Tag Archives: Clarence Carter

Bad news, or just bad news?

Back in January, I wrote about four guys — bullies, I guess. Three of them were dead, the third one just then.

Now the fourth one, the guy who hassled me in junior high school and stole my wallet, is dead.

Strange, indeed, how things turn out.

As soon as I read the news of this gent’s passing, I messaged another of my junior high classmates. He did not immediately go into mourning. This was the first thing that popped into his head, a story he’d shared before:

“He used to steal my lunch … until my mom and I made a special sandwich for him. With hot sauce and hot pepper.”

Then my friend ran into another of our junior high classmates. He’d heard the news, too. He also did not immediately go into mourning.

“You know, I’m not terribly saddened,” he said.

Our mutual friend was in shop class one day, doing some soldering. That guy walked up, grabbed the hand that held the torch and wrested it so the torch burned our friend’s other hand.

We were just kids then, but he was not a guy who mellowed with age.

His ex-wife had to get restraining orders to stop his harassment, and even then it didn’t stop. They once hauled him into court for violating those restraining orders not once, not twice, but 19 times. The man had issues.

Junior high was a long time ago. My friends and I don’t dwell on what happened then, yet clearly we haven’t let it go.

Why? Again, maybe all he wanted to do was get into our heads. If so, he succeeded. He’s still in there, 40 years on. There, apparently, he will stay.

I hope he’s found peace. I hope he enjoys that sandwich.


“Bad News,” Clarence Carter, from “Testifyin’,” 1969. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

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

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Filed under August 2013, Sounds

A smaller Christmas, Day 6

In the mail this morning is a note from Spin magazine hyping its latest content. The top feature is “Humbug Hit Parade: The 25 Weirdest, Darkest Christmas Songs.” I clicked through all 25 songs, but it’s just not my thing.

Yeah, there’s a ton of bad Christmas music out there, but I don’t wish to explore it. Which is why is haven’t read a word of a similar feature that’s an annual event on an otherwise tremendous site listed over there to the left on the blogroll. Nor have I stopped by a handful of Christmas music blogs that revel in that kind of thing. Sorry, fellas. Pass.

On that Humbug Hit Parade, though, is one song that’s long been a favorite.


“Back Door Santa,” Clarence Carter, from “Testifyin’,” 1969. The LP is out of print but is available digitally.

I guess you could call it weird — if Carter’s salacious “Ho, ho, ho” unnerves you — but it’s more naughty than anything. This Santa “ain’t like old Saint Nick,” who “don’t come but once a year.” Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Besides, if it makes you smile, how can it be on such a playlist?

A year and a half ago, I came across this record, which is Carter’s second LP. This version of “Back Door Santa” has a more laid-back drum intro than the rat-a-tat jump start sampled by Run-D.M.C. on “Christmas In Hollis.”

This version also is ever so slightly different than the version on Atlantic’s great “Soul Christmas” compilation, which came out on vinyl in 1968 and was reissued on CD in 1991. I’ve had that CD since it came out, which seems like forever.

Your Christmas music requests in the comments, please.

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

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2012, Sounds

Testifyin’ before Christmas

It’s a little surprising — and then again perhaps not — that no one has asked about the Christmas music usually found here at this time of year.

Though there are many Christmas tunes in our collection, it’s been tough to muster the usual enthusiasm for them.

The Christmas spirit usually found here is, for some reason, harder to come by this year. Our corner of Wisconsin is, so far, anything but a winter wonderland. Today was dreary, damp and foggy.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do here for the Christmas season. But let’s turn on the holiday blog design and see where we wind up.

I picked up this record earlier this year for many reasons, but the star on the tree — as it were — was that it was original vinyl of one of my favorite Christmas tunes. I know you dig it, too.

“Back Door Santa,” Clarence Carter, from “Testifyin’,” 1969. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

This is one of the naughtiest Christmas songs ever laid to vinyl. However, this version has more a laid-back drum intro than the rat-a-tat jump start sampled by Run-D.M.C. on “Christmas In Hollis.”

This version also is ever so slightly different than the cut I have from Atlantic’s great “Soul Christmas” compilation, which originally came out on vinyl in 1968 and was reissued on CD in 1991. (Man, 20 years ago already?)

If you have requests for Christmas tunes, put them in the comments.

We’ll do our best.


Filed under December 2011, Sounds

Nice records, but no fish tacos

Yesterday was a day that started so promising — I found three nice records in just a few minutes of digging — but ended in minor disappointment. The place we go for fish tacos has closed.

There was nothing disappointing about the digging at Half-Price Books, a place I occasionally go. It has a bunch of vinyl that even if half-priced still tends to be overpriced. Digging there tends to be all or nothing, Sydney or the bush.

Our corner of Wisconsin rarely yields Clarence Carter records, so it was delightful to come across “Testifyin’,” his second LP, from 1969.

“Back Door Santa,” one of the naughtiest Christmas songs ever laid to vinyl, is on here, albeit with a different drum intro than the one sampled by Run-D.M.C. on “Christmas In Hollis.” “Snatching It Back” and “Making Love (At The Dark End Of The Street” were the singles off this record, and rightly so.

But I’m digging another tune.

“Instant Reaction,” Clarence Carter, from “Testifyin’,” 1969. It’s out of print but is available digitally.

It’s said to be one of five great black bubble gum classics not influenced by the Jackson 5. As always, you be the judge. It’s certainly upbeat. It’s written by Wayne Carson Thompson, who also wrote the Box Tops’ “Soul Deep” … which Carter also covers on this record.

It must have been something to see and hear a young Jerry Lee Lewis in his prime. This LP, recorded live at the Birmingham Municipal Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama, on July 1, 1964, certainly lives up to its billing.

It’s the first of two live Jerry Lee records released on Smash. A while back, I found the other one, “By Request,” from 1966. The formula is the same: Rev ’em up with rockers, wind ’em down with a country tune and rev ’em back up.

“Who Will The Next Fool Be,” Jerry Lee Lewis, from “The Greatest Live Show On Earth,” 1964. Both live LPs are on this hard-to-find two-fer CD released in 1994.

This is a cover of a Charlie Rich tune, and one appropriate for Jerry Lee.

It did nothing as a single for Rich in the early ’60s, when he was trying to figure out whether he was a rock, country or jazz artist. It barely dented the country charts when he re-released it in 1970. I’ve loved the song ever since hearing the Amazing Rhythm Aces’ cover of it on their “Stacked Deck” LP from 1975.

The third record, for the record, is “Six Silver Strings,” a B.B. King album from 1988.

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Filed under June 2011, Sounds

12 days of Christmas, Day 9

In the e-mail today is a note about NPR Music’s Jingle Jams holiday mix.

They asked 10 stations to suggest 10 Christmas songs each, then put it all together into one playlist. You can stream it here.

Here are 12 of the songs, in the order they appear on the Jingle Jams playlist. The station or program suggesting the song is in parentheses.

“Let It Snow,” Leon Redbone, from “Christmas Island,” 1989. (Folk Alley)

“‘Zat You, Santa Claus” Louis Armstrong, 1953, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on “Hipster’s Holiday,” a 1989 CD compilation.) (WBGO, Newark, New Jersey; WDUQ, Pittsburgh)

“Last Month Of The Year” the Blind Boys of Alabama, from “Go Tell It On the Mountain,” 2003. (WXPN, Philadelphia)

“Santa Claus, Santa Claus,” James Brown, from “Santa’s Got A Brand New Bag,” 1966. The LP is out of print but all the songs are on “The Complete James Brown Christmas,” a 2-CD set released earlier this year. (KUT, Austin, Texas)

“Back Door Santa,” Clarence Carter, from “Soul Christmas,” 1968. (KUT)

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” Darlene Love, from “A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector,” 1963. (WXPN)

“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)

“Greensleeves,” the Vince Guaraldi Trio, from “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” 1965. The buy link is to a 2006 remastered CD release with extra tracks, including an alternate take on this one. (WDUQ)

“Jingle Bells,” Jimmy Smith, from “Christmas ’64,” 1964. Smith’s “Christmas Cookin’,” from the same year, is the same record but with a much cooler cover.  (WBGO)

“Must Be Santa,” Brave Combo, from “It’s Christmas, Man!” 1992. Hard to find, but available from the band or digitally. NPR’s version is from a live performance at KUT. This version is done as a polka.

“Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney,” Ella Fitzgerald, 1950, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. It’s out of print. (NPR suggests finding it on “Yule Be Miserable,” a 2006 CD compilation) (WDUQ)

“The 12 Days of Christmas,” Harry Belafonte, from “To Wish You A Merry Christmas,” 1962. (NPR Music staff)


Filed under Christmas music, December 2010

That ’70s song, Vols. 32 and 33

Forty years ago, I lived in this house on the south side of Sheboygan, Wisconsin. My bedroom, where my Panasonic AM-FM radio sat on top of a filing cabinet, was upstairs on the right as you look at the picture.

We lived there for only three summers — 1969, 1970 and 1971. The trees were not so overgrown. Just a rental, the house was painted dark red, perhaps crimson. But certainly not that dreadful brown.

One day — had to be that last summer there — I sat on the steps near the sidewalk, a paper grocery bag in front of me. I’d taken football and basketball cards I no longer wanted, put them in the bag and let some neighborhood kids take what they wanted. It wasn’t long before I regretted giving away the basketball cards. I still might not be over it.

The cards were going out because I felt I’d outgrown them. My passion had become the music that poured out of that AM-FM radio, then tuned solely to WOKY, the big Top 40 AM station out of Milwaukee. It all had started, of course, the summer before.

As summer gave way to fall in 1970, the radio told two sad stories.

One was about a boy who had to grow up quickly after his papa died.

“Patches,” Clarence Carter, from “Patches,” 1970. The LP is available digitally and on this 2-on-1 CD with “The Dynamic Clarence Carter,” which came out in 1969. They were Carter’s third and fourth albums.

Though this is the most well-known version of “Patches,” it’s a cover of a tune done earlier that year by the Chairmen of the Board and released on their “In Session” LP. I’ve never heard the original. Jerry Reed did a fairly faithful cover of Carter’s version in 1981.

(By the way, Side 1 of the “Patches” LP was featured last month over at The Midnight Tracker, our other blog.)

The other was about a man on the run, one who can’t go back home.

“Indiana Wants Me,” R. Dean Taylor, from “I Think, Therefore I Am,” 1970. It’s out of print. The tune is available on “The Essential Collection,” a greatest-hits import released in 2001.

Renowned as a songwriter for the Motown labels, Taylor also had a long recording career. He started in his native Toronto in 1961, then moved to Detroit in 1964. He worked there solely as a songwriter until 1970, when he started cutting songs for Motown’s Rare Earth label. The biggest hit, of course, was this one, written with R&B singer Joe Simon.

Truth be told, I bought this LP a couple of years ago, ripped only this single and haven’t listened to it since. I ought to go back and give it a spin one of these days.

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Filed under September 2010, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 18

Elvis got a little nasty yesterday, so let’s continue that theme. Tonight, we find three more nasty tunes under the tree.


“Back Door Santa,” Clarence Carter, 1968, from “Soul Christmas,” a 1991 CD reissue of the 1968 Atlantic Records album of the same name.

You can’t go wrong with our first tune. It’s about as nasty as they come. The lyrics include: “I ain’t like old St. Nick/He don’t come but once a year.” And, of course, perhaps the most suggestive “Ho, ho, ho, ho” ever recorded. This was recorded in October 1968 at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. It’s Carter on guitar and vocals, backed by the Fame house band.


“Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’,” Mack Rice, 1972, from “Christmas in Soulsville,” a 2007 CD reissue of the 1982 Stax Records album “It’s Christmas Time Again.”

Not much left to the imagination on this one. Santa is chasing Mama around the kitchen after all the kids have gone to bed. Rice wrote this one. This album also has Albert King’s cover of this tune, recorded in 1974. Rice also wrote and recorded “Mustang Sally,” but he’s more widely known as a songwriter than as a singer.


“Santa Claus Got Stuck In My Chimney,” Ella Fitzgerald, 1950, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. It’s out of print, but many of the cuts turned up on “Santa Claus Blues,” a 1988 CD release on Jass Records … which also is out of print.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I read earlier this year that this once was considered a naughty record. I’ve been listening to this tune for more than 20 years and never thought it to be a double entendre. Not sure what that says about me, but there you go.

Our friend Captain OT over at A Christmas Yuleblog, who is more knowledgeable than I on anything having to do with Christmas music, has written that “radio stations refused to touch it and the single went unnoticed for many years after.”

This was recorded on Oct. 26, 1950. The band includes Charlie Shavers on trumpet, Hank Jones on piano, John Collins on guitar, Roy Brown on bass and Charlie Smith on drums.


Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds