|Many thanks to Garagehangover.com|
Alabama, along with all the south-east states, is deeply involved in the history of Southern rock and American rock. Although the city of Birmingham itself didn't throw up any internationally-famous bands, it had a thriving music scene. Formative bands in the '50s and '60s were garage bands like The Ramrods and The Vikings. Two are included here with a pair of great covers by The Outer Mongolian Herd and The Distortions. Also included are names like Hardrock Gunter, Jerry Yester and Vic Upshaw, who were born in Birmingham but had further-reaching careers; Vic made singles in France for instance.
01. Crimson Tide - Turning Back (1978)
from album 'Crimson Tide'
02. Sam Lay - Maggie's Farm (1968)
from album 'Sam Lay in Bluesland'
03. Hardrock Gunter - I'll Give 'Em Rhythm (1955)
04. The Outer Mongolian Herd - Hey Joe (1968)
from comp 'Psychedelic States - Alabama Vol. 2'
05. Judy Henske & Jerry Yester - Snowblind (1969)
'from album Farewell Aldebaran'
06. Vic Upshaw - Popcorn Crazy (1969)
from EP "Dance the Popcorn"
07. Smith Perkins Smith - Save Me (1972)
from album 'Smith Perkins Smith'
08. The Distortions - Smokestack Lightning (1966)
from comp 'Psychedelic States - Alabama Vol. 2'
09. Backwater - Pair O' Dice (1976)
from album 'Backwater'
10. Hotel - City Lights (1979)
from album 'Hotel'
|Crimson Tide self-titled LP 1978|
The playing is impeccable through-out with nice slide guitar, but the band didn't last long after their second record. Wayne's session career continued as before, he made his first solo record in '95 and throughout his career has played for everyone from Don Nix to Bob Marley.
It's not too easy finding the whereabouts of the remaining guys, but keys-man Richard "Wolfie" Wolf is a Los Angeles-based music producer, remixer and composer, with numerous film, television credits too.
Alabama Record Collectors Association - "Wayne Perkins, through the help of drummer Jasper Guarino, became a session guitarist at a studio in Muscle Shoals owned by Quin Ivy at $100 a week. He later formed a band, Smith, Perkins and Smith for a very short time. He then was a member of several different bands, including the Gap Band. Wayne was even considered at one time to join the Rolling Stones, but was decided against because he wasn’t British, but did play on one of their albums in 1974.
|Crimson Tide - Wayne Perkins center|
Crimson Tide became the house band at the Crossroads Club in Roebuck for a couple of years in the late '70s, where well-known acts such as Yes, Joe Cocker, or Rick Derringer, if they had performed elsewhere in town that day, often showed up to sit in. "That's one thing about the Crossroads Club. You never knew who would show up," Perkins says. Crimson Tide split up in 1979. Perkins later released a pair of solo CDs, Mendo Hotel in 1995 and Ramblin' Heart in 2005, as well as having his songs included on soundtracks for several films and TV shows. The members of the band were: Dale Perkins, Wayne Perkins, Greg Straub, Bobby Delander and J.J. Jackson. By the second album, Richard Fox, who played keyboards on both albums, was an official member."
|"Sam Lay in Bluesland" LP 1968|
In the mid 1960s he joined the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and recorded and toured extensively with them. Lay also recorded with Bob Dylan, most notably on the Highway 61 Revisited album. He drummed on the "Highway 61" track, so I guess he's more than qualified to do the great cover of "Maggie's Farm" included here! Sam was featured in 'History of the Blues', produced by Martin Scorsese, and was inducted into the 2015 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
Now to what is by far the earliest track I have ever included in these collections. Sidney Louie Gunter Jr. (b.27 February 1925), known as Hardrock Gunter, was a guitarist and performer who was there right at the formative stages of rock and roll and rockabilly at the turn of the '50s. His first teenage group was the Hoot Owl Ramblers. In 1939 he joined Happy Wilson's Golden River Boys and acquired his nickname "Hardrock" when a van trunk lid fell on him before a show and he never flinched. After wartime service he returned to work with the group, before leaving to become their agent and starting to appear on local TV.
youtube), the Golden River Boys being renamed the Pebbles on the record. A regional hit which produced over 20 cover versions, the most successful being by Red Foley, who reached no.1 with it on the Billboard country chart, and no.14 on the pop chart. Gunter's original version has become regarded as a contender for the first rock and roll record. It predates "Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (who were actually Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm) by a year. Gunter followed up with "Gonna Dance All Night", one of the first records to feature the actual words "rock'n'roll". Gunter signed to Decca, and his 1951 duet with Roberta Lee, "Sixty Minute Man," was one of the first country records to cross over to R&B audiences.
In 1953 he began working at a radio station, and also remade "Gonna Dance All Night" and recorded "Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby", both of which were issued by Sun Records and became regional hits. In 1958 he was one of the first musicians to use both echo and overdub on his recording of "Boppin' to Grandfather's Clock", released under the name Sidney Jo Lewis. He continued to record with limited success, and in the 1960s left the music business. He retired to Rio Rancho, New Mexico. In 1995 he began to perform again at festivals in England, Germany and the United States. He died aged 88 in 2013.
The Outer Mongolian Herdlink). It's a great version of Hey Joe, but they certainly put their own garage twist on it. Here's what's written about it: "Hey Joe, The Outer Mongolian Herd (Bill Roberts), Third Story Music, BMI, 2:09 - Released on the Daisy (4847) label in Jan 1968 and b/w "I Wan't To Love You (Scared)". A mystery crew that recorded for a Birmingham-based label, these guys laid down one of the finer versions of "Hey Joe", a garage band staple that never sounds tired or dated." [Mike Markesich]
Judy Henske & Jerry Yester
|Farewell Aldebaran LP front|
|Farewell Aldebaran LP back|
|Vic Upshaw - Dance The Popcorn|
Time for a funny novelty single which grooves and funks along in an addictive way. It seems that Vic was a dancer first before a musician, and his handful of records were related to dance moves and instruction. It would seem he was attempting to plug a dance called 'the popcorn' with this single! The most information I have found so far is unfortunately from his obituary. An American choreographer who brought modern jazz styles to France in the mid-1960's, he died on Nov. 5 1990. He was 50 years old. A spokeswoman for a dance society with which he worked said he died of a stomach disorder. Born in Birmingham, AL in 1940, Mr. Upshaw played minor roles in the 1958 film version of "South Pacific" and in the Judy Garland version of "A Star Is Born" before moving to France in 1964.
Mr. Upshaw designed dance routines for the Lido cabaret. His own dance group, the Vic Upshaw Six, was a staple for years on French television variety shows. He taught steps to some of France's best-known show-business personalities, including Catherine Deneuve, Sylvie Vartan, Pierre Mondy and Jean-Claude Brialy.
Smith Perkins Smith
The album is mellow country rock affair, mostly acoustic, but there's a couple of electric tracks and "Save Me" is my pick here. Indeed, it was tapped for a single by Island. Smith Perkins Smith started a second album while residing in the UK, which wasn't released. Wayne Perkins had other distractions, including being asked by Island to add rock guitar to a reggae band they were trying to break. His solos on Concrete Jungle and Stir It Up helped Catch a Fire do just that for Bob Marley.
|Smith Perkins Smith|
|The Distortions - picture found at Garagehangover.com|
Their first three singles were issued on the SEA label. "Smokestack Lightning" was also issued on the Malcolm Z. Dirge label in August 1966 as the b-side to "Behind My Wall", an original tune and the band's biggest seller in Montgomery and Birmingham. This prompted several record label scouts to present signing offers to the group, with the Mercury label winning out. Mercury placed "Behind My Wall" on their Smash label subsidiary a couple of months later. The Distortions continued to perform well into the late sixties, releasing singles on Malcolm Z. Dirge and the Casino label from New Orleans in 1967 and Capitol in 1968, but all pale in the throes of "Smokestack Lightning". [Mike Markesich]
There's an account of The Distortions over at Garagehangover.com (here) which shows the band's changed appearance and outlook into the early seventies, including a couple of '70s tracks showing a decidedly more slick, funky approach.
To close this volume we have a late-'70s AOR band called Hotel. Looking for similar from the Birmingham area, I found only one more band of this ilk, called Telluride, but they are way too soft for TDATS. Much of Hotel's music was very slick and commercial also, but the self-titled first of their two records has a good rocker on it called "City Lights". According to guitarist Tommy Carlton's website (link), he started out in sixties garage band The Swingin' Lampliters, and according to Hotel singer/pianist Marc Phillips' website (link), the band lasted from 1973 to 1982.