Old Curiosity Shop
By Bob Davis dnry122@yahoo.com

A while back I did a compilation titled Careless Love, female vocalists through eight decades.  In Oct. 2013, I went over to Los Angeles for a CD release party featuring Jennifer Gibbons, a local artist whom I learned about through her appearances with Adam Marsland’s Chaos Band.  This inspired me to come up with Ladies of Song, Vol. 2, or

 Bobby Boy with Girl Singers

St. Louis Blues (from the movie) by Bessie Smith.  This is the 1929 performance, recorded on that new medium “talking pictures”.  The film was released less than two years after The Jazz Singer showed that sound movies had arrived.  It features an all-star jazz band and the Hall Johnson choir making a “real production” out of a song she had recorded earlier with just an organ and cornet for accompaniment. (but the man on the horn was Louis Armstrong!)

Hollywood Stomp by Victoria Spivey.  One of the few industries that wasn’t hammered by the Depression was the movie business.  All over the country performers dreamed of going to Hollywood (or Burbank or Culver City) and making it big on the silver screen.

Blues in the Night  by Peggy Lee with the Benny Goodman Orchestra.  Peggy Lee was from Jamestown, N. Dakota, with a Scandinavian background, but, after reading a biography of this world famous chanteuse, I found that she had every right to sing the blues, and this song showed it.  The Benny Goodman Orchestra played a solid backing for her singing; with one of the horn provided that “lonesome whistle, blowin’ across the trestle.”  This was one of my mother’s favorites, and some lines from the lyrics even turned up at an Adam Marsland’s Chaos Band show, when Adam introduced one of my favorite Evie Sands songs, Sweet Ricky, with “From Natchez to Mobile/from Memphis to St. Joe” it’s time for some “Blues in the night”…..

Fine and Mellow by Billie Holiday.  She recorded this a number of times, including a 1957 video with several legendary jazz artists such as Roy Eldridge and Gerry Mulligan.  I was reminded of the song when my wife was planning some upgrades to her bathroom— the line “Love is like a faucet/it turns off and it turns on….”

Music Music Music by Teresa Brewer.  In contrast with the more blues-oriented nature of many of the selections on this compilation, we have a perky number that was a big hit around 1950.  I remember hearing it on the bubble-tube adorned jukebox at a storefront restaurant in Arcadia when I was a lad, and, in 1977 seeing Ms. Brewer revive it for the Muppet Show on TV.

Mainliner by Little Esther.  One of my favorites from the early '50s because of the railroad  imagery.   There’s a song with a similar theme in the country oldies library too. The flip side of the Federal recording is “Saturday Night Daddy” with Bobby Nunn (later to become one of the Coasters) teaming up with Esther for a classic cheatin’ song.

It’s Love, Baby, 24 Hour of the Day by Ruth Brown. Miss Rhythm covers a song originally recorded by Louis Brooks on the Excello label, and also covered by the Midnighters on Federal.

All My Love Belongs to You by the Joytones.  One of the earliest “Girl Group” records, on George Goldner’s Rama label.  I sold the last copy at Johnson Music back in 1957, and when I tried to order another copy for myself, found it was no longer available from the distributor.  It was over 20 years later that I found a copy at (as I recall) El Dorado Oldies in Santa Ana.

Release Me by Esther Phillips.  Possibly better known in the Englebert Humperdink version, but much more soulful the way Esther does it.

The Nitty Gritty by Shirley Ellis.  This one will get just about everyone up and dancing.  Gotta “Get right down to the real Nitty Gritty!”

Da Doo Ron Ron by the Crystals.  One of the big hits for Phil Spector’s Philles label, according to legend, Phil wanted to take out the saxophone solo break, but the late Steve Douglas, who played it insisted that it belonged in the mix.  Said to be one of the few times anyone ever won an argument with Spector.

Stop!  In the Name of Love by the Supremes.  A classic video of this song shows the singers holding up their hands like traffic officers stopping traffic on a busy street.

I Can Hear Music by the Ronettes.  This recording only made it to #100 on the charts, and, unlike all the other Ronettes numbers, was produced by Jeff Barry, not Phil Spector.  A few years later, the Beach Boys took it to #24. In 2008, I saw The Honeys (sometimes called the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Beach Boys) perform it at the Carl Wilson Foundation benefit in Hollywood.

Billy Sunshine by Evie Sands.  I think I first heard this at a night spot in Glendale when Evie appeared with a band called Candypants (long story).  Then there’s the night in 2001 at the now defunct Borders bookstore in Montclair when Pat and I drove out to see one of Evie’s gigs promoting her Women in Prison CD.  A few songs into the show, she said, “We had a request for this next song from Bob,” and looked right at me!  Wow, an internationally known artist dedicating a song to me!  For a while, a video with this song was on YouTube; it didn’t show Evie singing, but she was filmed in various places on the New York subway system, specifically on the #7 line where it runs elevated.

Respect by Aretha Franklin.  Originally written and recorded by Otis Redding, this song was performed by Lady Soul in the rarely seen movie Blues Brothers 2000.

Some Day We’ll Be Together by Diana Ross and the Supremes (according to one source, this was really recorded by Diana Ross and unnamed session singers, with the composer adding to the backing vocals.)

Signed Sealed Delivered, I’m Yours by Evie Sands.  Trader Joe stores often have interesting music on the sound systems.  Everything from '60s oldies to big band era recordings may be presented to entertain the shoppers.  One day I was at the Trader Joe’s on Rosemead near Huntington, and the speakers presented the original by Stevie Wonder track, and I thought, “I know an even better version, and am personally acquainted with the artist.”

Evie Sands!  Still looking good and sounding fabulous.

I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight by Linda Ronstadt.  Let’s face it, Bob Dylan wrote this song, and made the first recording, but Linda took it several notches higher.

Take a Chance on Me by ABBA.  Our favorite Swedish import, with one of their biggest hits.   Although the two men in the group sometimes contribute to the vocals, ABBA is considered by some observers to follow the “Girl Group” tradition.  There’s a video of  ABBA performing Waterloo back in 1975 that has Agnetha and Frida wearing white mini-dresses with cat graphics on them, dancing to the sounds in white go-go boots.  Quite a treat for all the guys in the audience.

Two More Bottles of Wine by Emmylou Harris.  One of my favorites— there are videos of this on YouTube that just blow me away.  One viewer commented something like, “The reason why I’ve never married is that I’ve never found a woman who looks like Emmylou Harris did in 1979.”  She’s another singer who doesn’t have to dress like a Hollywood Boulevard “pavement princess” to captivate an audience.

We Belong to the Night by Ellen Foley. Not sure where I heard this one first— it’s just a gorgeous production, building on the foundation of Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound”.  We could segue from Pat Benatar’s We Belong to this song and then Night Owl by Carly Simon.

Do You Wanna Touch Me by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.  I call this the Joan Jett “audience participation song”, because at live shows she usually asks the crowd to chime in on “Yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah.”

Release Me by Wilson Phillips.  Sometimes things just don’t work out,  In the '60s, we had Set You Free This Time by the Byrds, here the group with family roots in the same decade (offspring of the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas)

Rock & Roll Voodoo Queen by Jennifer Gibbons/FunkyJenn.  Here’s a new addition to the collection.  Jenn Gibbons is a local singer/songwriter whom I first encountered when she sat in on one of Adam Marsland’s “Seventies Sessions”.  I think the first song I heard her sing was one of my favorite Elton John numbers, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”.  She has been in several other AMCB shows, and in 2013, released her own six-song CD Rock and Roll Voodoo Queen.

Loyal subjects of the Rock & Roll Voodoo Queen (including Bobby Boy) gathered at the Mint in Los Angeles for her CD release party on Oct. 24, 2013.  With her band “The Fringe Benefits” she rocked the house with her own songs plus smokin’ covers of “Only You Know and I Know” and “Honky Tonk Women”.

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