Friday, August 10, 2018

There's more to Danville, IL than crime and Dick Van Dyke

There is more to Danville, IL than crime and Dick Van Dyke. There was some great and legendary (and rare!!!) music recorded there. But no one, besides record collectors and RnR fans, seems to know, or care, about Danville's RnR history. Especially its own citizens. The names Arlie Miller, Dean Carter and Jim Foley are huge names to RnR/Rockabilly collectors. Each one of them came from Danville. And it kills me that there isn't a "Dean Carter" street. But more on them later.     
     I'm going to publish a series of blog posts, each one featuring a different record from Danville, IL. I could do this with just about any town! But Danville is only one shitty nowhere town away from me. So I find a lot of music from Danville.
     Rockin' black gospel is a genre that I love and love collecting. Most of it is merely RnR.....that just happens to be about Jesus. Personally, I think the realm of art is the best place for religion. That is a different subject though. Anyone can enjoy this fine, energetic and soulful music; even heathens.

This Gospelaires record might be my favorite black gospel LP ever. The Gospelaires formed sometime around 1950. The band went through a number of line-up changes by the time "Come to Jesus" was recorded in 1970. Released on the small label "Jordan." Produced at Midnight Sound Studios by Arlyn Miller. It is a RITE pressing (manufactured in Cincinnati). This band/LP is not related to any other band called the Gospelaires. I'm not for sure the extent of their discography, this label probably only released Gospelaires records. I do know some 45s exist. Listen to a few songs at the links below. There's more to Danville, IL than crime and Dick Van Dyke!

 The Gospelaires - Oh Lord

The Gospelaires - Glory Hallelujah

That's All Rite Mama

Saturday, August 4, 2018

RAT WAX: "Record Weasels"

  *A book review I wrote. Originally published in French 'zine "Rockin'." It deserves a re-posting here on this blog, as it is an excellent read. Pick up a copy by following the link at bottom ( The author is currently working on a 2nd novel.           

            “RAT WAX: A book review by Justin Lee Russell of ‘Record Weasels’ by Dick Blackburn”

The desire to collect various things is a very basic, fundamental concept of humanity and civilization. From a more primordial perspective, it is a way to survive. Needless to say; we collect food, clothes, money; even ideas and emotions. Some of us more, slightly damaged individuals, take it a step further: records, baseball cards, autographs, post cards, matchboxes, movie posters, comics, vintage furniture, salt and pepper shakers, Elvis memorabilia, classic cars, sexual partners, and pornographic films. I’m sure there is some wretched degenerate, somewhere out in the world; with a collection of pubic hair belonging to celebrities. The list of things people collect is nearly endless. Go to the local pharmacy, some confused and frail grandmother has a massive collection of clip-out coupons. When she goes home, she lies in a pile of thousands of beanie babies. 
        Collecting is, usually, harmless. But as author Dick Blackburn magnificently shows us in his brilliant, but weird novel; collecting has its dark side. Obsessing, cataloging, alphabetizing, numbering, assorting, discovering, chronological order, color-coding, instinctual purchasing, the mathematical breakdown of one’s paycheck, the secrecy, the little white lies that one tells oneself and perhaps a significant other. Collecting can touch upon some heavy advanced psychology. Sometimes collecting and obsessing can deliver one into the bosom of a profound and abounding joy, other times one might find himself dead in the potholes of some dark, lonesome, and dank downtown alley with a switchblade thrust deep into the thoracic cavity of the chest. Or if you are lucky; it will just destroy your marriage, disappoint your love ones, or cause your utilities to get disconnected, it will make you wreck your Trans Am, or put your widescreen TV in hock, or get you in trouble with petty idiotic criminals. In Dick Blackburn’s bizarre and darkly comedic novel, almost all these things happen to its score of colorful characters. Criminals, backstabbers, Indian-givers, bitter impregnated lovers, judgmental mothers, lascivious shysters, and money hungry double-dealers constitute the perfectly dysfunctional corrupt world contained within the feral pages of “Record Weasels.”
The reader will go on a mad, twisted journey with Kevin the novel’s anti-hero. The reader’s emotions and ability to discern, or “read” into his fellow humans will be tested. The electricity of neurons will short. Social connectivity will backfire. Kevin is both affable and despicable. He is constantly on a precipice, ready to leap into full realization of either characteristic. He is vermin, shirking and swindling, in the burrows with other vermin. The reader will feel sorry for those around Kevin; especially for Marlene, his significant other. One will find himself thinking: “at least he is addicted to records and not heroin,” or “he could be into dealing with drugs, firearms, and human bodies but isn’t,” or “Marlene should be glad he collects records and not child porn”. The author, perhaps inadvertently and in conjunction with psychology, lends the novel a moral sense. There are definitely lessons to be learned within this novel. The inner-workings of both love and hate will be explored and there is plenty for the existentialist. One will realize that the concept of human relation is a wondrous, but greatly burdening thing. Perhaps, sometimes……maybe we’d do better journeying out into the woods…….alone.
Mr. Blackburn knows his subject matter and, exhaustively, did his research; this makes for an easy read. He delves into the world of record collecting, record history, the vinyl record industry, and music history. Record labels, record pricing, record grading, the exact year records were recorded, the various genres and sub-genres, their chart positions, and the individual record histories. It is very esoteric. The lucidity and ease of his writing and the universality of collecting and obsession combat this, and brings mass appeal and interest. This novel is for anyone who has collected something, or even anyone who has been in love.
This novel, most assuredly, fits snugly into the long and dark history of the dime store novel, noir fiction, and pulp fiction. It seems to engulf the various pulp genres and it reads like such, but has enough ultra-violence, hopped-up sex, modern conversation, and blockbuster action to feel completely new, original, and refreshing. The hipsters will call it “vintage” or “retro”. When reading this novel, authors like James Ellroy will come to mind. Also, one can get a whiff of Louis Ferdinand Celine’s dark pessimistic humor, the scathing brutality of Selby, the cool of the Beat poets, and the nervous, weird, and perverted awkwardness of Crumb.
Fans of Tarantino, the Cohen Brothers, Woody Allen, Kevin Smith, the quirkiness of Wes Anderson, and film noir will love this novel. I mention film and filmmakers, because one truly awesome and peculiar characteristic on Blackburn’s novel is that it seems to transcend and defy the limitations and the drawbacks of a novel. It isn’t stuffy, nor does it ever feel congested, bloated, or overbearing. It seems to flow freely between the different artistic mediums, in that; although it is a novel, it feels like a comic and at other times like a film. This is a unique effect. It screams from its physical prison of book form, to be transformed into a screenplay and, ultimately, an indie-film. It wants to be a comic series or an instant cult classic film. 

 The author reading from "Record Weasels" at Book Soup in LA.

Pick up a copy at

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


    Yesterday morning I drank a pot of strong black coffee and felt a surge of urination....and inspiration. Namely, to write. To write about music. So I decided to fire this blog back to life. I started by searching through my collection and revisiting my photos, notes and lists of all the records I had accumulated over the past few years. It has been a long time since I last posted on this blog. The first records, that came to mind, were these two 25 cent thrift store finds.

      I am as much a fan of non-English language music as I am music in English. I always make it a point to search out the music and the records. French YeYe is a huge favorite (I've always been a Francophile). French Chansons. Piaf, Brel, Gainsbourg, Lucienne Boyer, Sylvie Vartan, Brigitte Fontaine, etc. I seek out music from all over the world and from all cultures. African Zulu music. Arab folk music. Dabke (check out Omar Souleyman). Japanese Koto instrumentation. Exotica. Korean Pop. Calypso. Mento. And avant-garde and noise music is not, at all, limited by the language spoken by those making the music.
     I enjoy not being able to completely understand the words, but still comprehend the "feel" of the piece of music. The voice becomes a musical instrument, to a further extent than if it was sung in a language I understand. One is not burdened by the verbal contents of the song; the narrative, the meaning, or any message being imparted. No images or ideas force their way into your head. You have to take the music at face value. You have to accept that a certain element of the song is beyond you and, well, that is because you are ignorant of that element. All you hear are rhythmic and melodic human sounds. It is important to have some knowledge on other cultures and music is a great place to start. It goes towards one's worldview.
    These two "Hit Parade"-type compilation stereo LPs were pressed in Germany in early 1960. On Polydor Records. The LPs cover European music from 1959-1960. Artists include Hazy Osterwald, Peter Kraus, Honey Twins, Ivo Robic, Peter Alexander, Tommy Kent, among others. Genres include Rock 'n' Roll, Big Band and Pop. And the more traditional popular genres/styles like "foxtrot" and "tango." A number of these songs are translated versions of popular American RnR songs. Some of these artists were hugely popular and prolific.
    Hazy Osterwald's "Kriminal-Tango" is a standout track. Hazy was a Swiss Big Band musician. Here he adopts a more RnR style. "Kriminal-Tango" was a 1960 Austrian film directed by Geza von Cziffra. I love the sinister "crime-jazz" feel of this tune. There is something very pleasing about the way he sings the song title. There are covers of the song. They are mostly by obscure artists. Punk band Die Toten Hosen did a decent cover. I can think of a few artists who'd render fantastic covers; Johnny Cash, Scott Walker, Nick Cave, Tom Waits or Blixa Bargeld. Also, an R&B/Vocal group cover would be cool. And a Rockabilly version. I found these LPs years ago and I am still very much intrigued with this song.

    Another excellent track is by Austrian teen rocker Peter Kraus. "Susi sagt es Gaby" is very typical of late 50's/early 60's teen rock 'n' roll. Similar to guys like Robin Luke and Sanford Clark. France's legendary Johnny Hallyday instantly comes to mind. "Susi sagt es Gaby" is from the 1960 film "Kein Engel ist so rein." These LPs are invaluable resources. They show that the phenomenon of RnR spread the world over. They're a fractional glimpse into a time in RnR history that has been unfairly and drastically obscured by "Hippy" Rock, Classic Rock, The Beatles, Eric Clapton and The Eagles. The world of early RnR is infinitely interesting and weird. Unfortunately, it came and went. Frozen in time.

Hazy Osterwald - Kriminal-Tango         

 Peter Kraus - Susi sagt es Gaby

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Swampland 'Zine and album review....

    A couple years back I wrote an album review for a friend's website/'zine called "Swampland." It was really cool and I wish I could have written more for the 'zine, too bad it is now obsolete. The album review I wrote was for Jail Weddings' "Inconvenient Dreams" EP. Great stuff! Read the review, check out the EP, and the "Swampland" site; there is a link at the bottom of this post. The contents of the 'zine website include more reviews, interviews, and various writings and art. Be sure to check it out, some great Rock 'n' Roll in its pages. Thanks.

   My music listening experience usually involves a scratchy hair-line cracked blues 78, or an obscure Midwest garage 45 covered in sticker goo. My motto these days is "after '65 it's pick and choose," thus relegating myself to a most uncomfortable plight; that of the disgruntled music fanatic that declares there is no good music anymore. So there is a need to be modern, to search it out, and to aid in the survival and preservation of the spirit of pure individualism in music, similar to preserving those fragile rare-as-hell country blues 78's.
    Enter Gabriel Hart, tortured musical genius and front man of two legendary L.A. bands: The Starvations and Fortune's Flesh. These bands set the soundtrack to an education in inebriation, the dull thump of brass knuckles slamming into the center of one's face, floor fuckin' in rat-like dwellings, the blare of the siren on the ambulance as you're taken by the hospital for a clean up before they carry you to your jail cell. Aw, that jail black coffee!!! 

   But times change, you have to abandon your abandoned hell and ensconce in something a little healthier. So we arrive at Gabe Hart's 4th project, the nine-piece "gang of musicians," Jail Weddings. Their fresh-out-of-the-oven offering is the EP "Inconvenient Dreams. A beauty of a musical junkpile that beckons to take the listener on some strange trip, upon first listen one finds himself feeling lonely at some kind of bizarre mid-sixties teenage talent show set in the bayou of Louisiana. An itchy sense of modern day paranoia love confusion creeps in through the beat of the drum and the "girl group" vocals. You are left with the understanding that love lost is love gained is love lost, and love ain't perfect. "Cheat On Your New Lover With Me," displays some sweet crunchy garage guitar work, "These Fleeting Moments" best exemplifies the "death doo-wop" idea. "I'm My Own Doctor," tells the story of some sick death-lover who takes he cues from a New Orleans hoodoo man. "(Do You Think We're Gonna End Up On) Skid Row," brings in a heavy Dale & Grace influence, had they been informed of our sick corrupt world here in the 21th century. The last track "I Am Fucking Crazy," flirts with absurd love. We've been turned inside-out, we now put our worse faces forward. We've torn down the dam and let the evil waters flood our neighborhoods, and in time little beautiful rivulets of melody will bleed into the unscathed fields on the outskirts of town. All the while the music of the Jail Weddings will be blaring from some loud speaker. Swampland

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Little Lowell praises the Lord!

I came upon this very different and interesting LP at the local Goodwill. It is a 70's country gospel Rite Pressing. Little Lowell Mason, a.k.a "The Singing Midget" a.k.a "The world's smallest gospel singer, (and his group, The Masons) hail from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Mr. Lowell is 46 inches tall. I did not record the music for this post, just a photo of this amazing cover of this LP. From the crazy and weird world of record collecting. Also, enjoy this over-the-top comprehensive website profile on the man himself. The website profile features great pictures, a nice bio, and a "where is he now?" section with a link to his personal website. So don't let "The Little Man with the Big Voice" escape the confines of the sideshow that is the section of your brain that adores life's anomalies. And as an added bonus here is a very cool website/blog by the great Deke Dickerson.
Deke's Link

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Here is Prison/Death Row(2nd post of the day!)

Prison, murder, Death Row, and infidelity; what great subjects for a song. The writer of this particular song is none other than Marty Robbins. I don't think Marty himself ever cut this song. The way in which Rex Douglas sings it, it doesn't seem like it would have fit in with what Marty Robbins was singing in the late 60's. There does exist a version by Rex Allen on the "Hacienda" label. Although Rex Douglas' version is much more raw and rockin', Rex Allen gives it a good go. I love the feral honky-tonk damnation of this song. Just wild! Great guitar work! I love how it just chugs along, never decreasing it's pace. I really couldn't find much information on the artist or the label. So I ain't got too much left to write. I hope you all enjoy this sleazy 45 about the things that make the world go 'round....

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A "Best" Side

Apart from a couple great R&B covers, I've never really thought much of Manfred Mann. Don't get me started on "Blinded by the Light." While record hunting I always come across hundreds of copies of "John Hardy," and "Quinn (The Eskimo). I view those records as being a little on the weak side. This gem is the exact opposite. I found it in a lot sale that I bought. The A side is "Ragamuffin man." The A side is very poppish, not really my cup of tea. But when I flipped the 45 over, I was pleasantly surprised to hear this psychedelic dirge. I love its overall drone-like sound. The lazy, dreary, drug-induced vocals. The fuzz guitar. A pure 100% gold Psychedelic nugget! Definitely shines a new light on the Manfreds.