Thursday, September 04, 2008

Smokey Wood: The Houston Hipster

( Naar de Nederlandse vertaling.) MAX ROACH: DEEDS NOT WORDS MICHAEL COCHRANE: 60
Today a jump aside. I found myself a great album with so-called Western Swing by Smokey Wood - The Houston Hipster. Western Swing from 1937 on a Rambler LP. I bought it, because I loved to have a Western Swing LP, thanks to the great cartoon cover and the price: € 2.50.
S
mokey Wood was a complete unknown name to me and I learned from the lengthy cover text on the album that he was a rather underground outlaw in his times. He was born as John Bryce Wood in September 1918, 90 years ago in Harrison, Arkansas, where his father was a railroad engineer and his mother a piano player. When he was a teenager during the 1930s he was living right in the middle of the Houston Music scene. Times were tough due to the depression and they started to make music in the beer joints out of Houston, earning one dollar a night with some tips extra. They couldn't play in clubs because they were no member of the Union. The Union didn't accept people who played hillbilly music like they did, so they had to play in café's and beer joints.
John Bryce Wood got the nickname Smokey because he always smoked weed and that kind of stuff. He even would pop it right there on the stand - it didn't made no difference where they were. He lit 'em on both ends and smoked 'em in the middle. They bought that stuff by the pound, two pounds, whatever. Even grew some for awhile there, between the signboards right off Main Street in Houston, Texas. Had about twenty, thirty stalks growing. He started to make radio programs with his band, named the Modern Mountaineers.


This band made several records in March 1937 some reissued for the very first time on the A-side of this album. Eight tunes, including the tune Everybody's Truckin', which became a hit. Listen to it:

Everybody's Truckin' - Modern Mountaineers: Hal Herbert reeds, J.R. Chatwell fiddle, Smokey Wood at the piano, J.C. Way on the steel guitar, Lefty Groves on the guitar, Johnny Thames on banjo and Rip Ramsey at the bass. The vocals are by Smokey Wood and Lefty Groves. The tune was recorded at the Texas Hotel in San Antonio, the first of March 1937.

The second half of the record was dedicated to one of his other bands: Smokey Wood and the Wood Chips, who made at least eight tunes a half year later.

On the album a lengthy story about Smokey Woods and his life, which seems to be rather remarkable: Smokey was shouting blues vocals, pumping kick-ass swing piano, and puffing all the weed that the Lone Star State could supply. He lived the life he sang about - lived it in dingy beer joints and one-lung radio stations far from the networks and international promoters. While a later breed of urban cowbody would make it big in the media, Wood, under a cloud of friendly, fragrant smoke, just faded away into obscurity.
When Smokey passed away, January 1975, they found some music in a trunk he wanted to have played at his funeral, but only a few people were gathered around his coffin. His wife got the music, but couldn't play it in the Western Swing style, as Smokey must have had in mind. His wife was a church organ player. Oh I can't play it like that. I play only church music: she said, but some minutes later the tunes were suddenly played on the church organ; the most swinging church music you could imagine. Everybody was surprised, that his widow could play it like that, but when they rushed to the organ they saw a stranger behind the keyboard: What in the hell? They said. Well, the man said, I'm up here just trying to sell an organ. I was listening to this lady and she said: Would you play this for me?. And I just sat down and started playing. ......
The extensive liner notes on the cover are by Marty Pahls and Jeff Richardson.
Love to finish with a fragment by Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen performing "Everybody's Doin' It," a cover of the Modern Mountaineers song "Everybody's Truckin'," in the 1976 film Hollywood Boulevard.

Hans Koert -
keepswinging@live.nl

MICHAEL COCHRANE: 60 YEARS
Today, the 4th of September 2008 the US piano player Michael Cochrane hopes to celebrate his 60th birthday. He made nine albums as a leader and I really love my Steeple Chase copy of Cutting Edge, he recorded in september 1997. Tonight he will play with Sonny Fortune Quartet in Iowa and I love to wish him a great concert. Make it a party !!Keep swinging

Hans Koert


keepswinging@live.nl

Nederlands ( To the English translation )

MAX ROACH: DEED NOT WORDS
Max Roach slagwerk - Booker Little trompet - George Coleman tenorsax - Ray Draper tuba - Art Davis bas.
Deze schitterende plaat is één van Max Roach beste en mag in geen enkele verzameling ontbreken (al was het alleen al vanwege Ray Draper's tuba). Hij werd opgenomen op 4 september 1958, dus vijftig jaar geleden op de kop af.



MICHAEL COCHRANE: 60 JAAR
Vandaag, 4 september 2008, hoopt de Amerikaanse jazzpianist Michael Cochrane zijn 60ste verjaardag te vieren. Hij maakte negen albums tot nu toe en ik hou zelf erg van zijn muziek zoals die op zijn SteepleChase CD Cutting Edge te vinden is, opgenomen september 1997. Vanavond treedt hij op in Iowa met het kwartet van Sonny Fortune. Maak er een feestje van, Michael !!

SMOKEY WOOD: Een hippie avant-la-lettre

Smokey zong bluesnummers en wilde, ruige swing op de piano en rookte alle hash, die in de Lone Star State ( = Texas) te vinden was. Hij leefde zoals in zijn liedjes - in smoezelige kroegen en speelde bij obscure radio stations, terwijl later geboren stads-cowboys grote hits maakten, zakte Smokey weg, in een mist vol hallicunerende nevels weg in het onbekende. Morgen meer over deze Hippie Avant La Lettre.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Big Beat Steve said...

Ha, so you made that discovery - about a quarter century after the release of that Rambler LP!
Great stuff for those who are prepared to look beyond the bounds of usual 30s swing and jazz. This is ONE area where open-minded listeners will see how stylistic boundaries were defied and "crossover" music was made (in a VERY authentic way) decades before that term came into use.

Enjoy!

Steve (Germany)

2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Smokey Wood was one of the greats. "Woodchip Blues," baby!

Root Doctor (New England)

6:48 PM  
Anonymous Allen Lowe said...

That's one of my favorite LPs
Allen Lowe
Bar Pukess - Maoine (USA)

7:54 PM  
Anonymous Boxcar Shorty said...

The Smokey Wood LP on Rambler is one to hear. Too bad there hasn't been a CD version.
Boxcar Shorty

5:32 AM  
Blogger Seanie Murphy said...

Smokey Wood and Moon Mullican single handedly started rock 'n' roll singer pianists. They were 20 years ahead of their time.

3:40 AM  

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