Welcome to Guitars & All That Jazz

Welcome to Guitars & All That Jazz

Guitars & All That Jazz was a radio station that webcast via Live365 for 11 years, ending in June 2011. The playlist consisted of guitar instrumentals, jazz, big band, early rock 'n' roll, lounge music and classic easy listening.

I hope to share some of this music with you via this blog. Most of it will be taken from the original vinyl (LPs and 45s) , cassettes and the occasional commercially unavailable CD.

Here's hoping you'll find something to enjoy. Please note files are available only for a limited time.

I urge you to purchase the digital version of the albums featured, either on CD or via download, wherever possible.

Listen to the Music
There are now two music streams. Click the appropriate player to the right.
1. Guitars & All That Jazz: Five hours of the best in jazz, guitars and other instrumental gems. New songs are added weekly.
2. Tiki Shores: Music to sweep you away to a tropical isle, a South American dance floor or a bossa nova on the beach at Rio. About 4.5 hours of classic exotica music, Latin rhythms and bossa nova.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Soul Brothers - Horsing Around (single)


The 1960s certainly proved to be a hotbed of dance crazes. The twist, the watusi, the monkey, mashed potato -- the list goes on and on.

Dance records seemed always to be on the charts, thanks in large part to powerful AM radio stations that covered much of the U.S. and network T.V. dance shows like American Bandstand. The countless local dance shows and promotions also played a significant role.

The success in 1968 of the dance instrumental The Horse by Cliff Nobles & Co., a No. 2 pop hit, inspired a raft of horse-themed singles, most of which passed unnoticed at the time and have now been largely forgotten.

Many of these records, like Cliff Nobles's original, emanated from soul labels in Philadelphia. Still others popped up from recording studios elsewhere.

Horsing Around by the Soul Brothers, led by Benny Gordon, came out of New York City sometime in '68. Although the group hailed from South Carolina most of their sessions took place in New York.

What sets Horsing Around apart from the other horse records is the dynamic drumming and the really tight horn section.

Horsing Around



Horsing Around was among the 21 tracks gathered in 2011 for the excellent northern soul CD compilation Dynamic Grooves: Funk and Groovy Soul from the Vaults of Scepter, Wand, Dynamo and Musicor. It's on the BGP (Beat Goes Public) label, an imprint of Ace Records in the U.K., and is widely available from Amazon and elsewhere at a reasonable price.

And here's The Horse that started it all, from Cliff Nobles & Co.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Various Artists - Dance Time (Parliament label box set)


The 1950s and '60s were awash with big band compilations and box sets for those who wished to relive swing's heyday in the '40s.

RCA Victor, Columbia, Reader's Digest and Longines Symphonette were all into this sort of thing, as were the budget labels. Releases on the cheap labels were all over the place quality wise, ranging from unlistenable to surprisingly good.

Parliament, one of the bevy of budget labels headquartered in New Jersey, wasn't known for the quality of its LPs. But the company outdid itself with Dance Time, a five-record box set with excellent sound. I believe this was issued in the mid-'60s. Many of the tracks are in true stereo, which means the recordings must have been fairly recent.

All of the names would be recognizable to fans of swing, jazz and Latin bands with the exception of the first, Paul Fontaine. The only Paul Fontaine I can find reference to in a musical context was a trumpeter with the Woody Herman band in the '60s and later taught at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

He's unlikely to have been responsible for the tracks included here as most are soft dance band melodies. Carolina Moon, for instance, has muted brass and strings, not unlike Jackie Gleason's recordings for Capitol. But the guitar player (not identified, of course) contributes an all-too-brief break and does some fine comping (easily audible) throughout that really set the tune apart.

Carolina Moon - Paul Fontaine



The Dance Time box naturally hasn't had a digital release, although it's possible some of the tracks may have been issued in other compilations. Best to visit the vinyl bins at your local thrift stores as this set is just the sort of thing that's liable to turn up.

Finally a bit about Carolina Moon, written in 1924 by Joe Burke and Benny Davis. Crooner Gene Austin had a No. 1 hit with it in 1929. Thirty years later a version by Connie Francis gained some notice when it was included on the flip side of her hit Stupid Cupid.

Here's Gene Austin's original.



Thursday, September 18, 2014

Motion Picture Studio Orchestra - Music from the Score of Live for Life


Director Claude Lelouch and composer Francis Lai had a very successful collaboration with the film A Man and A Woman in 1966. The film, soundtrack and title song were all critical and popular hits, so it's no surprise that the two worked together the following year on Live for Life.

The title song again was a hit as was the soundtrack LP. The film, however, was less successful, with many critics saying Live for Life was both dull and pointless.

United Artists released the soundtrack albums of both A Man and A Woman and Live for Life. As well the company issued versions of the scores credited to the Motion Picture Studio Orchestra on its budget Unart label. There are of course no credits on either of these LPs, as was usually the case for budget releases.

But these albums by the Motion Picture Studio Orchestra are far from cheap knockoffs. These are fine studio musicians performing great arrangements. The sound quality is excellent. Here's a sample from the Live for Life LP.

Theme de Catherine



For comparison here's the same tune from Francis Lai's original soundtrack. The Motion Picture Studio Orchestra's take on Theme de Catherine is a bit livelier while Lai's original has a a more subdued, classical feel.



There were a couple of other Unart releases in the late '60s that were credited to the Motion Picture Studio Orchestra. One was a collection of film themes of that era and the other was an updated take on the score of Around the World in 80 Days. None of these LPs have surfaced in a digital format.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Les Fingers - Telstar (EP)


Les Fingers was a French instrumental band of the 1960s whose sound was influenced by Britain's The Shadows and to a lesser extent, The Ventures from the U.S.

The group got together in 1962, with Jean-Claude Olivier on lead guitar, Marcel Bourdon on rhythm guitar, Yvon Rioland, bass guitar, and Jean-Marie Hauser, drums. Olivier and Bourdon stayed with the band throughout the '60s.

Many of the tracks by Les Fingers were covers of popular hits or adaptations of folk songs. The EP pictured above was among their earliest releases, coming out in '62. The main attraction was Telstar, a cover of the Tornados' recent hit. Then there is a tune called Les Cavaliers du Feu (Riders of Fire), as it says on the front cover, or Les Cavaliers du Ciel (Riders in or of the Sky), as it's listed on the back.

In any case this does not sound to me like the familiar Ghost Riders in the Sky, popularized in the 1940s by Vaughan Monroe, and revived in the '60s by the Ramrods as an instrumental. The Les Fingers tune certainly bears a strong stylistic and thematic resemblance to the more familiar number, however.

Les Cavaliers du Ciel



For comparison's sake here's the Ramrods doing Ghost Riders in the Sky.



In 2005 Magic Records of France released a double-CD set by Les Fingers entitled Complete 60s Instrumentals. This was available only for a brief period and now commands anywhere from $35 to $80 for a copy. None of this great French band's material appears to be available as a legal download.

Apparently Les Fingers' biggest hit was something called Special Bluejeans. I'm not sure what all the pinup girls have to do with the subject at hand as none of them appears to be wearing jeans. Probably best not to view this video at work.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Lenny Dee - Dee-licious!


Many listeners tend to dismiss organist Lenny Dee (1923-2006) as a purveyor of bland easy listening. It's true that most of his albums from the late 1960s on tend to fall into that category. But his detractors probably aren't familiar with his early recordings for Decca, with whom he signed in 1954.

Dee's early LPs are laced with vintage boogie-woogie, swing and jazz tunes. For instance, his first album Dee-lightful! (1954) contains versions of Birth of the Blues, Little Brown Jug and Sweet Georgia Brown. It also includes his own Plantation Boogie, which made the Top 20 in 1955. Dee wrote the song in honor of the Plantation Inn in Nashville, where singer Red Foley had heard the organist playing and recommended that Decca sign him.

Dee's second LP, Dee-lirious! (1956) includes Chinatown, My Chinatown, Caravan and Twelfth Street Rag. And from the third, Dee-licious!, also released in '56, comes Honky Tonk Train Blues, the famous boogie-woogie from pianist Meade (Lux) Lewis.

Honky Tonk Train Blues



Many of Lenny Dee's early Decca tracks have been released on a pair of double-CD releases from the U.K.-based label Jasmine, Double Dee-Light and Lenny Dee in Dee-mand. Don't pay the inflated prices on eBay and Amazon. Used copies of both can be had for less than $5 from independent sellers on Amazon and elsewhere.

As well, a lot of Dee's vinyl LPs, including the early ones, still turn up frequently in thrift stores and bargain bins at record stores.

To close, here's Dee's only significant chart entry, Plantation Boogie.


Friday, September 12, 2014

The Marina Strings - Love Theme from the MGM Film "Skyjacked" & Other Great Love Songs


As is common with easy listening orchestral LPs there are almost no credits on this 1972 release on the short-lived Marina Records label based in Los Angeles. The company, formed at the beginning of the decade by former MGM Records executive Harold Berkman, bears no relation to the current independent Marina Records label nor to a German label of the same name that specialized in disco and dance music.

Berkman is credited as the producer of the Marina Strings album, with Ben Benay listed as the arranger of the title track. Benay also arranged tracks in the 1970s for Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods, including their hit Billy Don't Be a Hero, Buffy Sainte-Marie, the New Marketts (no relation to the Marketts of Out of Limits fame) and the Ventures.

Skyjacked (1972), starring Charlton Heston, Yvette Mimieux and James Brolin, was one of the in-flight dramas that followed the success of Airport. Skyjack's score was by Perry Botkin, Jr. (Nadia's Theme, Bless the Beasts and the Children). Below is the Love Theme by the Marina Strings.

Love Theme from Skyjacked



Harold Berkman produced another Marina Strings album in 1972, Play the Neil Diamond Solid Gold Songbook, which for some reason came out on a different label, 20th Century. Neither Marina Strings LP has received a digital release.

Here's a track from the Neil Diamond Solid Gold Songbook.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Duane Eddy Wishes James Burton Happy Birthday

One guitar great wishes another Happy Birthday. James Burton, who was 75 on August 21, got his start in the 1950s playing on Ricky Nelson's early records as well as hits like Suzie Q by Dale Hawkins.


Duane Eddy James Burton Birthday Greeting from SongLever on Vimeo.