“White Silver Sands” is a famous pop song written in 1957 by Red Matthews and covered quite often thereafter, but this Don Rondo & Billy Rock Orchestra version has a cheerful, bop-country rock feel and the melody is fun to hum (and can get stuck in yer’ head)

“Where the deep blue pearly waters
Wash upon white silver sands
There on the brink of love I kissed her
And obeyed our hearts command
Where the deep blue pearly waters
Wash upon white silver sands
We watched the sun set in the evening
In a far and distant land”

 

On the NYC Jubilee Records label, Rondo scored a Billboard #7 chart hit with this one the same year Matthews wrote it.

 

 

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On the rare La Belle Creole label, this Haitian 78 rpm of Guy du Rosier singing the rollicking, self-penned calypso “Mathilda” is a real treasure; and not only because it is basically impossible to find in any shape. Around 1948 Du Rosier and his Rhythm recorded this lively performance filled with masterful percussion, rock solid & perfectly playful piano by Bebo Valdes (father of the very famous contemporary pianist Chucho Valdes), and an energetic vocal take which was just loose enough to catch the island feeling but not lose the ensemble nuances that you need to pull off this kind of laid-back sound. Later on, in the 1950s, Harry Belafonte would do his own version of this tune to great acclaim, but this lesser-known original take (on a super clean shellac – yes!) is the one I prefer every time.

Edith Piaf once called Mr. Du Rosier, a calypso star from an early age, ”the living breath of Haiti.”

 

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Big Bill Broonzy (1893-1958), American blues legend.

Born in Mississippi, he played guitar, piano and bass, and went on to pen many blues standards, and copyrighted over 300 of them. Also, he was one of the founding faculty of Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music , in 1953.

His sides on Paramount and Vocalion (where he is sometimes called “Willie Broomzy”) are typically hard to find, they’re expensive, and are almost always pretty beat up from the jukebox joints etc. “I’ll Start Cutting On You”, a 1938 country blues on Vocalion #04095 is no exception – it is roughed-up and scratchy; but I love this tune and it still comes up wonderfully from under the hiss, promise (you could also very easily adjust the treble settings on your EQ for a less lived-in sound, and you would still enjoy the bouncy beauty of this rare pre-war gem)! Happiness.

 

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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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“Sweet Leilani” was written in 1934 by Harry Owens for his one-day-old daughter, Leilani; her name is Hawaiian for “garland of flowers from heaven”. This song became a standard in many genres, but this Ray Kinney version with its sorta “island country western” feel with the sliding chords & 1920s pop crooner vocal is my favorite so far. The shellac is a bit worn  (from plenty of loving plays I’m sure), but I still love to spin it nonetheless, and the melody is just so charming and a little funny.

 

Ray Kinney - Sweet Leilani

This Latin side from 1933, on the Brunswick label, is a terrific little rhumba, and the bottle percussion is just the perfect, final piece for the arrangement. Palm trees, sea, and sun come to mind immediately when this tune gets going. Mr. Molina, who was born in Puerto Rico in 1899, was a very popular orchestra leader for about 40 years or so, and he had a big role in introducing tango and rhumba to Californians in the 1940s. And though his 78s are tough to track down in any condition, I found this one, and luckily in Excellent shape – “dime” (di-me) is “tell me” in Spanish.

 

Carlos Molina - Dime

Mr. Olvera was born three days before Christmas 1936, in Aguascalientes, Mexico. He was blinded by lightning at the age of seven months, became a piano prodigy later on, and around 13yo began to play the Hammond organ in the Guadalajara restaurant where he worked. He eventually developed an original technique of gradually opening the organ bars in ways which created vocal inflections, to make the organ sound as if it was singing words! The first big success with his new style was this 1956 78, “Pancho Lopez”, a take on the popular “Ballad of Davy Crockett.” On the RCA label, recorded in Mexico, and such a very creative, colorful cover of this timeless frontier classic.

 

Ernesto Hill Olvera - Pancho Lopez