Pass it Around

"If I made records for my own pleasure, I would only record Charley Patton songs." - Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan is a Stand Up Guy

Instructions for assembling Bob Dylan promotional stand up. 1974?

The Eric Clapton Video to watch before A Life in Twelve Bars. Delaney and Bonnie live Full Show!

As I await the new Showtime Documentary "A Life in Twelve Bars" devoted to Eric Clapton, word has come that Delaney and Bonnie AND Derek and the Dominos are again given short shrift. Can that be? True, the Dominos left little filmed material that I know of, and for personal reasons Clapton might not care to relive the two years.  It was two years he spent with some of the most talented musicians he ever worked with.
From Delaney and Bonnie came Derek and the Dominos. After failing out  with the bloated "supergroup" Blind Faith, Eric took to hanging with the under-rated opening act. It says much about his taste. Why tour with the precocious and questionable talent of Stevie Winwood when you can connect with more authentic inheritors of the rock and roll sound from the American South?  Mind you, this was literally only ten years after Elvis and Little Richard hit.  

Clapton has balanced a role in popular culture while pursuing his artistic devotion with style and great taste. Style as a gentleman, style in the threads he wears and even style as a drug addicted soul hiding in a mansion. Style helping Curtis Mayfield after a near fatal stage accident while performing in Brooklyn. Style organizing a tribute to a fallen Beatle.  Style in a suit at Lincoln Center with Wynton Marsalis. Style sharing his grief with the MTV generation.  

I wasn't one of those "dig the Yardbirds" kids. I knew of Clapton, of course, from Cream, who played in the background as I went through various teen pleasures. I didn't know then why they named a song "Toad" or "Badge" or that their best song came from a black man named Skippy James who recorded it in 1931. I did know what set them apart from every other group I knew; all three members played lead.   ALL THE TIME!  To say Ginger Baker "kept the beat" is hardly adequate, and whenever Eric started to shine, Jack Bruce just had to cut him with a bass run from nowhere in history.  It was chaos blues.  Ginger and Jack knew Clapton was the best and they could hardly stand it. That jealousy and intensity drove all three, but it was Clapton's playing which was from another place. He was able to stack and bend notes which left the neck frets superfluous.  Most early Cream footage is all gummed up with "psychedelic" staging.  I'd rather watch Delaney and Bonnie.

Look to the right to see Eric. Look even closer and you will see George Harrison. No longer a Beatle, George recognized the band as transcendent. What did it take to get the best guitar player in the world and an ex-Beatle to perform on together onstage in 1969?  Delaney and Bonnie.

Clapton enjoyed hanging with Delaney and Bonnie so much, he swiped their entire band.  The rhythm section anyway.  Not long after the Delaney and Bonnie tour Clapton began pining for George Harrison's wife (the "cute bird" from A Hard's Day Night) and started snorting junk.  While dealing with love and passion the wrong way, he formed Derek and the Dominos with Carl Radle, Bobby Whitlock and Jim Gordon.  All shown here driving one hell of a band. 

The secret weapon for Delaney and Bonnie was Bobby Whitlock. A loved man, a talented man and a righteous singer. He also played on the Hammond B3. It was an organ, not a synth. He played it rather than program it.  It swirls around the stage in the background, but when Bobby sang, he had a voice that would stop a lover's fight. If you can tear yourself from Clapton's solos with Delaney and Bonnie or Derek and the Dominos, you'll not be able to avoid Bobby's powerful voice.  He hasn't received the credit he deserves either, but his life is mighty interesting. Bobby was also seeped in all things dirt poor southern and he sang to save himself from a horrid poor white background. He is an encyclopedia of real roots and funny as hell. Whitlock went to live with Clapton in the mansion to take drugs and wreck expensive cars while the notion of Derek was conjured up. 

Who else is on board in this film? Carl Radle, bass player divine and Jim Gordon, drummer extreme. Gordon and Radle also played their instruments like a lead guitars, but several years later Gorden murdered his own mother. Aieee!  To this day, he is still regularly turned down for parole.  Radle lived only until 1980.  Booze and drugs.  On trumpet is Jim Price. His creds are solid as well. He followed up his participation with George Harrison with Barbra Streisand.  Fortunately he is still with us.

The Delaney and Bonnie sax man is roustabout rock and roll progenitor Bobby Keys. He is here as a young man with superb Beatle-bangs. Mr. Keys was talented yet incapable of reading music. Later on, he created those amazing sax breaks for the Rolling Stones.  Mick thought him a bad influence on Keith, and he probably was. There was a time Keith wouldn't tour unless Bobby played with them.  Bobby Keys was a genius in the rough, and that he has never entered the "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame" is a big fat crock of Wenner stew.  He played with Buddy Holly and Bobby Vee at the age of 15. If you hear a good sax break on your retro-rock station, chances are real good you are hearing those honks from Mr. Keys.

Both Delaney and his wife Bonnie sang like juke joint saturday night, and it is because they had all the rock, roll, soul and gospel influences which come from down home. They ate grits which weren't available in "swinging England" at the time. The act was a poor white man roadhouse rumble as real as any Delta fish fry.

Delaney didn't have to "ape" his sound or his songs, though in the footage he stands in the middle like a big gorilla directing his brood. He was known to step on other performers who got too good. A drinker, I guess, and a drug user with a big ego. He went from Mississippi to the house band for the Shindig television show. The Shindogs along with no less than James Burton. He also had the good taste to recognize Bonnie Bramlett and made her his gospel and blues screaming wife. It is said Bonnie performed as one of The Ikettes with Ike and Tina Turner. A white sister who could deliver that unearthly sound Mary Clayton does on Gimme Shelter.

Delaney and Bonnie put the British blues skills of Eric Clapton in touch with the soul, rhythm and blues of America. It is said Delaney taught Eric to sing, and he readily agrees. Delaney schooled him, nurtured him and essentially created the Eric Clapton we know today.  Witness his solo performance here on "I don't know Why" and you will see Clapton begin to him emerge as a complete entertainer.  At one point, he looks over to Delaney for reassurance and receives it.  "I don't know Why" is a weeper. A musing on love and imperfection.  It comes from the place Mr. Clapton wanted to go, and he has stayed there decades.  While forgotten today, it is the first sincere song in his considerable repertoire.

George Harrison figures prominently in the Delaney and Bonnie / Derek and the Dominos story.  His triple LP All Things Must Pass (in retrospect, the best "solo" Lp by ex-Beatle) used the band as back-up. Delaney and Bonnie also picked up, toured and recorded with Duane Allman, Leon Russell, Dave Mason, Rita Coolidge and King Curtis. Knowing of them should send you to the used CD store.  Go pronto. I hope their time is finally coming due. This hour-long, professionally-captured show is the apex of the second generation of Rock and Roll.   Original article by Jim Linderman
The Showtime Documentery A LIFE IN TWELVE BARS
Ebooks and books by Jim Linderman HERE

Tom Wilson, Bob Dylan and DION Norton Records major release

Bingo. Norton Records has done what they do again, and it should be of considerable interest to Bob Dylan fans. 

Dion was the sound of late night on transistors nation-wide. An unearthly voice from the Telstar days. He had a once in a lifetime voice and that's why his songs received so much airplay.  Ruby Baby jumped out of local radio stations for years and no one ever tired of it  because it was so fucking good. Ruby Baby is slippery, skulky and magical. Dion slurs the melody into a swirl of hormones and young lust. 

Everyone should know the clips linked here. Dion lives down in the serious roots of the rock and roll pole.  A tough kid who transcended Doo-Wop at the time the form was helping to create rock and roll. Dion is critical.

Runaround Sue details a precocious young woman who does what she wants and with who she wants.  Without apology.  A woman capable of turning two fists of iron to street rust.

Then there is The Wanderer.  Dion is a proto-stud with all the sexual boasting of a rap song from the same Bronx decades later. The Wanderer is all New York, but it is not show tunes or Broadway.  New York?  Well, Lou Reed inducted Dion into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The two alone make good any claim that NYC rocked. The Wanderer is timeless sexual bravado with a tight-pants strut. One YouTube listener recently added the comment  "I'm 15 and fuck my generation, I love it!"  It is a chewed-up and spit-out risqué pop song for the increasingly sullen teen generation. Lay a good share of suburban juvenile delinquency on Dion. That is a very good thing. He churned things up seriously.

There were millions upon millions of kids who would never walk the streets of the Bronx.  For that matter, there were plenty of guys who would never have "Flo on the left and Mary on my right."  If only. Listen to Dion's unholy trio of demented doo-wop today and you will see why he is STILL not even close to nostalgia and PBS pledge drives.

What WAS Dion up to after these three shells dropped? The time between between the first wave of hits and his later Abraham, Martin and John?   

When you get down to it, who wouldn't love to hear Dion with the Columbia studio musicians who played on Dylan's 1965 - 1966 era albums?  In the same studio and with the same producer?  Dion and Tom Wilson?  Who would be better?  What COULD be better?  It is every bit as good as you might hope.

The two certainly knew of each other.  Dylan had seen Dion perform on a tour "way back" and there are quotes in the liner notes here which detail Bob's admiration for the singer.

Kickin' Child is a rocker.  "Tramp me down like a wild ragweed" indeed.  Now is the best Everly Brothers harmony you never heard.  It is heartbreaking and thrilling at the same time, and Tom Wilson brings off a urgent crescendo like a rolling stone. 

My Love anticipates LA studio flower power.  A Tom Paxton cover follows. This is Dion growing into places the generation would soon follow. One Mort Shuman song to reference Tin Pan Alley.  Dion knows good songwriting.  On this LP, most of the songs are written by himself, but there are three Dylan songs.

Baby I'm in the Mood for You is the first Dylan original he covers.  He blue notes it.  Dion usually sings between the lines on a chart and he does here. He also covers It's All Over Now, Baby Biue which young Bob was recording in the same place around the same time.
The most Dylan influenced track (other than the Dylan written songs) is the wacky Two Ton Feather which is part Sitting on a Barb Wire Fence and a bit Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat.  This sound is the sound one hears on the "Seems like a Freeze Out" era Dylan bootlegs…tentative experimental white blues with lyrics which mattered.  I believe Al Kooper is around.  Stinging electric guitar is followed by a Little Richard piano fill. 

Maybe it is time to recognize it was producer Tom Wilson who "went electric" after all.  Columbia had a history of signing adventurous artists despite Mitch Miller's distaste for the sound.  John Hammond knew talent, but Mitch knew how to play the oboe.  He was the worst.  To Mitch, songs were novelties…gimmicks one turned into cash.  His idea of a folk song was Tzena, Tzena Tzena or The Yellow Rose of Texas. It was Wilson who knew the times were changing.  He turned Paul Simon's Sounds of Silence into a poetic rocker, and was hip enough to know the Animal's treatment of The House of the Rising Son could form the basis of a revolution.  Mitch?  Suited better for the nascent television market of already bored parents and grandparents.  Follow the bouncing ball.

Kickin' Child is but the latest genius release from Norton Records.  If you believe Rock and Roll HAS history, this is an essential transitional release from one of the best performers. For Dylan fans, you can go purchase Dylan's latest big set of crooning standards, or you can go right back to where it mattered.  Here.  Highly recommended. Choose from LP or CD.

Order KICKIN' CHILD direct from Norton Records. While there, browse the back catalog.  I suspect you will purchase a few others too…don't forget the hit 45 disc by Dion with Too Much Monkey Business of the flip side!
For those of you who do not know Norton,  the label is home to "the frantic sounds of Hasil Adkins, Link Wray, the Pretty Things, the Flamin' Groovies, the Alarm Clocks, the Sonics, the Wailers, Question Mark and the Mysterians, Dale Hawkins, Ron Haydock, the Rockin' R's, Esquerita, Andre Williams, Jack Starr, the Flat Duo Jets, the Untamed Youth, the Phantom Surfers, King Uszniewicz, the Hentchmen, Wade Curtiss, Jackie & the Cedrics, the Church Keys, The Dictators and loads more wildies!"  30 YEARS ON, Mirian Linna and the late, great Billy Miller are still teaching and preaching rock truth.

Former Dylan Guitarist G. E. Smith works for Trump now...

Is there any gig one should not take?  Yes.  G.E. Smith, a wonderful guitar player but apparently ill-informed person, is working the Republican Convention for Donald Trump.  Ugh.

See him "rock the house" HERE

The Greatest Blues Song Ever Written and Performed One Way Out (the Window)

Can any blues song, or blues performance be called the best?  There are many one could nominate, and you are welcome to suggest yours as a comment here. This is the story of a song which combines infidelity, deception, sex, humor, fear, impending violence, escape, neighborhood gossip and more in a few short lines.  Who wrote it?  Let's try to find out.  This is the story of One Way Out.

One Way Out isn't even a traditional blues song, except for the first stanza. 

Ain't but one way out baby, Lord I just can't go out the door
Ain't but one way out baby, and Lord I just can't go out the door
'Cause there's a man down there, might be your man I don't know

Lord you got me trapped a woman, up on the second floor
If I get by this time I won't be trapped no more
So raise your window baby, I can ease out soft and slow
And Lord, your neighbors, no they won't be
Talking that stuff that they don't know

Lord, I'm foolish to be here in the first place
I know some man gonna walk in and take my place
Ain't no way in the world, I'm going out that front door
'Cause there's a man down there, might be your man I don't know
'Cause there's a man down there, might be your man I don't know

The most familiar version is, of course, the Allman Brothers.  Recorded and released numerous times, and a stalwart of the brother's live performances for 40 years.  Likely brought to the band by Duane "Skydog" Allman. The track here comes from the last night of a four night stand recorded for their Live at the Fillmore Lp in June 1971 with Tom Dowd at the controls.  This version is selected as Duane was alive, though not to be for long…and the interplay with co-lead guitarist Dickey Betts is outstanding.   Duane regularly appears on "top ten greatest guitar player" lists, but on each one he should be bumped up a few notches.

Duane's brother Gregg Allman once said the phrase "southern rock" is redundant."  He is right, and it is one of my favorite rock and roll quotes.  Mr. Allman often says a great, great deal with few words.

On the Allman Brothers releases, One Way Out is credited to Marshall Sehorn and Elmore James.   Sehorn was a musician who became southern promotion man for  the Fire and Fury labels.  He put his name on Elmore's recording.  

Common practice then…and theft.  Sehorn would eventually receive songwriting credit (and the royalty payments) for over 350 songs recorded in the 1960s.  He went on to form a company with Allen Toussaint, helping the the Neville Brothers obtain a recording contract and recording numerous New Orleans legendary musicians.  As this story is aimed at blues listeners…he also claimed writing credits with Lighntin' Hopkins.  Here is Sehorn, a fellow who LOOKS like an adulterer who might skulk out a second floor window, but not really a bluesman. He didn't write it.

By the way, Dickie Betts, who had to take the place of a very young Duane Allman at a very young no slouch either.


The Elmore James version of One Way Out is a screech with a fingered solo…no slide (!!!) and a saxophone. He recorded it in 1961 but it didn't get released until two years after Elmore passed away.  I believe it first appeared on The Sky is Crying Lp, and it was also released the same year as a single.

I believe it is most likely Sonny Boy Wiliamson should be credited with the song.  It is a clever lyric, and Sonny boy was clever. He recorded two versions, the first in 1961 and again in 1965.  Sonny was also not bound by tradition.  If he wanted his blues song to read like a poem, a sonnet or a speech it was his right, and he is usually considered one of the most poetic writers of blues songs. 

G. L. Crockett's version of the song in 1965 gives it a primitive, swampy sound. A little King Bee, a little Jimmy Reed. G.L. Crockett was Chicago-based, and his real initials were G. T. Crockett. Why the change? Typo? The label didn't care much. He also recorded as "G. DavyCrockett (!)  He claims authorship!

Likewise, Duster Bennett recorded as It's a Man Down There, He credits the song to Crockett and speaks a bit of the song. Duster was a British blues singer, so we might say he apes his way through the song. Needless to say he didn't write it. Duster Passed away in 1978 when his Ford van collided with a truck after doing a gig with Memphis Slim.

Jimmy Reed recorded an ANSWER SONG(!) titled I'm the Man Down There in which he dares the man upstairs to use the stairs! Jimmy want's to kick your ass, but in real life his wife was tougher than he was…and she's upstairs busy.

 "I'm the man down there, boy Don't you come down those stairs".

I am willing to bet there were some 1960s garage band versions and many African-American Chitlin Circuit versons of the song too.

There was truly only one way out, at least for Elmore…and Stefan Wirz shows it on his Elmore James discography HERE.


The Death of Emmett Till Song 1955 by A.C. Bilbrew and Scatman Crothers 1955

Yes, you read that title right.  No, it is not another example of Mr. Dylan borrowing a song, but that DOES follow…so read through!

The story of Emmett Till is brutal no matter who sings it. FAR less known Than the Dylan recording of his version is the one released in 1955 at a time when African-Americans didn't even have basic civil rights.

Little known (because racist radio stations at the time wouldn't play it) is The Death of Emmett Till released on the DooTone label.  The song was written by A. C. Bilbrew.  A long-time civil rights activist and mother of Jazz singer Kitty Jean Bilbrew.  A.C. Bilbrew started an all-black-chorus way back before the great depression, and was the first African-American soloist to perform on radio.  Her daughter Kitty is better known as Kitty Wright, but even she is largely forgotten now. 

The Death of Emmett Till HERE is sung here by The Ramparts.  The Ramparts were actually the jazzman and entertainer Scatman Crothers!  The Scatman is probably best known for his role in Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" but he had a LONG distinguished career. 

Bob Dylan's song Death of Emmet Till is a different song and one of his finest compositions, though in 1962 he admits he stole the melody from Len Chandler's song The Bus Driver.  Well, that's folk music.  There ARE no original folk songs.  Len Chandler is an African-American folksinger who borrowed melodies too. Lots of them.  All folk songs  grew out of the air and are swapped among friends when they are learned. If you think singer songwriters go home after their show, you haven't stuck around long enough to hear the jams.  Or Hootnannies, as they were known back then.  Mr. Chandler has been active in the movement for decades and his story would make a good documentary.  Quick, name a folk singer who wrote songs for Pete Seeger,
The Black Panthers and toured with Jane Fonda!   Len Chandler.   A hero.  Below he appears with Dylan and Joan Baez at the March on Washington 1963.   If you like, the complete performance 25 minute footage is available HERE.

Mr. Dylan chats with Cynthia Gooding about HIS song about Emmett Till, and reveals he uses Mr. Chandler's melody.

BD: This one's called, em, Emmett Till. Oh, by the way, the melody here is, excuse me, the melody, I stole the melody from Len Chandler. An' he's a funny guy. He's a, he's a folk singer guy. He uses a lot of funny chords you know when he plays and he's always getting to, want me, to use some of these chords, you know, trying to teach me new chords all the time. Well, he played me this one. Said don't those chords sound nice? An' I said they sure do, an' so I stole it, stole the whole thing.
CG: That was his first mistake.

*Dylan plays the song*

BD: You like that one?
CG: It's one of the greatest contemporary ballads I've ever heard. It s tremendous.
BD: You think so?
CG: Oh yes!
BD: I just wrote that one about last week, I think.
CG: Fine song. It makes me very proud. It's uh, what's so magnificent about it to me, is that it doesn't have any sense of being written, you know. It sounds as if it just came out of .... it doesn't have any of those little poetic contortions that mess up so many contemporary ballads, you know.
BD: Oh yeah, I try to keep it working.
CG: Yeah, and you sing it so straight. That's fine.
BD: Just wait til' Len Chandler hears the melody though.
CG: He'll probably be very pleased with what you did to it. What song does he sing to it?
BD: He sings another one he wrote, you know. About some bus driver out in Colorado, that crashed a school bus with 27 kids. That's a good one too. It's a good song.

Whether Len Chandler ever recorded the song is questionable, but the Peter Shaff version of Bus Driver  is available at this LINK and it is in fact the same melody as Dylan's.  Dylan was friends with Len Chandler during the Gaslight days and mentions him in his autobiography Chronicles Volume 1. 

The Dylan / Allen Ginsberg Recordings left off Another Self Portrait 1971

It is interesting that the Bob Dylan box set "Another Self Portrait" which purports to cover the years from 1968 to 1971 omits entirely the collaborations with Poet Allen Ginsberg.  I suspect most Dylan fans are aware of the Ginsberg appearance in the (now more than one) films created for Subterranean Homesick Blues, but few know of the work the wordsmiths did together in 1971.  It was a minor side project, to be sure...but still the sessions represent the work of two magnificent talents of the era. 

In October 1971 Dylan apparently played along Ginsberg, Happy Traum, Ginsberg's longtime lover Peter Orlovsky and poet Gregory Corso in the PBS-TV studio in New York City which was shown, likely ONLY in New York City…in November 1971. 

Also in November 1971  "The Allen Ginsberg Sessions" were recorded for LP release.  9 songs were recorded, including two versions of September on Jessore Road.  One version was released on a flexidisc in Sing Out Magazine.  Most of the songs are credited as Allen Ginsberg / Dylan efforts.  Some were to have been released on Holy Soul & Jelly Roll on Apple records.  Others were released on John Hammond's record label (?) in 1983.

A typical, if far more coherent song from the sessions is Vomit Express below.   The voices are compatible!  Rhino Records compiled some, if not all of the tracks on the box set Holy Soul Jelly Roll in 1994.  The Sixties (and early Seventies) would not have been the same without Dylan and Ginsberg.

This is the great lost Dylan song!  It also contains the phrase "I won't fuck around" and considerable homosexual lyrics… which might explain the omission from Another Self Portrait.

Also shown here is one of the best scenes in the film I'm Not There in which David Cross as Allen Ginsberg appears! 

The Birth of Rock and Roll Jim Linderman

Big splash on my new book  The Birth of Rock and Roll with MUSIC and clips.  Enjoy the SHOW.  ORDERING INFORMATION HERE     ALSO AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON AND BARNES AND NOBLE

See also Book Review in the Los Angeles Times HERE

The Only Dylan Cover which Matters! Gomer Pyle sings Blowing in the Wind

Gomer Pyle, AKA Jim Nabors AKA "Green Sleeves" sings Blowing in the Wind with Hippies from the Gomer Pyle Show.

Times Square Smut the Book is available

IN 1959, Edward Mishkin was arrested and 72 of the books he had published (or sold) were confiscated for obscenity. Mishkin sold the books in several Times Square bookstores he owned. The Supreme Court of the United States Upheld his conviction and the books disappeared into evidence boxes and attics. 50 years later collector Jim Linderman decides to find them. Eugene Bilbrew, an African-American artist drew many of the covers. He would overdose on 42nd Street. Other artists who worked in the same scene at the same time are Eric Stanton, who shared a studio with Steve Ditko, creator of Spiderman and Joe Shuster of Superman Fame. Along with Mishkin, there were two other smut producers in New York. Leonard Burtman, fetish publisher and Irving Klaw, who photographed Bettie Page. 250 pages with HUNDREDS of illustration not seen in over 50 years, and then not really seen at all. Available in Instant PDF Download, Paperback and Hardcover.

The Ultimate Bob Dylan Collectible! Chocolate from MUSICARES 2015

The fine folks at Dust-to-Digital were up for a Grammy again this year, and that gave them the option to attend the Person of the Year show.  Who wouldn't?  They brought this little gift back for me, a fine treasure wrapped in gold.  THANKS.  Dust to Digital published  my first real book TAKE ME TO THE WATER  and they are publishing my THE BIRTH OF ROCK AND ROLL too.  Few people have friends like Lance and April at Dust to Digital...and I might modestly also let you know their back catalog and their future release schedule confirms they are the most adventurous, ambitious and artistic reissue label in the business.  

No, I am not eating it, but I am hoping all the suits in attendance did....


THE BIRTH OF ROCK AND ROLL is available for pre-ordering NOW right HERE

While you are on the site, scroll down to the next post?   My favorite band THE ACCIDENTALS is/are having a group links below. 

The Accidentals on the Road

The talented Michigan group The Accidentals on the road.  You can help spread the joy by participating in their INDIEGOGO campaign  HERE

Bob Dylan The OTHER big public statement!

Before the tribute, this was about all ya got!   FADE IT OUT (Did you Fade it OUT?)

When the Band recorded for the Mob Roulette Records and Ronnie Hawkins by Jim Linderman

Show business can be a sleazy business, but in the late 1950s it was even worse.  With the release of the triumphant Basement Tapes Complete Bob Dylan's backing band (then still known as the Hawks from their five-year stint backing rocker Ronnie Hawkins) you can literally hear the boys becoming the greatest American rock band ever to come from Canada.  They discover harmony.  The discover roots.  The year they spend in Dylan's woodshed allows them to discover their voices.  In that camaraderie,  one finds the true beauty of the basement tapes.  Dylan wrote them, but never has there been a collaboration so perfectly distilled and memorable.

How fortunate was the Band to hook up with Bob Dylan?  No less fortunate than escaping the clutches of organized crime.  Specifically the Genovese family, one of the more brutal of the five New York families.  Long before the Band backed Dylan, they worked for the Cosa Nostra!  When they backed Dylan, they were still young sprouts, but they had already broken bread with the Mafia.

The rocking Arkansas hayseed Ronnie Hawkins and his 18 year old drummer Levon Helm went up to Canada in 1958 on the suggestion of Conway Twitty.  Sure enough, the Canadians were desperate for rock and roll, and Hawkins became an overnight success.  Hawkins is responsible for two great things.  One, he invented the moonwalk (see clip) and two, he was the first front man to recognize the staggering talents of young Canadians Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and, of course, his little Arkansas brother Levon.  The story is well-known, but Ronnie is still not appreciated enough.  Neither is the Band, but if you know them, you know that already


18 year old Levon Helm drums while Ronnie Hawkins (at 1:18) invents the Moonwalk!

Would the Band have made it into the competition on a televised talent show today?  Not even close.  Not even if they shaved their beards.  Still, Ronnie and his band made so much noise up north, they attracted the attention of Morris Levy.  Morris is not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but he should be. He owned Alan Freed, after all. (Actually, you COULD say Morris is in the Hall of Fame, as they have two archival boxes of tape recordings of him in THEIR basement…) However, Big Moe's record is not one the Hall of Fame wants to share with history.  Morris managed to avoid being inducted into jail too, but it took considerable work.  He was on his way there for federal extortion charges when he died of liver cancer. That is one way to avoid a ten year sentence.

Morris also owned Birdland, a New York city jazz club.  It is notable for many things, but among them is that Levy's brother was gunned down on the front steps.  Mistaken identity... I think they were gunning for Moe. 

Roulette Records was also owned by Morris Levy.  Moe was apparently deep in the pockets of Vito Genovese, and he likely shared his profits upwards to the Godfather.  Vito was the kingpin, and his employees were the biggest big time wise guys.  The Genovese family was as powerful as the Gambino family, with over 250 "made men" and a thousand "associates" of which Morris was probably one of the big earners.  That teen market, you know.  It was like taking candy.

How big was Moe?  Big enough to force John Lennon into performing a shitload of the songs he owned the copyrights on, but that is another story.  I am not sure if the Hall of Fame has done an exhibit of the songs Morris Levy owned, but it would be a big show.  At one time, Levy actually OWNED THE PHRASE "ROCK AND ROLL!"   He made Alan Freed an offer, as they say.   

The origins of Roulette records lie in the gambling debts incurred by George Goldner.  Goldner owned no less than six independent labels:  Roost, Tico, Rama, Gee, End and Gone.  Gambling debts Goldner owed to Genovese, no matter how removed he was from the operation, was not a bright career move.  Levy muscled in and merged the whole group of hit-making labels into one.  Roulette. 

From 1959 to 1964, while being backed by the Band under their Hawks name, Ronnie recorded for Roulette.  For Hawkins self-titled first LP, Levon was the only one involved.  The rest of the Canadian contingent hooked up in time for the second Lp. The first album was recorded in New York by Roulette in 1959. A song or two charted, and that meant enough money for the big guys to record another.

What Does Levon, who at the time was barely shaving, have to say about this?  He mentions Morris Levy in his autobiography,  but as a teenager, he was more impressed with the nice thick steaks the mobster served up than he was Moe's muscle. 

"Whatever his reputation, Morris treated us like royalty.  He took us to his new restaurant, the Round Table, a classy steakhouse on Fiftieth Street, where he introduced us to Frankie Cargo, the so-called underworld commissioner of boxing in New York.  That was the first time I ate one of those big New York-cut steaks, bacon wrapped around it, twice baked potatoes, all the trimmings.  Morris told us he wanted us for Roulette, spent a lot of money wining and dining us, and convinced the Hawk.  We signed to Roulette and began to record almost immediately,"

Levon also describes Levy as "one tough cat, and he practically owned Broadway back then."  Also that he was the "Godfather" of the American music business, which was fine with Ronnie Hawkins.  "We can't miss with these cats behind us" the Hawk said.

Tommy James and the Shondells had a similar deal with Morris Levy and Roulette.  Moe basically told Tommy that Roulette was his only option.  ONLY option, got that? In his book Tommy says Moe swiped some 30 to 40 million dollars of royalties from him. Certainly a good portion of that money was fed up to Vito Genovese

By the time Hawkin's Mr. Dynamo Lp was recorded, Robbie was already writing songs and putting his eggs into the Hawkins basket.  This LP was released in 1960.  Who received credits?  Well, it is complicated, and Peter Viney sorts it out HERE, but some royalties went to a shill company set up by Morris Levy under his wife's name Patricia.  Even then, the songwriter made all the money, and if the songwriter was owned by Moe, that meant much of the money went to the mob, not the recording artists.  Levy would plant his name and those of his associates on songwriting credits all the time.  The Mafia should have their own wing in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Levon received songwriting credit on the Lp as well, but I don't think he saw any money from it.   Especially as the disc didn't do as well as the first one.  Stiffed.

In likely Mob-induced desperation, Ronnie tried to catch fire with several new boxes of matches.  Both The Folk Ballads of Ronnie Hawkins and Sings the Songs of Hank Williams were released in 1960.  Kerplunk.  A final try was far better.  The Best of Ronnie Hawkins (not actually a greatest hits compilation, but a pastiche of 1961 to1963 songs with Levon, Robbie, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Brother Garth Hudson.)  In  fact, it reveals the increasingly tight band starting to come up with some ideas which did not require the Hawk.  The fourth Lp,  also owned by Morris Levy,  was Moho Jam and Levon takes lead on She's Nineteen and Farther up the Road.  There were no more Roulette hits for Hawkins. Ronnie went back North to stay and Levon Helm and The Hawks struck out on there own, literally…at once both Hawkins and mob-free!  As for Roulette records, Morris eventually sold the company for $55 million.
Copyright Serge Daniloff 1961

Soon the boys  were kicking ass and getting laid on a regular basis in New Jersey beach town teen clubs but still barely making a living.  Memorable performances of the embryonic Band include the bootlegs  Crang Plaza, Old Shoes, and Port Dover.  They eventually made a few 45s on hopefully more reputable labels, including the Atco 45 He Don't Love You here.

They reveal the best bar band in the business, and it wasn't long before word got to Dylan.  Some say it was questionable blues singer John Hammond who suggested it,  others give the honor to Albert Grossman's assistant Mary Martin.   Bob saw the band and wanted Robbie.  To Robbie's credit, he said "You take me, you take us all" and the rest is gravy.  In fact, the rest is probably the most important ten years of Rock and Roll history.  They stuck with Bob through the Royal Albert Hall shows, The Australia shows…and then collapsed, alongside him, in Woodstock and where the magic heard on the Basement Tapes was created.

NOTES  Levon Helm autobiography  This Wheel's on Fire is HERE and it will teach anyone all they need to know about authenticity and music.  Peter Viney's story on the song writing credits on the Ronnie Hawkins Roulette discs is HERE.  The Band Website is one of the finest fan pages on the internet.  The Wiki article on Morris Levy is brief and his career was not…but it's a start.  He figures in another world as well, and I am writing that story in TIMES SQUARE SMUT.  Watch Morris in pasty fleshtone HERE.  One of the clubs on the Jersey Shore the Band found dates at was Tony Marts HERE.  The Basement Tapes, to my great amazement, have  finally been commercially released by Columbia.  Intestingly Dylan was signed to the label by the father of the blues singer John P. Hammond, who also recorded with the Hawks. 

Top 15 Heroin Abusers Honored with United States Postage Stamps (Useless Internet Lists)


We have certainly had enough of those stupid internet lists.  They are easy to produce, easy to post and designed for only one purpose.  That is to force you to click or scroll through advertisements until your finger hurts.  More annoying than pop-up ads and just as useless.

My internet list is  FIFTEEN PERSONS ON UNITED STATES POSTAGE STAMPS WHO ABUSED HEROIN but you won't find any ads here unless Google force slips some in, which is both something they have been known to do…and their business model. 

I've included not only heroin users, but a few opiate and morphine users to round out the list…I didn't want them all to be jazz musicians. You can look them up to verify if you like. If I had been inclined to use alcoholics, trust I would have had a hundred more to include.

In the old days, and by that I mean about the time Reagan took office, it was a considerable honor to be placed on a United States Postage Stamp.  First of all, there were rigorous standards…notables had to have contributed to the American collective greatness.  Highly competitive contests were run for artists to have the honor of painting the work to be shown.  And yes, postage stamps were limited edition lithographs in themselves.  Fine, high quality prints in miniature.  Now they are just texture free pieces of paper.  One need not lick them either…there is far less DNA on letters today.  I am certainly NOT implying any of the above are not heroic American figures, as they certainly all are.  I just needed a useless common characteristic to make my list go viral! 

Today most United States postage stamps are crap from major U.S. corporations.   Disney.  Entertainment companies.  The post office licenses them from business.  The honor is pretty much gone, as is the denomination.  Stamps are now "forever" stamps, but there is no longer a reason to keep them that long in a collector's album. They are, for the most part, "product" from corporations who already take far too much of our time and money.  I purchased Batman stamps today.  An American hero of sorts, but while they don't say it on the stamp, merely an ad for the next movie in the franchise.