louis Prima, 1957. As the liner notes say, the former is a “slow, bluesy” instrumental. The latter, an “Italian evergreen,” swings. (The album link is to a remastered 2002 CD release.)
“St. Louis Blues,” featuring Sam Butera on sax, from “Louis Prima: Collector’s Series,” a 1991 CD compilation. Ain’t nothing bluesy about this rave-up from 1962. Butera’s scorching sax sets up Prima’s wild scatting.
You know you need something special for that Christmas party.
If it’s one of those dreadful office parties with no proper beverages, these three tunes should get things good and loose.
If it’s a rocking bash with all the right bevvies, these three tunes just might cause a stampede to the mistletoe … or elsewhere.
All I know about Kay Martin and Her Body Guards is what I have learned from the Web, from folks who passionately seek out and share obscure, quirky Christmas albums.
The short version is that Martin was best known as a singer on the West Coast club and casino lounge circuit from roughly 1953 to 1963. She also recorded what were known as “adult party records.” In other words, material you couldn’t do on TV at the time.
I think the album cover and the names of the tunes will give you a pretty good idea of what’s going on here. (And, no, that is not Miss Martin on the cover, though she claims to have been a model before she became a singer.)
“Come On Santa, Let’s Have a Ball”
“Santa’s Doing the Horizontal Twist”
“I Know What You Want for Christmas”
All by Kay Martin and Her Body Guards, from “I Know What He Wants for Christmas (But I Don’t Know How to Wrap It),” 1962. It’s out of print and much in demand among collectors.
Today, we’re driving across Wisconsin’s winter wonderland, heading to a wedding. My dad will be with us, and it seems appropriate to see what Christmas sounds like at Ray’s Corner.
If you’re a regular visitor around these parts, you know we occasionally stop at Ray’s Corner and borrow tunes from Dad’s collection. Ray’s Corner, of course, is the apartment where the music is loud and where the martinis are made of gin with the vermouth bottle held about a foot away.
Dad digs Dino, and I generally do, too. However, I’m not a huge fan of Dino’s many Christmas songs. This one’s a keeper, though.
“Jingle Bells,” Duke Ellington, 1962, from “Jingle Bell Jazz,” 1974. (This CD, released in 1985, combines cuts from the 1974 album “Jingle Bell Jazz” and the 1981 album “God Rest Ye Merry Jazzmen.”)
This cut starts slowly, then picks up the pace when the 12-piece horn section jumps in. That, of course, is Billy Strayhorn on the piano. Recorded in New York City on June 21, 1962. (I turned 5 years old that day.)
The liner notes on this cut say only that it was recorded in 1950, but I’m guessing it comes from a session on Oct. 27, 1950. I have a Hampton cut from that session on another Christmas album. That’s likely Sonny Parker on the vocals. Mind you, this was 58 years ago, and he’s singing “rock, rock, rock, Mr. Santa.” There also are terrific trumpet and sax charts on this one, along with a little taste of Hamp’s vibes.
“Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” was an R&B hit for Mabel Scott in 1948. The next year, she married her pianist, Charles Brown, who had hits with “Merry Christmas Baby” in 1947 and “Please Come Home for Christmas” in 1960. Alas, they stayed together for only a short time, and Scott eventually went back to her original love, gospel music.
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.
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.
This one is another tasty slice of country swing. If you’ve heard the Tractors’ mid-’90s single, “Baby Likes to Rock It,” you’ll know this Christmas tune. It’s the same music, with the lyrics customized for Christmas, all by Steve Ripley and Walt Richmond.
No. 2: Sometimes, finding the right Christmas song can make your entire holiday season. In this case, the search goes on.
Onie is seeking “a slightly faster (but nowhere near as upbeat as the one done by Boney M) version” of this song. This one, I suspect, is “the slower, more melodic version” Onie has found, but has found lacking.
Belafonte originally cut this tune in 1956 and released it as a single (RCA Victor 47-6735). That, I think, is what Onie is looking for. Six years later, Belafonte re-recorded a longer version of this tune for the album I found last week.
No. 3: One of our visitors is longing for more from “A Creole Christmas,” which he once had on cassette. Now, sadly, that cassette is “worn out and broken.”
This is a rollicking instrumental romp, driven by Toussaint’s fine New Orleans piano and nicely complemented by a horn section.
Enjoy. More to come, but …
Just five days until Christmas …
and just three more days for “Three under the tree”
We’re going to wrap up this series on Sunday. When it ends, I’ll post a list of all the songs and provide links to the posts in which they appeared. The tunes will be available through the end of the year, if you’re just too busy to go get them now.