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

This a Serbian folk tune which is probably a traditional and has no one author, but through time has changed and evolved as generations of musicians have played it and sang it millions of times. “Nas Dva Brata” in the Serbian language is “Us Two Brothers” in English. Two piece vocal duo, guitar and accordion for accompaniment. I would call this a rustic, Balkan toe-tapper, and a great drinking song; and I just love the Italianesque, but very Balkan as well, guitar string work and dense, quick harmonies coming off the accordion against the vocals. Released on Chicago’s PERUN label in the late 1940s, I’m guessing.

 

Nas Dva Brata - Torbica & Velimirovic (PERUN) 78 rpm

Made in Chicago, this Magic Sam side, on the Cobra Record Corp. label, is a classic – this one has been haunting me for weeks now, and I just can’t get enough of this all-out soulful, electric blues sound. Late 50s cut; Magic Sam has a vocal delivery so reminiscent of the great Otis Rush at this time in his career (and they were Cobra label mates during these years, so); the guitar sounds like voltage being strummed.

Yes, this one is a tad scratchy because it has been loved to death in one jukebox or another for many years, years ago. I dug it out for free virtually at a favorite vinyl shop. I hope to have this one forever.

Magic Sam - Everything Gonna Be Alright

I really love this one.

Wildwood Flower is a timeless, classic, immortal, indispensable tune. I first heard Maybelle Carter, of the great Carter Family, do a version of it on The Johnny Cash Show sometime in the 70s. This is a solo guitar take on it, masterfully and playfully performed by one of the geniuses of the instrument: Chet Atkins.

Also, this a vinyl 78, which came about in the later years of the 78rpm era. Virtually all 78s, until about the early 1950s, were made of a combination material consisting of pitch and shellac ; shellac being the secretion of the female lac bug, which live in the forests of Thailand and India. During the WWII effort, shellac was recalled and collected by the government to be used for military materials, and vinyl became the standard. Vinyl, in fact, sounds fuller and is much quieter than shellac. Plus, you could fit many more grooves (micro grooves actually) on to the side of a vinyl than a shellac ; hence, the birth of long playing 33 and 45 rpm records.

This is also a rare, DJ only copy that RCA would send out to radio stations for promotional purposes. The melody will get stuck in your head.

Chet Atkins – Wildwood Flower << PLAY

Cliff Edwards (Ukulele Ike) was a hugely popular American singer and voice actor during the 1920s and 30s. His musical output was almost completely as a renditionist, scoring many hits on the pop and novelty charts of the day.

In 1929, Mr. Edwards landed a #1 with his version of “Singing in the Rain.” He also had a career in voice-overs, most famously as Jiminy Cricket in Disney’s Pinocchio (1940). I have chosen “After My Laughter Came Tears” – one of my favorite Ukulele Ike performances, because his feeling and sentiment goes so well with the lyric, which is itself a thing of beautiful economy and honesty.

The song itself has lived on for a long time and has been covered repeatedly and prominently. I will also eventually post another, much different, jump-spirited take of the tune which was performed by the Arnold Johnson Orchestra; and probably soon enough to have a timely comparison.

Ukulele Ike – After My Laughter Came Tears << PLAY

This is the other side of that rare, red, French Polydor that I posted so long ago. It is Brailowsky (solo piano) playing Robert Schumann’s “Songes Troubles”; “Traumes Wirren” in the composer’s native German, or: “Dream Disorders” in English. I also really like how the piano was recorded.

Quick notes on Schumann: his parents were not musical but they encouraged his interest in music with piano lessons from the age of 10. However, his family was later to be beset by tragedy. When Schumann was in his teens, his father died and his sister committed suicide in quick succession, events that were to have a deep impact on the young musician. Initially music was to take a back seat in his life. For his main subject he studied law at Leipzig while simultaneously continuing his music studies. One of his music teachers was Friedrich Wieck whose daughter Clara showed a great talent at the piano while she was only 9 years old. A further tragedy was to hit Schumann when a mishap damaged one of his hands and spoiled his chances as a pianist. Some accounts blame a device he used to strengthen his fingers, but other theories suggest mercury poisoning as a side effect of his syphilis treatment. After the accident, Schumann was to concentrate more on composing.

Alexandre Brailowsky – Songes Troubles, Op. 12, No 7, Schumann < < PLAY

“Eddie My Love” was a huge song in 1956. RPM records released it all the way to #14

on the American Billboard charts. It was recorded by the sister-duo group

The Teen Queens, Betty and Rosie Collins. They sang the song which was written by their

brother, Aaron Collins. It was their only hit, which was great for a debut single! They

would try for additional success over a few years’ time, but it couldn’t be repeated, and

the sisters hung it up, quietly, in 1961. It is interesting, too, that the Chordettes (of “Mr.

Sandman” fame) also recorded “Eddie My Love” in 1956, and also had a chart hit with it in

the same year. Anyway, this tune is so catchy, and the harmonies are so tight, that I will

sometimes be humming it for days.

The Teen Queens – Eddie My Love < < PLAY