Storms of rumors surround this “historic” day in Memphis, TN some 61 years ago. It is alleged, with some photographic evidence (take the cover, for example), that during a Carl Perkins recording session at Sun Records, Jerry Lee Lewis (then a young-fresh-fellow on the brink of superstardom), Elvis Presley, and the Man in Black, Johnny Cash recorded 30+ minutes of (mainly gospel) material for what turned out to be dubbed, The Million Dollar Quartet. The recording is heavy Elvis, and sounds much more like an unscripted, haphazard practice session of studio musicians than anything resembling a million dollars ($9,068,492.65 today). Johnny Cash’s presence is all but nonexistent, which raises questions to the album photo’s legitimacy (the official Sun Records release from 1981 has Marilyn Evans, Elvis’ then girlfriend, removed from the photo altogether). This bootleg version was released a year earlier by OMD, and is the only known release by the unknown label. Regardless of the recording’s legitimacy, it’s an educational spin and a gem of a find. Take it with a grain of salt, but enjoy nonetheless.
Johnny Cash Sings the Songs That Made Him Famous is a terrific starting point for any up-and-coming Cash fan. Though his second LP, it contains an all-star lineup of (early) greatest hits proportions. Remember, this isn’t a compilation album, just the man’s second full-length effort. Big River, I Walk the Line, Ballad of a Teen-age Queen, Next in Line, Home of the Blues, There You Go, and Guess Things Happen That Way… and that’s only about half of the album. If you own it, spin it. If you don’t have it, I recommend holding out for the original. Reissues have their time and place, but with J. R. Cash, it’s go original, or go the hell home.
I’m excited to start my collection of reissue debut classics from the seminal four from Sun Records. First acquired is Roy Orbison’s At the Rock House (originally released in 1961). Somewhere in transit is Jerry Lee Lewis’ 1958 debut of the same name, and down the pike will be Dance Album of Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash’s With His Hot and Blue Guitar. As you can plainly see, Roy’s reissue is on rockin’ red vinyl, where Mr. Lewis’ is on sleek silver. Carl’s is on blue suede, and Cash’s on fire orange. A great (and cheap) way to acquire these rock n’ roll classics.
In 1984, Rhino Records, with exclusive license from Sun International Corporation, released this beautiful Greatest Hits album as a radiant picture disc. Long gone were the rights to Elvis, but each of the other legendary Sun Records icons are present. Roy Orbison doing Ooby Dooby, Carl Perkins doing Honey Don’t and Blue Suede Shoes, Billy Lee Riley doing Red Hot, Junior Parker with Feelin’ Good and Mystery Train, Jerry Lee Lewis with Great Balls of Fire and Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On, and of course, Johnny Cash with Folsom Prison Blues. It’s worth owning even if picture discs are prone to skip (and they are).
The newest member to the ever-growing family of “necessary must haves” is Johnny Cash’s 2nd album, Sings the Songs that Made Him Famous. You know, I have half a mind to stop shopping brick & mortars all together. That’s the fluid ease of finding specific releases at specific grades for specific amounts, online, talking, not the logic that surrounds any given search at said B&M. Sure, I’m a strong advocate for RSD, and local mom and pops in general, but there is no way in Mississippi Hell that I’d be able to head to my local shop, specifically looking for this 58 year old record, and walk out with this precise pressing for the price I paid for it online ($14 shipped). Well, I guess the element of surprise is the draw, and for that I’m willing to continue the exercise. Any way you cut the meat, happy Monday, kids.
The comp work on the cover of Johnny Cash’s The Blue Train is borderline laughable (sorry Betty Cherry), but that doesn’t diminish the phenomenal tracks it houses. A late 70’s comp released by Sun Records long after J. R. Cash left the label, The Blue Train lifts five of its tracks (half of the record) from the 1963 album, All Aboard the Blue Train, also released on Sun Records. Repackaging and repurposing was certainly nothing new by 1979 standards, but the lack of attention to detail deserves strong criticism, at least, in my humble opinion. Anyway, happy Friday!
Today’s haul from the 2015 Record Store Day sponsored Black Friday event. Only four of these were actual RSD exclusives, but we certainly couldn’t turn down $0.33.3 clearance lounge records. The Sun Records picture disc was an impulse buy, and certainly justified. We hope you’re enjoying your holiday, if in fact you actually get a holiday, and we hope said holiday involves many a spun record.
The Memphis, Tennessee label Hi Records had a illustrious career (until its eventual sale to Cream Records in 1977), and during its tenure, it rubbed elbows with some of the biggest names in popular music at the time. Here is a very, very brief lineage of the label, a condensed version of the following Wikipedia page.
Former Sun Records producers Bill Cantrell and Quinton Claunch, along with a few other ambitious crazies started the label in 1957. Elvis Presley’s bass player, Bill Black started a combo (Bill Black’s Combo), and gave the label it’s first big hit with 1959’s Smokie Part 2. Bill Black’s saxophonist, Ace Cannon (a record we spun at the office just a few days ago) landed the label’s 2nd hit with 1961’s Tuff. By then, Quinton Claunch (remember, of Sun Records’ fame) had sold his share of the company to Jerry Lee Lewis’ cousin, shortly before Hi Records started churning out hit after hit with a little someone named Albert “Al” Green(e).
If you’ve never heard of the label, don’t worry. I just found out about it yesterday. Anyone wanna take a field trip to Memphis in the Spring?
Many thanks to the previous, and anonymous owner of my copy of the Sun Records released, The Million Dollar Quartet, for mummifying this 1986 magazine article, shining light upon, arguably, the most prolific, and storied combination of talented musicians the modern age has ever witnessed. Celebrated evening reading material, for sure. Perhaps I’ll transcribe it someday… perhaps.
For J. R. Cash’s third studio album, 1958’s The Fabulous Johnny Cash, the legendary man in black, or The Undertaker, as he was jokingly nicknamed, took a staggering leap up the distribution ladder and landed a contract with acclaimed Columbia Records, a label he’d stay with until moving to Mercury Records in 1985. It should be noted that J. R.’s stint with Sun Records, his first label, is the favored batch of rural tunes by yours truly. Be it either the simplistic and underproduced approach, or the documentation of a storied artist making his first marks, I for one just can’t get enough of that radiant, Sun sound.
Mr. Cash released two singles from TFJC. Frankie’s Man, Johnny and Don’t Take Your Guns to Town, the latter proving to be one of his biggest, early successes. It’s painfully obvious to mention that J. R. Cash was as unstoppable as Old 97 for Columbia, churning out hit after record breaking hit, a three decades long merger that proved, what I assume, immensely lucrative for both parties.
This copy was a thrift store find about a decade back, and was apparently pre-owned by a Pat Johnson from 655 Park Ave in Port Hueneme, CA. I venture to think, since 3/8/62 until the day it was offered to an Oxnard, CA second hand store, that Pat cherished The Fabulous Johnny Cash almost as much as I do.
Cataloged as SUN 119, Sunday Down South is a lot more than just a compilation of songs by the late 1950s masterminds of radio rock, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. Apart from being a great representation of these legendary artists as they both entered the 1970s (this album was released in 1970), Sunday Down South is good ol’, down south rockin’ gospel done right. Something can be said about each of these man’s darker, more controversial sides coupled with their resurrected approach to religious music, but unfortunately, I have no idea what those words might be.
Clocking in at just over 22 minutes, Sunday Down South is a painfully brief, yet enjoyable journey into the rock n’ roll souls of these mythical musicians, and is a perfect album to enjoy on this, or any Sunday, regardless of your geographical location.
When your boss’ ego takes priority over what’s best for everyone involved, Get Rhythm.
When you find that honesty takes backseat to the convenience of fearful confrontation, Get Rhythm.
When the squirrels have finally found an effective way to raid the bird feeder, and it’s time to say goodbye to the birds, Get Rhythm.
When social decencies are ignored for selfish, single-minded objectives, Get Rhythm.
When popularity eclipses the right thing to do, Get Rhythm.
When you get the blues, Get Rhythm.
It only costs a dime, just a nickel a shoe
Does a million dollars worth of good for you
– J. R. Cash
When you purchase a used album, you really never know what you’re going to get. (Takes a few steps forward and smiles.) Hello, this is X from The Prudent Groove.
Not unlike downloading an album without the proper metadata, and we all know how annoying THAT can be, am I right?! (Takes a beat.) The level of quality attributed to a used record you find at say, a thrift store, is based solely on the mindset, (Beat.) and general care of its previous owner. (Looks down, then back up. Puts hands in pockets.)
Was the previous owner a neat freak who housed each of their cherished albums in overpriced, protective sleeves like we do here at The Groove? (Cocks head as to ponder this question.) Did they use the front jacket as a temporary table for rolling dried relaxation plants? (Beat.) Were they careless and used the back cover as a coaster, leaving a circular ring of ancient coffee above the “we’re trying to look casual” picture of the band? (Lets out a slight chuckle.)
These questions, and any others you may have of a record’s previous owner, will fall upon deaf ears, and the answers will only exist within our own imaginations. (Sits down on a chair. Where did the chair come from?)
Take for example this A&M Records insert I found inside my copy of Johnny Cash & Jerry Lee Lewis’ Sunday Down South album on Sun Records. (Holds up record, not pictured here.) The previous owner either didn’t care, or didn’t notice that the insert didn’t match the album. Not a very big deal as the record is in pristine shape. (Chuckles.) The previous owner probably didn’t enjoy the music and never played it, and THAT’S why it’s in such good shape. (Stands back up and begins walking.)
“Listen To Your World” is a clear-headed marketing slogan from A&M Records that suggests “your world” (Does quotes with his fingers… incorrectly.) can only be found on A&M Records. Clever girl. (Says in terrible British accent.) The flipside to this slogan showcases some pretty heavy-hitters from the A&M catalogue. (Looks down at insert as if to read.) Cat Stevens, Herb Alpert, Humble Pie, Quincy Jones and Burt Bacharach to name a few. With no date affixed to this insert, the words, “Listen To Your World” seem to become as timeless as some of the classic releases found on A&M Records. Coupled with the bold, white text on a basic, black background, this modern day musical proverb is a strong, and I hope profitable, marketing campaign for A&M Records, one that I’m happy I stumbled upon in an almost unorthodox manner.
Take a little mental trip on your next hunt through your local second hand store, and give a distinctive personality to that record you can’t live without. (Puts hands in pockets and smiles.) The album, like the music, exists as an entity in and of itself. Give it a history, and your collection will come to life in ways you never imagined.
This has been X from The Prudent Groove. (Smiles and puts hands on hips.) I’ll see you here tomorrow. Have a great afternoon. (Walks away in an awkward, no idea where he is stroll.)