Tag Archives: Sleepy LaBeef

Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 46

By now, you know Sleepy LaBeef, national treasure, is a honky-tonk man.

Today, he demonstrates. Sleepy covers a tune debuted by Johnny Horton in 1956, covered 10 years later by Conway Twitty and covered 30 years later by Dwight Yoakam.

Horton wrote “Honky Tonk Man” with Tillman Franks and Howard Hausey. It was his first top-40 hit.

You may be more familiar with a couple of Horton’s No. 1 hits — “The Battle of New Orleans” from 1959 and “North to Alaska” from 1960. (Both of those songs were on the jukebox at a bar one of my friends worked at after high school, so they’re etched in my head.)

Sleepy recorded this version at Regent Sound Studio in London on April 23, 1979. It’s a fairly straightforward cover, but pleasant enough.

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“Honky Tonk Man,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “A Rockin’ Decade,” 1997.

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Filed under January 2008, Sounds

Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 45

Today, we’re hopping on that old gospel train with Sleepy LaBeef, national treasure.

Indeed, gospel is one of the many genres well served by Sleepy’s deep baritone.

“This Train” is credited here as being traditional, yet this version is an adaptation of the tune written by Sister Rosetta Tharpe in 1938 — when she was just 23! — and recorded by her in 1939. It was a huge crossover hit, going from the gospel charts onto the pop charts. Another version, with slightly different lyrics by Woody Guthrie, dates to the late ’50s.

Sleepy arranged this version, which he recorded at Shook Shack in Nashville in 1980 in his earliest sessions for Rounder Records.

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“This Train,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “Rockabilly Blues,” 2001.

And speaking of Sister Rosetta Tharpe …

Friday, Jan. 11, has been proclaimed Sister Rosetta Tharpe Day in Pennsylvania by no less than Gov. Ed Rendell. They’re having a benefit concert at the historic Keswick Theatre in Glenside, on Philadelphia’s northwest side, on Friday night.

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(The Keswick looks like one of those great venues. This photo is by Debra Jane Seltzer, a wonderful photographer of roadside architecture.)

Tharpe, an Arkansas native, lived in Philadelphia for 15 years. She died in 1973 and is buried in an unmarked grave in Northwood Cemetery in Philadelphia. Concert organizers hope to raise enough money to put up a memorial at her grave.

Among those performing Friday night: The Dixie Hummingbirds (who also are from Philly), Willa Ward with the Johnny Thompson Singers, Marie Knight, The Huff Singers, and Odetta.

Want to listen to Sister Rosetta’s version, recorded on Jan. 10, 1939, in New York? Click on the YouTube screen below. No video, but good sound.

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Filed under January 2008, Sounds

Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 44

Sleepy LaBeef, national treasure, is a man of the world, and a worldly man.

Tonight’s cut was recorded in England and released by a German label.

Of course, good music knows no boundaries.

Tonight, Sleepy covers a tune written and originally performed by Jimmy Reed, an electric bluesman from Mississippi. “Shame, Shame, Shame,” released in 1963, was Reed’s last single to hit the charts.

Sleepy recorded this cover at Regent Sound Studio in London on April 23, 1979, backed by a five-piece group.

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“Shame, Shame, Shame,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “A Rockin” Decade,” a 1997 compilation issued by Germany’s Charly Records.

The Rolling Stones have performed this tune since they did it as a demo when they were just getting started in the early ’60s.

This video is of the Stones playing it live at the Double Door, a small club in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, on Sept. 18, 1997.

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Filed under December 2007, Sounds

Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 43

Won’t be long, and we’ll be back to Sleepy Sundays as our only regular feature around here. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Tonight, Sleepy isn’t sleepy. Sleepy LaBeef, national treasure, is rocking.

We’ve heard Sleepy cover Little Richard before. I’m still not sure it worked.

But on this one, there’s no doubt. Sleepy’s cooking.

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“Long Tall Sally,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “Rockabilly Blues,” 2001.

Sleepy recorded this at Shook Shack in Nashville in 1980 during his first sessions after signing with Rounder Records. That’s Texas honky-tonk piano legend Earl Poole Ball pounding those keys and former Elvis sideman D.J. Fontana on drums.

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Filed under December 2007, Sounds

Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 42

Last week, Sleepy LaBeef, national treasure, was loose as a goose in the studio. He remains so this week.

Sleepy hijacks “Good Rockin’ Tonight” — written by Roy Brown in 1947 and made famous by Wynonie Harris in 1948 — and rips through it in less than 2 minutes, turning it into a boogie-woogie piece.

This was recorded on May 2, 1977, at Singleton Sound Studio in Nashville. Sleepy name-checks guitarist Cliff Parker and pianist Terry Duncan during the proceedings.

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“Good Rockin’ Boogie,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “A Rockin’ Decade,” 1997.

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Filed under December 2007, Sounds

Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 41

I have lots of tunes by Sleepy LaBeef, national treasure, but no Christmas tunes. So our regular Sunday feature will carry on with another fine cover.

Johnny Cash is widely credited as having written “Rock ‘n’ Roll Ruby,” which was a big hit for rockabilly singer Warren Smith on Sun Records in 1956. However, Smith insisted George Jones wrote the tune and sold it to Cash for $40. Hmmm. Good story if true.

Sleepy is loose as a goose on this one, counting off “1, 2, 3, 4” to get things started, a yelp breaking out from his deep baritone and name-checking lead guitarist Cliff Parker. It was recorded March 6, 1979, at Singleton Sound Studio in Nashville.

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“Rock ‘n’ Roll Ruby,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “A Rockin” Decade,” 1997.

Video bonus: Watch Sleepy and the boys lip-sync to the same tune!

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Filed under December 2007, Sounds

Sleepy Sunday, Vol. 40

Today’s tune by Sleepy LaBeef, national treasure, sounds dark but really is a love song.

“What Am I Living For,” was written by Fred Jacobson and Art Harris and done first by Chuck Willis in 1958. Willis, just 30, died right after it was released as a single. It’s also been covered by Conway Twitty, Percy Sledge, Ray Charles, Taj Mahal and Van Morrison.

Sleepy’s version has a gospel sound, thanks largely to Terry Gordon’s work on the keyboards. It was recorded on Feb. 5, 1977, at Singleton Sound Studio in Nashville.

Judging from what else was laid to vinyl that day, it’s entirely possible that Sleepy needed to bring it down for a moment. He also cut “Good Rockin’ Boogie,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover” and “Matchbox” that day.

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“What Am I Living For,” Sleepy LaBeef, from “A Rockin” Decade,” 1997.

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Filed under December 2007, Sounds