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Tag Archives: 50’s

From the album cover:

Out of the blue of the western sky…comes SKY KING!

That’s the way it all started back in the late 1930s.

For more than 30 years Sky King was to be America’s flying cowboy, proving week after week, on radio and television, that law and order always wins out over bad and evil.

Sky King was introduced to the American public in the 1940s as a radio series. Young people and their older brothers and sisters and mothers and dads gathered around the radio set to listen to Sky and the familiar hum of his aircraft, The Songbird.

From the Flying Crown Ranch, Sky, his niece Penny and nephew Clipper flew the skies and rode the trails, chasing an assortment of kidnappers, bank robbers and other assorted criminals.

The series moved to television in 1952, with Derby Foods syndicating Sky King in various markets. Nabisco bought the show in 1955 and moved it to the CBS network, where it maintained a spot at the top of the ratings for children’s shows through 1967, when Sky King retired from the airways.

Sky King is currently being syndicated through television stations across the nation and to worldwide outlets with programming beginning in the fall of 1975. A new color television series is also on the drawing boards, along with a brand-new radio series that will soon be heard once again. Sky King has been America’s most popular and famous Flying Cowboy.

These recordings include the original advertisements for Peter Pan Peanut Butter, who was the sponsor for the radio program. Apparently Peter Pan Peanut Butter is guaranteed to make you an all-around kickass kid with huge muscles and killer clout. I’m fairly certain these spots were originally written as menthol cigarette ads. When you listen, consciously insert “Camel Menthol 100’s” in place of “Peter Pan Peanut Butter”…it’s beautiful. And makes you want a peanut butter & tobacco sandwich.

Check out these ads from the 50s. I particularly like how the second one extols the healthy benefits of delicious egg nog.


Click to download MP3 adventures of the machine gun-toting Sky King


Bonus! I love the mysterious love note on the album sleeve from SilverFox to SkyQueen



I’d never heard of Josh White until I bought this album. This only snuck into my collection because the cover jumped out at me and, at a single dollar, I couldn’t resist.  After reading the gatefold I feel that painting did a terrific job at capturing the man’s prodigious swagger.

Josh always had a great style, as a man and as a performer. He had a kind of imperiousness that used to make audiences shut up and listen. God, how he could stare an audience down! He was there to sing, and if people at the tables were talking, he’d hold a post, cigarette behind the ear, foot on the chair, guitar at the ready, and wait until his silence reached out like a living force and whammied the people to attention. Then he’d begin. He was a black man making his way in a white man’s world, he knew he had something everybody out to hear, and he was to be heard, on his own terms.

-Lee Hays & Don McClean

I’m going to do something I don’t know normally do and compose this post almost entirely of Wikipedia excerpts. Now, don’t click away just yet. This man’s story is immensely interesting and a true portrait of the (mostly losing) struggle for free speech in America. In these excerpts you’ll find Josh leading blind guitarists across the U.S. as a barefoot child, portraying Blind Lemon in the story of John Henry on Broadway, serenading the Roosevelts at the White House, and ultimately being blacklisted during the Red Scare.

Of course, in true blues fashion, the story ends with Josh White broken down, both in career and health, and in the grave before his time. He lived a hard life, made beautiful music, and is up there with Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, or any other musician who’s had his life turned into a feature-length film.

So, get comfortable, sit back, and breeze through the beautifully tragic life of Josh White and his sad, sad guitar.

Sorry, no song previews as of yet. Posting previews is getting more and more of a bitch because of electronic copy”right” protection.

Joshua Daniel White (February 11, 1914 – September 5, 1969), better known as Josh White, was an American singer, guitarist, songwriter, actor, and civil rights activist. He also recorded under the names “Pinewood Tom” and “Tippy Barton” in the 1930s.

White also became the closest African-American friend and confidant to president Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, White’s anti-segregationist and international human rights political stance presented in many of his recordings and in his speeches at rallies resulted in the right-wing McCarthyites assuming him a Communist. Accordingly, from 1947 through the mid 1960s, White became caught up in the anti-Communist Red Scare, and combined with the resulting attempt to clear his name, his career was damaged. White’s playing style influenced many future generations of guitarists, including Blind Boy Fuller, Brownie McGhee, Pete Seeger, Lena Horne, Nat King Cole, Harry Belafonte, Lonnie Donegan, Eartha Kitt, Alexis Korner, Odetta, Elvis Presley, The Kingston Trio, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, Merle Travis, Dave Van Ronk, Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, Eric Weissberg, Judy Collins, Mike Bloomfield, Danny Kalb, Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, Richie Havens, Don McLean, Roy Harper, Ry Cooder, John Fogerty, Eva Cassidy and Jack White.

Two months after his father’s death, Joshua left home with a blind, black street singer named Blind Man Arnold, who he had agreed to lead across the South to collect coins after performances. Arnold would then send White’s mother two dollars a week. Arnold soon realized that he could profit from this gifted boy who quickly learned to dance, sing, and play the tambourine. Over the next eight years, he rented the boy’s services out to 66 different blind street singers, including Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Blake, and Blind Joe Taggart, and in time young Joshua quickly mastered the varied guitar stylings all his blind masters. In order to appear sympathetic to the onlookers tossing coins, the old men kept Joshua shoeless and in ragged short pants till he was sixteen years old. At night he would have to sleep in the cotton fields or in the horse stables, often on an empty stomach, while his master slept in a black hotel.

In February of 1936, he punched his left hand through a glass door during a bar fight, and the hand became infected with gangrene. White was advised by doctors to amputate the hand, and White repeatedly refused. Amputation was averted, but his chording hand was left immobile. Afterwords, he retreated from his recording career to become a dock worker, an elevator operator, and a building superintendent. During the time when his hand was lame, he squeezed a small rubber ball to try and revive it.

One night during a card game, White’s left hand was revived completely; and he immediately began practicing his guitar, and soon put together a group called “Josh White & His Carolinians” with his brother Billy and close friends Carrington Lewis, Sam Gary, and Bayard Rustin. They soon began playing private parties in Harlem. At one of these parties, on New Year’s Eve 1938, Leonard DePaur, a Broadway choral director, was intrigued by Josh’s singing. For the past six months, DePaur and the producers of the Broadway musical in development, John Henry, had been searching America for an actor/singer/guitarist to play the lead role of Blind Lemon, a street minstrel who would wander back and forth across the stage narrating the story in song. Their initial auditions with native New York singers proved to be unsuccessful, so they looked through previous race record releases to find a suitable artist. They eventually narrowed their search down to two people, “Pinewood Tom” and “The Singing Christian”, both used as pseudonyms by White.

After months of rehearsals and out-of-town productions in Philadelphia and Boston, John Henry opened on Broadway on January 10, 1940, with Paul Robeson as John Henry and Joshua White as Blind Lemon. Although the musical did not have long run, it helped jumpstart his career. Soon thereafter, Josh began working with Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Burl Ives, and The Golden Gate Quartet in a CBS radio series Back Where I Come From, written by folk song collector Alan Lomax and directed by Nicholas Ray.

Josh and Libby frequently requested the War Department to send them overseas during World War II to give USO concert performances for the troops. However, despite a Letter of Recommendation from Eleanor Roosevelt, they were constantly rejected as “too controversial”, considering that the U.S. Armed Forces were still segregated throughout World War II.

Throughout the 1940s, as a major matinée idol with magnetic sexual charisma and a commanding stage presence, White not only was an international star of recordings, concerts, nightclubs, radio, film, and Broadway, he also achieved a unique position for an African-American of the segregated era by becoming accepted and befriended by white society, aristocracy, European royalty, and America’s ruling family, The Roosevelts.

In January 1941, Josh performed at the President’s Inauguration. Upon completing that first White House Command Performance, the Roosevelts invited White up to their private chambers, where they spent more than three hours talking about Josh’s life story of growing up in Jim Crow South, listening to his songs written about those experiences, and drinking Café Royale (coffee and brandy).

At one point during that evening, the President said to Josh, “You know Josh, when I first heard your song `Uncle Sam Says,’ I thought you were referring to me as Uncle Sam….Am I right?” White responded, “Yes Mr. President, I wrote that song to you after seeing how my brother was treated in the segregated section of Fort Dix army camp. . . However that wasn’t the first song I wrote to you. . . In 1933, I wrote and recorded a song called `Low Cotton,’ about the plight of Negro cotton pickers down South, and in the lyrics I made an appeal directly to you to help their situation.”

The President, interested and impressed at the candor of his response, then asked Josh to sing those songs to him again. A friendship developed, five more Command Performances would follow, in addition to two appearances at the Inaugurations of 1941 and 1945; and the Josh White family would spend many Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with the Roosevelts at their Hyde Park, New York mansion .

Josh White had reached the zenith of his career when touring with Eleanor Roosevelt on a celebrated and triumphant Goodwill tour of Europe. He had been hosted by the continent’s prime ministers and royal families, and had just performed before 50,000 cheering fans at Stockholm’s soccer stadium. Amidst this tour, while in Paris in June, 1950, White received a call from Mary Chase, his manager in New York, telling him that Red Channels (who had been sending newsletters to the media since 1947 about White and other artists who they warned as being subversive), had just released and distributed a thick magazine with subversive details regarding 151 artists from the entertainment and media industries who they labeled as Communist Sympathizers. White’s name was prominent on this list. There never had been an official blacklist—until now. White immediately went to discuss the situation with Mrs. Roosevelt—to ask her advice and help. With great empathy, she told him that her voice on his behalf would hinder his efforts to clear his name. She explained that if she wasn’t the widow of the president they would also be crucifying her. She continued that the Right Wing press had been calling her a “pinko”, citing her social activism and friendships with non-whites. That night, White called his manager back and alerted her that he would be flying back to America the next day so that he could clear his name. Upon arriving at New York’s Idlewild Airport, the FBI met him, took him into a Customs holding room, began interrogating him, and held him for hours while waiting word from Washington as to whether Josh White, who was born in America, would be deported back to Europe.

In 1961, White’s health began a sharp decline as he experienced the first of the three heart attacks and the progressive heart disease that would plague him over his final eight years. As a lifelong smoker he also had progressive emphysema, in addition to ulcers, and severe psoriasis in his hands and calcium deficiency in his body that would cause the skin to peel off of his fingers and leave his fingernails broken and bleeding with every concert. During the last two years of his life, as his heart weakened dramatically, his wife Carol would put him in the hospital for four weeks after he completed each two-week concert tour. Finally, the doctors felt his only survival option was to attempt a new procedure to replace heart valves. The surgery failed.

He died on the operating table on September 6, 1969 at the North Shore Hospital in Manhasset, New York.



>>>Click here to download Disc 1

>>>Click here to download Disc 2



A1. Free and Equal Blues

A2. Where Were You, Baby

A3. You Don’t Know My Mind

A4. Sam Hall

A5. Run, Mona, Run

A6. Timber

A7. Takin’ Names

A8. St. James Infirmary

B1. One Meat Ball

B2. Peter

B3. Jelly, Jelly

B4. Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dyin’ Bed

B5.  Halleleu

B6. Prison Bound Blues

C1. Midnight Special

C2. Told My Captain

C3. Going Home, Boys

C4. Trouble

C5. Silicosis Blues

C6. Southern Exposure

C7. Empty Bed Blues

D1. The Story of John Henry

The Big Daddy. The Head Honcho. The King Crooner of the Jazz World. This is the standard by which every other jazz album is measured. However, when Kind of Blue dropped in 1959 it was considered a new direction for the genre. The organic creation between the all-star cast departed from the rigid and technically complex compositions of the past. I’ll let Bill Evans, the main pianist from this album, give his take on Miles’ giant leap for jazzkind.

Improvisation in Jazz

By Bill Evans

There is a Japanese visual art in which the artist is forced to be spontaneous. He must paint on a thin stretched parchment with a special brush and black water paint in such a way that an unnatural or interrupted stroke will destroy the line or break through the parchment. Erasures or changes are impossible. These artists must practice a particular discipline, that of allowing the idea to express itself in communication with their hands in such a direct way that deliberation cannot interfere.

The resulting pictures lack the complex composition and textures of ordinary painting, but it is said that those who see will find something captured that escapes explanation. This conviction that direct deed is the most meaningful reflection, I believe, has prompted the evolution of the extremely severe and unique disciplines of the jazz or improvising musician.

Group improvisation is a further challenge. Aside from the weighty technical problem of collective coherent thinking, there is the very human, even social need for sympathy from all members to bend for the common result. This most difficult problem, I think, is beautifully met and solved on this recording.

As the painter needs his framework of parchment, the improvising musical group needs its framework in time. Miles Davis presents here frameworks which are exquisite in their simplicity and yet contain all that is necessary to stimulate performance with a sure reference to the primary conception.

Miles conceived these settings only hours before the recording dates and arrived with sketches which indicated to the group what was to be played. Therefore, you will hear something close to pure spontaneity in these performances. The group had never played these pieces prior to the recordings and I think without exception the first complete performance of each was a “take.”

Although it is not uncommon for a jazz musician to be expected to improvise on new material at a recording session, the character of these pieces represents a particular challenge.


  • Miles Davis, trumpet and leader
  • Julian Adderley, alto saxophone (Courtesy of Riverside Records)
  • John Coltrane (Legendary in his own right.), tenor saxophone
  • Wyn Kelly, piano (Courtesy of Riverside Records)
  • Bill Evans, piano
  • Paul Chambers, bass
  • James Cobb, drums


Click here to download Kind of Blue to 320 kbps


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The story of Elvis’ earliest musical inklings is pretty quaint – just a small town boy, living in a Southern world, recording an LP as a present for his mammy one hot summer day in 1953. What if he had decided to pick up a Hallmark card instead and hadn’t strolled on into Sun Records?

Who would we be impersonating? Johnny Cash? God rest your soul, Mr. Cash, but dressing up in a simple black suit isn’t nearly as fun as a shiny turquoise onesie.

"Hello, I'm not Johnny Cash."

It’s humbling to think that the King of Rock of Roll’s legend was born in a little rink-a-dink R&B studio in Memphis. Most pop stars today were run through child slavery rings that are Disney and Nickelodeon. Big money and big production creating overprocessed pap.

But Elvis was just a poor hillbilly from Tupelo, Mississippi who was too dumb to know he wasn’t supposed to become the most influential American musician of all time. Then again, Jesus was birthed in a manger full of goats, pigs, and bed bugs so I guess the greats all have to start somewhere. Yes, I’m comparing Elvis to Jesus. After all, Elvis had much better hair.

Check out this excerpt on the King’s beginnings from the LP sleeve:

Though Sam C. Phillips had been producing local R&B hit records since 1950,he used to boast to his competitors that, if he could find a young white singer who could sound and feel like a negro, he would make a billion dollars.

In 1954 Phillips discovered such a singer but, the most that he ever made was $35,000 when he sold both Elvis Presley’s recording contract and the tapes that constitute this album to RCA-Victor.

In Terms of commerciality, these 16 sides may not have been the most successful rock ‘n’ roll records ever releases but, beyond any doubt, they proved to be the most innovative. Other artists may lay claim to having cut the first bona fide rock single (Jackie Brenston’s Rocket 88 Chess 1458), but truly, this is where it all began.

Phillips’ ultimate ambition may have been to become a millionaire, but when Elvis Presley parked his Ford Pick-up truck outside the memphis Recording Service at 706, Union Avenue one hot summer’s afternoon in 1953, his only desire was to own the snazziest car in town. Within two short years, Presley was to take delivery of the first, of what was to quickly become, a fleet of Cadillacs. The events that let up to Prsley being signed to the Sun label may have all the basic cornball ingredients of a low-budget rock ‘n’ roll B-movie, but these are the facts as we know them.

Sun Records wa a local label which used to either sell or lease independently produced R & B masters to major companies at a very small profit. To boost its economy, the Memphis Recording Service was a lucrative subsidiary which specialised in recording weddings, club meetings, and anyone who wanted to preserve their amateur talent on wax.

Running the Memphis recording Service was Marion Keisker who, had quite recently abdicated her position as Miss Radio of Memphis, in order to collect the four dollar Service charged to cut a double-sided 10-inch acetate. Business was always brisk, and so when Elvis Presley – who was still employed as a $42 a week truck driver for the Crown Electric Company – stopped by one Saturday afternoon he was obliged to join the queue of local starstruck hilljacks and precocious pubescents waiting their moment of glory in the studio.

>>>Click here to download The Sun Sessions from vinyl to MP3


A1 That’s All Right 1:54
A2 Blue Moon Of Kentucky 1:59
A3 I Don’t Care If The Sun Don’t Shine 2:23
A4 Good Rockin’ Tonight 2:10
A5 Milkcow Blues Boogie 2:32
A6 You’re A Heartbreaker 2:08
A7 I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone 2:34
A8 Baby Let’s Play House 2:13
B1 Mystery Train 2:24
B2 I Forgot To Remember To Forget 2:24
B3 I’ll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin’) 2:18
B4 I Love You Because (1st Version) 2:38
B5 Trying To Get To You 2:28
B6 Blue Moon 2:39
B7 Just Because 2:29
B8 I Love You Because (2nd Version) 3:21

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This is the album that really defines what an American Christmas is all about. The original LP version of this was released in 1955 but the songs were recorded as early as 1942. This, of course, puts it right smack dab in the midst of World War II.

Now I don’t have any concrete evidence to go on but I’m going to say that this album won the war for the Allies. Anyone stateside with access to a radio would have heard these songs during that gnarly brawl overseas. The presence of Bing’s masculine yet gentle tremelo recharged the nation of Rosie the Riveters each year with tremendous effect. His words soothed and assured them that yes, everything would one day return to normal. Our boys would be home for the Christmas; if not this year then definitely the next.

Sure enough Bing was right: the boys came home  marching triumphantly and America, in their minds, had solidified its place as the moral compass for the world.

Christmas for The Good Guys

Of course, when the G.I.’s returned home there were many new traditions just waiting to be created. One of these was adopting Bing, an All-American guy with an honest gee-whiz face, as the voice of the holidays. And thank you Jesus. I can’t think of anyone else I’d want captaining the U.S.S. Noel.

Whenever I put on this disc it’s always like slipping on the most comfortable sweater in the world and cozying up to a real wood-burning fireplace. It’s so incredibly warm and reassuring.

Ok, too warm.

If you’ve never listened to this album you’ll still recognize the majority of the tracks from movies like A Christmas Story. However, two of the most jolly songs on here were written long after the war in 1950 and 1951. The 50s were a time of carefree optimism and this is perfectly captured in the songs “Christmas in Killarney” and “Mele Kilikimaka”. Both songs take a cheeky, if perhaps a bit culturally stereotypical, spin on the Christmas theme. Make sure to check them out at end of the disc–you’ll be humming them throughout the holidays.

^Christmas Vacation featuring Mele Kilikimaka. Unfortunately you’ll have to visit YouTube to watch this gem.^


Click here to download Merry Christmas to MP3


A1 Silent Night 2:35
A2 Adeste Fideles (Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful) 3:08
A3 White Christmas 3:03
A4 God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen 2:15
A5 Faith Of Our Fathers 2:54
A6 I’ll Be Home For Christmas (If Only In My Dreams) 2:52
B1 Jingle Bells 2:35
Backing Vocals – Andrews Sisters, The
B2 Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town 2:38
Backing Vocals – Andrews Sisters, The
B3 Silver Bells 2:59
Vocals – Carole Richards
B4 It’s Beginning To Look Like Christmas 2:43
B5 Christmas In Killarney 2:40
B6 Mele Kalikimaka 2:49
Backing Vocals – Andrews Sisters, The