Pablo Rodriguez Lozada, better known as “Tito” Rodriguez (“tito” meaning “uncle” and sometimes “giant” in Puerto Rican Spanish) was a massively popular bandleader, singer and arranger in the 1950s when the mambo and cha-cha craze was at its height in the U.S. During this era he was just about as renowned and requested as the great Tito Puente, another legendary timbalero, who was also Rodriguez’s rival in the salsa and Latin scenes of the 50s and 60s.

This side, “Desert Dance”, written by R. K. Mozian, is a characteristic mover-and-groover from his repertoire that features flawless execution from the horns and rhythm section, particularly the pianist who I can’t seem to identify, and of course Señor Rodriguez’s timbales sound crisp and solidly “in the pocket.” Such a hidden classic.

 

 

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This is a really swanky, swingin’ little instrumental number from 1955 on the TEEN label; it features piano and a drummer playing a small kit setup that includes one or two tambourines. It pulses along like a good-time get-together with the right party crowd, full of light-hearted merriment and boozy smiles all around.

“Dizzy Brown” was one of the many aliases of pianist, bandleader, orchestra leader, record producer and record company executive Bernie Lowe. He founded TEEN Records that same year, and also the Cameo label in 1956, both which were dedicated to rock, soul, doo-wop and folk rock groups. He also wrote or co-wrote many well-known hits in the 1950s and 60s, including Elvis’ “(Let Me Be) Your Teddy Bear”, Charlie Grace’s “Ninety-Nine Ways”, “Teen Age Prayer” by Gale Storm, and Chubby Checker’s “That’s The Way It Goes”, as well as many Bobby Rydell tunes that charted. Lowe was quite important to the growth of rock-n-roll during this era just as it was entering the true mainstream of American music.

 

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David Seville, aka Rostom “Ross” Sipan Bagdasarian, was the son of Armenian immigrants who grew up in Fresno, California. He was an actor, musician, composer and voice actor who was very successful writing music scores for movies. He actually invented Alvin and the Chipmunks in the mid 1950s and was a pioneer in altering tape speeds to change singing and speaking voices for many of his projects!

“Armen’s Theme”, is a nice, bright slice of rare 78rpm lounge from 1956; featuring some killer organ and tastefully delayed guitar, this is what I would call a “snazzy number.”

 

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This sax-driven tune, written around 1947 by a musician from Rhodesia (current day Zimbabwe) named August Msarurgwa, became a worldwide hit in 1954 and was quickly covered by many popular groups of the era, including this exceptional mambo by one of the undisputed kings of the style, Prez Prado. “Skokiaan” is the name of a home-made hooch, basically a moonshine often made with maize, that was popular in Southern Africa at the time.

Also nice that this wonderful performance comes on a mid-50s RCA shellac, which are known for their high fidelity and warmth.

 

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This gospel quartet caught-on in the U.S. national scene in the 1940s and kept up their popularity & musical quality into the 50s. The great Ray Charles has said that the Pilgrim Travelers, and particularly their baritone Jesse Whitaker, influenced him and his then developing musical style: a brew of blues, gospel and jazz which would eventually come to be known as “soul” music.

This acapella take of “I Was There When the Spirit Came” is vocally tight, light and snappy, especially much of the accompaniment behind the lead.  On the Specialty label out of L.A., which was known for its many excellent black rock & roll and gospel sides, this is a pretty clean copy with plenty of lustre on the shellac, and the voices are clear and really ring out so beautifully.

 

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This virtually forgotten release from 1956 on Chicago’s Argo Label is a classic Mike Simpson, on tenor sax, doing a snazzy spy lounge snapper with JUST the right amount of 007 meets Sammy Davis, Jr. and that 50s space-age boozy vibe.

 

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