“I was there mate, so I know what I’m talking about.” “Oh really?”
Eddie Cochran and the Summertime Blues
The long, hot summer in the U.K. of 1958 was awash with rock n roll music that blew your socks off: Buddy Holly’s Rave On, Duane Eddy’s Rebel Rouser, Jerry Lee’s High School Confidential… and Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues. Oops!! The latter not even quite right.
Not at all right, it seems. (1)
Le Patron did not – as he wrongly remembered – obsessively play during that Essex summer the London Label Summertime Blues on the portable plug in record player in his bedroom, windows open, whilst his Dad mowed the grass outside, his sister dusted her Wade figurines, and his Mum cooked the sunday lunch. Oh no. He would have lost serious money if he had put a bet on that.
Being there doesn’t mean you remember right. According to the UK hit parades of 1958, Summertime Blues reached its highest position in the British Top Twenty – at Number 18 – on 13th November, 1958. Forget summer. The nights were dark. And the Number One that damp week in November was It’s All in The Game by the rarely remembered Tommy Edwards.
Le Patron is writing about Eddie Cochran as Eddie Cochran died in St.Martin’s Hospital, Bath, Somerset, and so did Le Patron’s Dad, and in a manner of speaking, they both shared the same house too, in Essex in 1958. But first…. The Summer of ’58.
The Summer of ’58
In Rock n Roll legend – as far as the U.K. goes – the summer of 1958 is seen as the final splendid showering of rock n roll. All the American greats were in the U.K. Top Twenty, mostly on the London label (RCA, Coral & Brunswick aside). Buddy Holly got to No 5 in August 1958 with Rave On; Jerry Lee’s explosive High School Confidential made No.12; the staggering Rebel Rouser made No.19 for Duane Eddy in September 1958, and Elvis was there with the Platinum Hard Headed Woman.
Just to take the week in August when Buddy Holly got to No 5 with Rave On: the Everly’s were sitting at the Top with the double A sided All I Have To Is Dream/Claudette, with Elvis snapping at their heels with Hard Headed Woman. The Crickets Think It Over had entered the bottom 20 and was rising, and Little Richard’s Ooh My Soul was in the bottom 20 too. So yes, it was a hot, exciting summer. The Patron played again and again the opening lines of Rave On: “Well-ahella-ahella, the little things you say and do”; Jerry Lee’s blistering High School Confidential which ripped in with “Come on honey, get on your dancing shoes, before the juke box blows a fuse” Or the opening, stunning, mesmerising twangs of Rebel Rouser. Where was that sound coming from?!
It was a far cry from the BBC Light Programme’s Sunday lunch time record requests show Two Way Family Favourites. The closest you might get to the source on that programme was Guy Mitchell, maybe a ballad from the Everly’s, or the poppy Lollipop by the Mudlarks (an English cover of the Chordettes U.S. original). But there was never ever going to be anything that would blow the valves out of their radiogram sockets.
In a small town in Essex in the summer of 1958 listening to Jack Jackson’s Decca show on Luxembourg was the first stop for listening to this electrifying sound from across the Atlantic. (The AFN – (American Forces Network) – signal from Germany was even weaker than Luxembourg’s)
The second way to hear it was to stand in the record booth at the local shop where you could listen before you bought or did not buy a new release. And thirdly, dropping a coin in the slot of a juke box.
So that was the summer of ’58. According to the mythology, it was the Indian Summer of that 1956 – 1958 explosion of American Rock n Roll. Even Le Patron accepted the myth. It didn’t need Don MacLean’s American Pie (1971) to talk about the day the music died (February, 1959 and Buddy’s plane crash). The myth had already been established somewhere around 1964, when Mods and Rockers fought it out on the beaches of England’s South Coast.
But like Le Patron’s dodgy memory, the myth is wrong too. This is the myth: in 1959 Buddy Holly was dead, Elvis was in the Army, Little Richard had found God, and Jerry Lee never recovered from being found out, in May, 1958, that he had married his 13 year old first cousin once removed. And – according to the myth – after that came three or four years of Bobby this, and Bobby that, singing bland bubblegum pop. Rock n roll was dead. (Even Bob Dylan believed this. Years later, commenting on that 1959 – 1962 period he saw it as a successful conspiracy of the WASP majority to suppress the wild, racial elements of rock n roll). Oh really?
Firstly, even if Little Richard hadn’t found God, his recorded music had already gone off the boil. Baby Face, which followed Ooh My Soul in the summer of 1958 was as dire as Tony Sheridan and the Beat Brothers (The Beatles) 1961 My Bonny. Likewise Jerry Lee’s singles by 1959 weren’t as strong, apart from Loving Up a Storm. Incidentally, although Jerry Lee’s May 1958 UK tour was cancelled on the back of the press moral indignation, and the Methodist Rank Organisation pulling the plug on bookings in their theatres, his High School Confidential successfully climbed the Top Twenty to No.12. And Col. Parker successfully issued back catalogue material that always saw Elvis in the Top Ten, whilst he was in the U.S. army.
Brenda Lee, the Everly’s, Roy Orbision, Elvis (out of the army in March, 1960), Ricky Nelson, Duane Eddy continued to record material in the 1959 – 1962 period that were massive hits at the time and are now part of rock history: Let’s Jump the Broomstick; Cathy’s Clown; Running Scared; It’s Now or Never; Hello Mary Lou; Peter Gunn….(2).
And interesting new things were happening in that 1959 – 1962 period. Music was evolving, as it always does. A giant like Ray Charles was breaking into the UK Top Twenty, and like Elvis he took white and black music and melded aspects of it: I Can’t Stop Loving You, Your Cheating Heart, from white American Country music and Georgia on My Mind from the white American Song Book, and succeeded with the black Hit the Road Jack and What’d I Say? Buddy Holly was one of several performers who were impressed and inspired by Ray Charles, and his 1958 Early in the Morning was influenced by the Ray Charles approach. In 1961 Jerry Lee made a rare re-appearance into the UK Top Twenty with his version of Ray’s What’d I Say?
Sam Cooke too was breaking into the U.K Top Ten during 1959 – 1962: Wonderful World, Chain Gang, Cupid, Twisting the Night Away and Another Saturday Night. His cool persona, with the Apollo Harlem showtime routine, was breaking the ground for Stax and Tamla Motown to follow. Bob Dylan would have revised his opinion that WASPS killed off the music because of the racial elements, if he had seen Sam Cooke performing Twisting the Night Away to an audience who look as if they’ve been bussed in from a white businessmen’s convention, Sam getting the sober suited execs. to clap as he does some neat moves, singing “Dancing with the chick in slacks… dancing up and back”. (3. The link to this performance is footnoted below)
So what’s the beef? And what was wrong with Bobby Vee? He cut some good stuff, including with the Crickets. And Bobby Vinton’s Blue Velvet?
O.K. R.I.P the Summer of ’58. Here comes winter.
W i n t e r t i m e B l u e s
When Eddie Cochran joined Gene Vincent on the January-April 1960 UK tour he was no ‘has-been”. His C’mon Everybody had reached No.6 in March 1959, and Something Else got to No.22 in late October, 1959. Gene Vincent, however, hadn’t been in the UK Top Twenty since October 1956,with Blue Jean Bop. At the Bradford concert the thin-skinned Gene got a bit shirty.
BADGERED ROCK STAR QUITS THE STAGE
More than 2000 teenagers at a rock’n’roll concert at the Gaumont, Bradford on Saturday night were astonished when the American star of the show, Gene Vincent, stopped in the middle of a song and walked off stage. His accompanying group faltered to a ragged halt, and harassed compere Billy Raymond hurried from the wings to the microphone to lead a finale in which all members of the company, including a solemn-faced Vincent, took part.
In his dressing room later, the 25-year-old singer from Norfolk, Virginia, explained his startling exit. “Four guys at the back had been heckling throughout the act. I didn’t particularly mind during my fast numbers, but when they tried to ruin Over The Rainbow I could just not take it any more. It is one of the best things that I do and it has been going down well all over the country. I will never play at this place again”
– (Yorkshire Post)
As the tour progressed it was clear the real star of the show was Eddie Cochran. When the tour management suggested he should go top of the bill he declined, as he had a soft spot for Gene. Eddie, it is reported was homesick on the UK tour, ringing his Mum every day, and although he’d experienced cold winters, he wasn’t used to the lack of central heating in 1960s Britain, and that got to him.
When he and Gene finished their last concert in April at the Bristol Hippodrome he hired a car to take him, his girlfriend and Gene through the dark night to London Airport for the flight back to the States. The car crashed near Chippenham, and Eddie died of his injuries two days later at St. Martin’s Hospital in Bath, Somerset on 16 April, 1960.
Gene, and Eddie’s girlfriend Sharon Sheeley, survived. Eddie was 21.
So it seems Le Patron was listening to Summertime Blues sometime in October, 1958, (notthe summer), whilst outside his Dad , after the first frost of autumn, dug over the vegetable patch. Mum cooked the meal in the kitchen and his sister listened to the newly introduced Saturday Club, a lame BBC attempt to “get with it”, hosted by Brian Mathews.
Many years later Le Patron’s Dad no longer worked in a garden. In the early 1990s he died in a dementia ward of the same hospital Eddie died. By then St.Martin’s had no “Casualty” (A&E, Accident and Emergency, as it is now called).
A day or so later Le Patron and his Mum went to register the death at the local Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Whilst his Mum was talking to the receptionist, Le Patron noticed a framed Death Certificate, proudly displayed on an otherwise bare wall. It was the Death certificate of Eddie Cochran. Le Patron looked closer and saw that in the column “Occupation” Eddie was listed as “Entertainer”. It was all so long ago, that Summer of ’58.
It is surprisingly difficult to find the date for the UK release of Summertime Blues. An Eddie Cochran fan site says September, 1958, but doesn’t say when in September. There is also a variation in the highest position it got in the UK Top Twenty. One source lists it as low as 21. All sources indicate the highest position at around 13 – 18 November, 1958. It is surprisingly that if it was released at the end of September it should take 6 weeks to get to no.18 in the bottom half of the Top Twenty.
The bizarre mythology that 1959 – 1962 was a sort of musical vacuum (before the rise of the Beatles, and the British Groups invasion of the States), filled by bubblegum pop, doesn’t stand up to examination. Here are some, but not all, of the releases by the big U.S. names during 1959 – 1962: Duane Eddy: Peter Gunn, Forty Miles of Bad Road, Some Kind of Earthquake, Because They’re Young, Dance with the Guitar Man. Brenda Lee: Let’s Jump the Broomstick, Sweet Nothings, I’m Sorry, Emotions, Dum Dum, Fool No 1. Roy Orbison: Only the Lonely, Blue Angel, Running Scared, Crying, In Dreams, Pretty Woman (1963). Elvis: A Fool Such as I, Little Sister, A Mess of Blues, Big Hunk of Love, Stuck on You, It’s Now or Never, Are You Lonesome Tonight, Good Luck Charm, Return To Sender, She’s Not You, Devil in Disguise. The Everly’s: Till I Kissed You, Let It Be Me, Cathy’s Clown, When Will I Be Loved, Walk Right Back, Crying in the Rain. Ricky Nelson: Travellin’ Man, It’s Late, Hello Mary Lou, Young World, Teenage Idol, It’s Up To You.
The Coen Bros Inside Llewyn Davis – some aspects loosely based on the early life of Dave Van Ronk – might have been an even more interesting film of a person and a time and a place if it had drawn on the story of another, younger, American folk singer. Unlike Dave Van Ronk he wrote his own material and Nick Drake recorded more tunes of his than any other singer-songwriter of that era. The tracks from his one, and only LP, produced in London, are now registering over 100,000 hits on You Tube. His name was Jackson C Frank.
“FRANK, Jackson C (b. ’43, Buffalo, NY) USA singer/songwriter infl. in London during mid-’60s folk boom. Songs covered by Sandy Denny, Bert Jansch, Fairport Convention; Frank himself made only one LP Jackson C Frank; ’65, reissued ’78: cult classic prod. Paul Simon, second guitar played by a young Al Stewart; incl. best known song ‘Blues Run The Game’ (world-weary gem of genre), eight other originals. Regular feature on folk club circuit; once shared flat with Denny, Simon, Art Garfunkel; began work on second LP ’68 but never completed it. Said to have been badly injured in fire at Woodstock home. Jansch called him ‘as influential as Bob Dylan’ in mid-’60s; evidence of album suggests great ability unfulfilled.“
– unattributed entry in Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, First Edition, 1990.
He’d caught a boat to England in early 1965, and it was briefly in England that he made his mark. By the mid 1970s, back in the U.S., he had virtually disappeared off the scene and his life became a sad and tragic decline. He died in near obscurity in 1999. This is a recollection of those autumn months in 1965 that were leading up to the release in December of his CBS album, produced by Paul Simon, and beyond into the early summer of 1966, when Jackson moved out of his Twickenham, London flat, possibly to be with Sandy Denny.
In 1965 in Britain women still wore stockings and suspender belts. Men had to buy condoms in gents barbers shops. Tears was the biggest selling hit single, sung by the north of England comic Ken Dodd. The National Anthem was still played at the end of the pictures and Le Patron was shouted at, after watching Judy Dench in Four in the Morning, for not standing still as it played, as he made his way to the exit. (In anticipation of the National Anthem most cinema goers quickly shuffled out of the fire exit doors into the street, or the foyer, as the credits rolled, whilst some women discretely headed for the Ladies to re-arrange their underwear after two hours of snogging and groping in the back row).
And an American, Jackson C Frank sailed on a boat to England to buy a 1952 Bentley, a long wheel base Land Rover and an Aston Martin DB5. He also brought a Martin guitar with him, and Katherine Henry his girlfriend came too. (Well… that’s the Wikipedia version, and that of some other potted biographies.)
In the U.S. in 1965 the Democratic Party government sent 50,000 troops to Vietnam, as American involvement increased from USAAF bombing and reconnaissance. In the American South civil rights activists were killed by white supremacists, and in the Watts area of Los Angeles, in August 1965, 28 people died in race riots.
The biggest film of the year was Mary Poppins, making more money than the other big 1965 hit film, Sound of Music, both featuring Julie Andrews. Dr Zhivago with Julie Christie and Omar Shariff was popular too. The Beatles second feature film – in colour – Help! had come out that summer. Clint Eastwood, the former TV cowboy, was having his second significant big screen outing in For a Few Dollars More (A Fistful of Dollars had been released in 1964). Away from the mainstream there were interesting films such as Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, exteriors edgily shot in the streets of South Ken, and Michael Caine was on the ascendency in The Ipcress File, a year before 1966’s Alfie.
But still you needed to go into a gents hairdressers to furtively buy condoms (and not get a haircut). And Levi jeans were hard to find (and expensive).
Jackson C Frank’s black Bentley saloon, his dark green Land Rover, and silver Aston Martin DB5 were parked outside 50 Cole Park Road, St Margarets, Twickenham. Cole Park Road was a leafy suburban road of mostly large detached houses, built in the interwar period on the fields of Middlesex, an area that soon became known as south west London.
Jackson could have flown into Heathrow, just a few miles to the north north-west of Twickenham. (Also built, after the Second World War, on the meadows of Middlesex.) Pan Am had started the first regular New York – London Heathrow flights in 1958. Jackson could have afforded the flight.
When he was ten he was attending a school in Buffalo, New York.
“The brand new school was made out of brick but it had a wooden annexe that was used for music instruction. It was heated by a big furnace. One day during music lessons the furnace blew up. I was almost killed on that day. Most of my classmates were killed. I spent seven months in hospital recovering from the burns.” (Quoted in CD liner notes by Colin Harper, Jackson C Frank, Blues Run the Game, “Expanded Deluxe Edition”, 2003)
In 1964, at the age of 21 Jackson was entitled to the insurance payout from the fire: $110, 500. He and a friend headed for Toronto, Canada, spending as they went “… I bought a Jaguar straight out of a showroom.” Returning to Buffalo he decided to catch a boat – and not take the plane – to England, in April 1965.
Jackson’s life around this time is not – it seems – quite as Wikipedia, and some other sources, report. He did catch a boat – the Cunard Queen Elizabeth – from New York to Southampton, but it was in February, and not April. And the reason he bought a ticket was because his girlfriend of two years, Katherine Henry, was looking for a way to get out of the relationship. Unable to say she was calling it off, she booked a ticket to escape to England. But when Jackson found out, he booked a ticket too. She still found it difficult to say “It’s off”, and she recalls they spent a lot of the Queen Elizabeth journey in one of the onboard bars, drunk. She told her story in 2009 to Andrew Male in Mojo 186. (1)
They stayed in the The Strand Palace, which she recalls was across the road from the Savoy, where Dylan had stayed. They lived in Twickenham, until she returned to the U.S. in June 1965, to have an abortion. Jackson accompanied her. She didn’t come back. Jackson did. She said she found his intensity, his imagined slights too heavy. She says there was an element of paranoia – centred on Jackson imaging that she was only interested in him because of his insurance money – that was not easy to deal with. But they had some good times, too. She described their few months in Twickenham as pretty domesticated. They occasionally went off on a trip, once to Whitby on the Yorkshire coast.
At some point they met Tom Paxton, who was also over from the States, with his wife and living in London. Paul Simon was another young singer songwriter who had arrived in London in 1964. There was a lively folk club scene in Britain particularly in London. Besides the traditional folk scene, there was an emerging folk new wave of interesting guitar stylists and singer-songwriters. Davy Graham’s Folk Blues and Beyond had been issued on Decca in January 1965, and Bert Jansch had his first LP out on Topic by the Spring. There is no indication of where Katherine and Jackson were living those few months together in Twickenham. But when Fan, Pussy, Sue and Doreen moved into the ground floor of 50 Cole Park Road in September, 1965, for the second year of their teacher training at the nearby all female Maria Grey College, Jackson was living upstairs with a young English woman called Caroline, and the three cars were parked outside. No biographies of Jackson mention Cole Park Road, or Caroline.
Up until the summer of 1965 Jackson was an unknown singer-songwriter. Although he’d played with friends in Buffalo he was reportedly training to be a local journalist when he received his insurance pay-out. Katherine recalls that when she moved back to the States she heard that he had started playing a lot more in folk clubs: her leaving him had broken the couple cocoon the two of them were in. Although shy, he started playing regularly at Les Cousins, and other London folk clubs. He started to be a face on the scene.
He seemingly would give visiting American folkies – including Dave Von Ronk – a drive around London in one of his cars.
Although he had been known to have been singing traditional folk material in Buffalo Le Patron speculates that his self-penned repertoire expanded on the back of Katherine leaving him. Catch a Boat to England was possibly written just after they arrived in England, when he was still with Kathleen, as was Yellow Walls, but other songs, for instance You Never Wanted Me, is a cert to have been written after she decided to stay in the U.S. in June. He recorded it in December.
Le Patron first visited 50 Cole Park Road in late September, 1965, and moved in in early November, he and Doreen having begun a relationship. The girls went off most mornings to college whilst Le Patron had already left a couple of hours earlier. He was working as a labourer in the building maintenance section of a slightly dodgy property company, on jobs all over London, from Chelsea, to Finchley to Walton on Thames.
Fan and Kate, after a Saturday shopping raid on Biba’s, Kensington. Yoghurts from Express Dairies.
It was a peculiarity of the time that there was a vibrant music scene in the Twickenham/Middlesex, Richmond/Surrey, west south west London area. Down the road in Richmond the Stones two years before had been regulars at the Station Hotel, and their spot had been filled by the Yardbirds by 1965. The Who regularly played to the north in Wealdstone and there was a regular venue at the Jolly Rogers, Isleworth, with the likes of Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band, and Zoot Money and the Big Roll Band playing in the area. Eel Pie Island, in the Thames, was a fifteen minute walk from Cole Park Road, where Long John Baldry and the Hoochie Coochie Men played, along with visiting black blues and folk artists such as Jessie Fuller. Around this time Sandy Denny, still a nurse, was singing solo in the Kingston folk club, and Maria Grey college that Doreen, Fan, Sue and Pussy, and Kate, attended also regularly booked folk singers.
One Saturday night at the Maria Grey College Le Patron saw a double bill of, first on, a young lean Bert Jansch, and after the interval, Paul Simon. Although it wasn’t a contest, Bert won it by a mile. Bert just played, whilst Paul Simon pontificated and blethered between numbers. He was wearing the “I’m a purist folk singer” halo (he had the neat haircut and the fine wool pullover to go with it) and he got tore into Marianne Faithful for being on RSG (Ready Steady Go) the night before, covering something he used to sing, but she used strings!!! – lush orchestral strings!
It sounds as if anyone in work and earning, and at the age of 20 and into music would be having a rip-roaring time living in the Twickenham area in 1965. But it wasn’t necessarily like that. Besides anything else, even if it did cost two to ten bob (ten to fifty pence) to go to listen to a band or individual, the going rate for an unskilled worker, whether in the building trade, or working in shops or cafes hovered around 5 bob (twenty five pence) an hour. Le Patron was on 5/4d an hour.
A take home pay of around £10 didn’t go far, particularly if you weren’t living at home and having to pay rent. For a single person too, income tax ferociously ate into your gross earnings, or that’s how it seemed when you worked with seasonal students who’d get all they’d been taxed back in the autumn, or aware of what the married blokes take home pay was.
Le Patron was, too, (besides being knackered after work) ploughing the anti-social, introverted furrow at this time, labouring over books on existentialism, and other mind-expanding tomes that he hoped would explain what it ‘was all about’. He enjoyed the company in the downstairs flat, and one of the girls would ask him to do posters for the folk gigs at the college. But like Jackson and Kathleen had been, he and Doreen were in their own couple cocoon, which was no bad thing.
Le Patron had very early on, when asking who the expensive cars belonged to, learned from the girls that an American folk singer lived upstairs, with someone called Caroline. Le Patron doesn’t know what the furrow Jackson was ploughing, but it was a quiet one. He was rarely seen and rarely heard. No sound of him playing, of trying out a new song, no sound of a radio. Very quiet. No creaking floorboards above. No crashing up and down the stairs. The recollection was that he was shy, that he was polite, and he had a warm fleeting smile. You rarely caught a snatch of conversation between him and Caroline upstairs, and they never used the downstairs garden for drying clothes, or relaxing in the sun come Spring and early summer 1966.
Caroline was a southern Home Counties young woman, with the good bone structure, and the quiet air of someone who had been to a girls boarding school (and hadn’t rebelled). And yet, by living with a man and not being married, and living with an American, and a folk singer, even if he had money, was rebellion enough in 1965. She had dark, straight hair, and like Jackson was quiet. In her case maybe it was Home Counties reserve, rather than shyness. Jackson was 22 at this time, and she was around the same age.
As noted, Le Patron was ploughing the anti-social furrow. It would be the girls who would nip upstairs to ask Jackson to sign their copy of his just released LP, or to get a visiting Tom Paxton to sign a poster Le Patron had done for the gig he’d just done that evening.
“I was in London/Richmond/Soho during 65/66. One evening I was performing playing blues at Les Cousins. Al Stewart was also playing that night – and after my set I was approached by the legendary Judith Piepe who asked me to move in with her, Paul Simon, Al Stewart – and Jackson C Frank. For reasons that now escapes me I said ‘No’ – I must have been mad. This was before the album (Jackson C Frank) but after Bert and John (Renbourn) had started singing ‘Blues Run the Game’. I used to hang around Potters Music Shop at the bottom of Richmond Hill where Jackson used to trade guitars. One of my friends bought one of his Martins.
I remember a particular night at Maria Grey College in St Margarets. The star performer was Tom Paxton and I found myself standing next to Jackson in a very crowded room. I was struck by the severity of his scars – and suddenly he turned to me and said that he just had to get out – NOW. It seemed to me at the time that he was claustrophobic – at the time I put it down to the effect of the fire.” – David Freeman (2)
The girls had a party one Saturday evening, either just before Christmas, or just after the New Year, 1966. Jackson and Caroline would have been asked if they wanted to join in, but they kept themselves to themselves. In Jackson’s case, I’m sure out of shyness. Johnny Silvo was there, playing with two others, possibly Wizz Jones and Diz Disley. Le Patron can’t quite remember. A memory of a couple of guitars, one of them possibly a 12 string, and a mandolin. And wearing a bright red Guardsman tunic there was Jeff Beck, the first time Le Patron had seen anything like it. Jeff was there because he’d been asked by a bloke called Bill who was going out with one of the students from the college, and had sung on the chorus of the Yardbirds For Your Love that caused Eric Clapton to decide to move on, and Jeff to become the lead guitar.
Le Patron, during the party, going to the toilet overheard Caroline and Jackson upstairs, leaning over the banisters of the landing, talking about the music: Caroline: What do you think of it.Jackson:Yeah, nice. That was it. Just crumbs of memories of Jackson.
Or the time the front door bell went one Saturday afternoon, and no-one being in, Le Patron answered it. One door bell for both flats. Le Patron opened the front door to two policemen, who were looking for the owner of the cars outside. They wore flat peaked hats, like the drivers out of Z Cars, and a brand new Police Zephyr was parked opposite. Le Patron went up the wide Wilton carpeted stairs and knocked on a door off the landing and Jackson opened it, listened to what Le Patron said, smiled with a nod, and came down. Le Patron went back into the little room Doreen and he shared. And eavesdropped. The little room happened to be the one closest to the front door.
They politely pointed out that two of the cars didn’t have Road Tax, and therefore shouldn’t be parked in the road. That bit over, they asked about the cars, what the top speed of the DB5 was, and all being car enthusiasts Jackson in turn asked about their police Zephyr, was it the latest model….. and so on.
Jackson’s LP was recorded for CBS in their London studio, and produced by Paul Simon. It came out in December 1965, and the girls bought it, and Doreen and Le Patron bought it. Le Patron liked it enough, but emotionally he was too cut off to really hear and feel the intensity of the lyrics. He preferred Davy and Bert’s LPs. As Life is the Great Educator, and not books on existentialism, the emotional power of the lyrics now roots an older Le Patron to the spot, particularly Here Comes The Blues, and Yellow Walls.
In the late Spring, early summer of 1966 the news filtered down from upstairs that Jackson and Caroline were moving out. It became known that they were splitting up. The cleaner reported that Caroline was too good for Jackson. There had been no raised voices, no banging doors. Always the same peace. No fore-warning. There was a cleaner for 50 Cole Park Road, as employing one was a condition on the lease, for both flats. The house was owned, it seems, by a BOAC pilot, who’s austere and unsmiling wife would periodically turn up for a house inspection.
With the girls being at college during the day, and Le Patron being out at work, one day we returned to an empty space in front of the house where the cars used to be, and a couple of tea chests in the downstairs hall with a note to say “Help Yourselves”. It was mostly bits of crockery, and kitchen utensils. Amongst it Le Patron found Jackson’s AA Member’s Handbook for 1965. With its town and city centre maps, and distances between towns, and the atlas, Le Patron figured that it would be handy when hitching, so he took it.
At present there is no note or biographical detail of where he moved to next in London, nor is it clear if he and Sandy Denny moved in with each other. On the latter the probability seems that they didn’t. Neither is it known if Sandy, wittingly or unwittingly, was the cause of the separation between Jackson and Caroline. Or whether, like Katherine, Caroline found aspects of Jackson’s personality ‘difficult’.
The girls and Doreen and Le Patron moved out around late June/July and went their separate ways, Doreen deciding to give up teacher training. By 1967 Doreen and Le Patron had moved to Glasgow, and discovered one or two folk there had heard of Jackson C Frank – and what was to become one of Le Patron’s best friends even had a copy of the LP. The signed copy of the LP that Doreen and Le Patron had disappeared in a squat.
Over the years you’d bump into someone who knew his music, and you’d both ask: “I wonder what happened to him?” Occasionally there would be something on the telly to remind you of him: Billy Connolly holding a copy of Jackson’s LP, and saying how great it was. What happened only started to trickle out on the back of interest in Sandy Denny a while after her death, and the growing reputation of Nick Drake, decades after his death.
The 2003 double CD release of Blues Run The Game ‘Expanded Deluxe Edition’ on Castle, with liner notes by Colin Harper was the start of the wider interest in Jackson. Colin highlighted the role of Jim Abbott who befriended Jackson and found him sheltered accommodation in Woodstock. (3)
The awareness of Jackson accelerated with the CD releases of Where The Time Goes, Sandy ’67, (2005) and Family Tree, (2007) private recordings by Nick Drake mostly from 1967 and 1968. The Sandy Denny material was drawn from albums she did with Alex Campbell and Johnny Silvo in 1967. She was going out with Jackson around this time. She recorded Jackson’s You Never Wanted Me with Alex Campbell, and Milk and Honey with Johnny Silvo. (4) There was an underlying streak of melancholy in many of Sandy’s songs, typified in her most well known tune Who Knows Where The Time Goes, which she had already written by 1967. Maybe that was something that drew the two of them together for a while.
Nick Drake recorded on his Philips cassette recorder his renditions of Jackson’s Here Comes The Blues, Blues Run the Game, Milk and Honey, and the traditional song Kimbie, in the style that Jackson had recorded it. Robert Frederick in liner notes draws particular attention to Milk and Honey:
“The unusual melodic phrasing beginning on the third beat of the measure, the guitar picking patterns, the sense of embracing sorrow and accepting loss, even the lyric references to seasons – all of these can be found in Nick’s later songs. In fact, he could have been using Milk and Honey as a template when writing Day is Done – these two songs are musically so similar.”
Like Peter Green, and Nick Drake, for Jackson C Frank, the blues was not a musical style that you picked up and put down at random. It was not a ‘lifestyle’ choice. The explosion at his school caused more than physical scars. The blues, unfortunately for him, truly ran the game. But like Peter Green and Nick Drake he has given a lot of people a lot of pleasure on a scale over the years he could never have anticipated when living in a London suburb in the autumn of 1965.
And you don’t need to buy condoms in gents hairdressers anymore. Or stand for the Queen at the pictures. And black Americans study with white Americans together in southern schools and colleges; can sit where they like on public buses, and use the same public toilets and eat in the same road-stop cafes.
And Medgar Evers, who Jackson sang about in Don’t Look Back would have been vindicated, and probably amazed at the man currently using the Executive Toilet in the White House.
There’s still the nuclear weapons (East and West) and excursions into other lands by the major former Second World War Allies, still looking after their interests: Russia, the U.S.A, Britain, France…. Oh well. A step at a time.
The two most interesting, and probably most accurate recollections of Jackson in London at this time, and after, are the Mojo interview with Katherine Henry, and a recollection by John Renbourn that Le Patron has unfortunately mislaid, but is online somewhere.
The Le Patron recommended CD of Jackson is Jackson C Frank, on Earth Recordings, 2014. This is the 1965 album. The 2003 double CD on Castle – which includes the album – diminishes Jackson’s work for including material that, with one or two exceptions, would never have been issued if he were still alive and well. And that includes the single version of Blues Run The Game, that few liked when bought back in 1965.
Added January, 2017. Blues Run the Game, a film about Jackson C Frank iscurrently in production, directed by Damien Aimé Dupont. A trailer is here: https://vimeo.com/184539090
3. At the time of writing (May, 2014) the CD is available second-hand at daft prices: £80 upwards! But it is available, or was, as a download from iTunes. The Earth Recordings CD (see above) is available at approx. £8.
4. One of those curious associations, that always crops up, that Johnny Silvo was downstairs and Jackson was upstairs at Cole Park Road, and eighteen months later he is accompanying Sandy Denny singing one of Jackson’s songs.
My thanks to Doreen for sharing her memories of the Cole Park days. And Kate, Fan, Pussy and Sue – if you’re still around – do get in touch.
The post Second World War Memphis Mix was cooked up in the Memphis recording studios of Sun Records, and later, Stax Records, and delivered to a listening world that had tasted nothing like it.
All of Sun’s well-known recording artists were deeply influenced by black music, and mixed with black musicians. (see Elvis in Photography). Rockabilly redneck Charlie Feathers hung out with blues man Junior Kimbrough.
Both black and white grew up in a segregated world in Memphis in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the blacks on the receiving end of the segregation. But usually the food they favoured knew no racial boundary.
Following the assassination of Martin Luther King in Memphis, on April 4, 1968, polarisation took place, or was enforced, between musicians who had worked together, whether black or white. The polarisation happened at Stax Records where threats were indirectly made towards the white half of Booker T and The MGs: Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn. Though not from Memphis or Tennesee, the times were caught in Lousianna born Tony Joe White’s song Willie and Laura Mae Jones. Time did heal, and Jerry Lee Lewis and Charlie Rich were photographed at their pianos, either side of B.B.King at a concert at the Holiday Inn in Rivermont, Tennessee in the 198os
The Junior League of Memphis Cook Book, 1952 edition that Le Patron came across is a well used copy. The dedication in the copy was to Shirley, in June 1954.
June, 1954. This was just a month away from truck driver Elvis Presley being paired up with The Starlight Wranglers guitarist Scotty Moore and bass player Bill Black by Sam Phillips, who was looking for a new pop sound. It is reported that Bill and Scotty weren’t too impressed with the vocal quality of the young Elvis. There were some rehearsals, and then they went into the Sun Studios on 5 July to try some songs out. Singing country numbers at the usual slow tempo didn’t impress anyone too much. So they all took a break. The famous break. Elvis seemingly started “fooling around” in the studio with an Arthur Crudup blues number That’s Alright Mama. Sam’s commercially tuned ears twitched, and he got Scotty and Bill to pick up their instruments and follow what Elvis was doing, whilst he wound the tape back. Things were suddenly falling into place. They gave some other material the same treatment, including taking the country standard Blue Moon of Kentucky out for a scorching hot rod ride. And history – oh boy, what history – was made.
We know that Elvis particularly liked a peanut butter and banana sandwich, with or without some bacon. He also liked pork chops, cheeseburgers, mashed potatoes and fried chicken. He also liked grape jelly and milkshakes. His liking for fried chicken echoed the Memphis and State of Tennessee liking for the dish. Shirley gives the Fried Chicken recipe three ticks, her highest accolade.
Maybe as a starter she’d serve another three ticks recipe:
To finish the meal off she could serve another of her three ticks favourites: Southern Pecan Pie.
She didn’t tick Gumbo or Ribs, but here they are anyway.
Barbecue cooked meat is a Memphis favourite, with several highly rated restaurants specialising in the cuisine. In fact Memphis also hosts the annual World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest every May. As the Wikipedia entry on Memphis highlights, Memphis barbecue is distinct by the sole use of pork, rather than beef, with a focus too on shoulder and rib cuts.
Elvis did not wax lyrical in the Sun or RCA recording studios about his peanut butter and banana sandwiches, but he did sing about a Southern staple, polk salad, in Polk Salad Annie, written by the previously mentioned above Tony Joe White.
When Le Patron came across the Junior League of Memphis 1952 Cook Book he searched hopefully through the list of recipe contributors:
No. No Mrs Vernon Presley, no Mrs Bill Black or Mrs Scotty (Winfield Scott) Moore. There are Phillips, yes, but no Mrs Sam Phillips, and there is a Kimbrough, but it is doubtful if the Junior League of Memphis in 1952 had many, if any, ladies from the black community. There is no Mrs Jim (or James) Stewart – Jim Stewart, founder of Stax records. Never mind.
The Junior League is still very much in business and A Sterling Cookbook: the Best of the Junior League of Memphis is a collection from fifty years of their Cook Books. Details of the book and current activities of the Junior League are available Here
Davy Graham, Anita O’ Day, Art Pepper and All The Sad Young Men
If you were born in Britain around 1945, and found yourself seriously questioning the values and beliefs of those around you, there was a reasonable chance you would end up a Beatnik. Your clothing, if you were a bloke, was a donkey jacket, or an ex-Royal Navy duffle coat, ex-Royal Navy submariners sweater (bought Mail Order from Lawrence Corner, off the Euston Road, north London, advertised in Exchange & Mart), a pair of jeans, and in summer, sandals. Sticking out of your donkey jacket pocket was a paperback copy of Colin Wilson’s ‘The Outsider’, or a heavy-duty Dostoyevsky novel. And you wore a Ban-the-Bomb badge. (Some of us intellectual ones insisted on calling it a CND badge as ‘Ban-the-Bomb’ sounded too vulgar!).
Sound-wise, you listened to Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Joe Harriott’s ‘Indo Jazz Fusions’, John Lee Hooker and an obscure American folk singer called Jackson C Frank. You were also hip to what the Beatles were doing and clocked the social commentary and sense of young adult social frustration from the Kinks and the Animals. And then there was this amazing L.P: ‘Folk, Blues and Beyond’ by a bloke called Davy Graham.
Unwittingly, the LP hit the spot for those who were into folk, or jazz, or blues. This was no clever record company programming: this was Davy Graham, who’s acoustic guitar style was unlike anything else heard before, and who’s taste was as a wide musically, and as immaculate as you could imagine. He was also a pretty sharp dresser, with the narrow straight trousers and Chelsea boots. You poured over the liner notes, written by the record’s producer – Ray Horrocks – looking for clues. So he’s into Henry Miller, well that figures. Cool. But I’m not so sure we said Cool, quite like that, in those days.
One stand out song, for Le Patron was ‘Ballad of the Sad Young Men’. This was not a self-pitying whine, but a touching observational number. The liner notes said it came from an 0ff-Broadway show. Thanks to the Internet – 48 years later – the details can now be filled in. The show was ‘The Nervous Set’, that ran for a paltry twenty-three performances. Luckily Columbia Records recorded the show and issued a L.P. The music was by Tommy Wolf. The lyrics were written by Fran Landesman, an American who was a small part of the American Beat scene. She and her husband Jay moved to Britain in the early sixties. Jay had high ambitions to make it in the “alternative” scene. His talent lagged significantly behind his ambition. The talent, as such, lay with Fran. It is reported that once in Britain, she wrote lyrics for, amongst others, Georgie Fame. Le Patron has gone though his Georgie Fame L.P’s, including the ‘The Two Sides of Fame’ through to ‘That’s What Friends are For’ and can find no trace. But ‘Ballad of the Sad Young Men’ would have been an ideal track for Georgie Fame to record. The song has the same wistful and sad qualities of his 1966 cover of Billy Stewart’s ‘Sitting in the Park’, and of ‘C’est La Vie’ and ‘Guess Who I Saw Today’, which he has also recorded.
And here was Davy Graham recording ‘Ballad of the Sad Young Men’ in London in 1964, produced by Ray Horrocks, who up until then, and afterwards, specialised in Military Band recordings, and Scottish singers such as Kenneth McKellar and Moira Anderson.
The jazz singer Anita O’ Day’s 1962 Vogue Album featured the song too.
By her usually exquisitely high standards, to Le Patron’s ear the album and her reading of the song are disappointing. Unusually for her, she sounds detached from the band. As it turns out, she was detached from the band, but she says she was happy with the result. She was living on the West Coast at the time.
“The weirdest session”, she wrote, “came after Norman (Granz) had sold out to MGM records. All the Sad Young Men was arranged and conducted by Gary McFarland. John (John Poole, her drummer), and I were waiting for tickets to go to New York to do the session when one day, the mailman delivered a letter and a package. The letter said that in the package I’d find the finished product plus my parts. John played the tapes from dawn till midnight while I studied the charts. One place it said “ad lib”. That was it – nothing about notes against chord and time, just ad lib. I didn’t think I could pull it off, but we listened and listened. On the appointed day, I went to the Sunset Studios, stood on a box in front of a stand that held the charts, and sang into the mircophone to the music that came out of boxes on the wall. Would you believe it turned out well?”
– quote from High Times, Hard Times, Anita O’ Day with George Eells.
There were some classy musicians in that band, including Herb Pomeroy, Bob Brookmeyer, Phil Woods, Zoot Sims, Hank Jones and Mel Lewis.
Alto saxophonist Art Pepper also featured Ballad of the Sad Young Men, on his 1977 album No Limit.
Like Anita O’ Day, and to a lesser extent, Davy Graham, he’d had years of heroin use when he came to record No Limit. He’d spent four extensive periods in jail because of the use of heroin, a criminal offence in the U.S. post-war. Anita O’ Day had also done time, but for possession of marijuana. When William Claxton took the photo of Art, above, in 1956 he’d just been released from his first two year prison sentence. Claxton notes that on the photo session Art was feeling very ill, and was waiting for his ‘connection’. The venue for the shoot was a road in Hollywood that had been used by the Keystone Cops in the Silent Film days.
By the 1970’s methadone had helped him, and he was in a well-regarded ‘comeback’ period of performing and recording. However, on No Limit, his playing of Ballad of the Sad Young Men is fragile. It is like listening to the equivalent of an unsteady man on a high wire, who any minute you anticipate – with trepidation – will fall off, as he wobbles, steadies himself, pauses, and then continues. And the pattern is repeated until somehow he makes it to the safety of the wire’s end. The fragility, unintentionally, matches the pathos of the song.
The guitar playing on Davy Graham’s version, apart from the introduction, is subdued. He omits the verse about “the tired little girl, trying to be gay for a sad young men”, but the rest is there: “All the sad young men, choking on their youth…. drinking at the bar… autumn turns the leaves to gold, young men are growing old…” His sometimes criticised voice – ‘thin’ is the usual observation – like Art Pepper’s fragility – adds to the pathos of the song. This fragility, almost flatness, was how the character Jan, played by Tani Seitz, performed the number in the original off-Broadway show. Davy’s version is Le Patron’s favourite.
Sources: Recordings Folk, Blues & Beyond, Davy Graham; All the Sad Young Men, Anita O’ Day and No Limit, Art Pepper are all currently available on CD. Original vinyl copies of Folk, Blues and Beyond turn up on ebay. At the time of writing, a MP3 download of the original 1959 cast recording of The Nervous Set is available from Amazon.com, but is not listed at Amazon.co.uk.
Sources:Books High Times Hard Times, Anita O’ Day with George Eelss, Limelight Editions, New York, 1989. The Art Pepper photo is included in the highly recommended William Claxton photo collection Jazz Seen, William Claxton, Taschen, 1999. Both books are still in print.
V E I R D B L U E S Postscript Following up the scant details on the back of the original Folk, Blues and Beyond album can take you places you don’t expect. The credited engineer on the album is Gus Dudgeon. He went on to produce a number of early Elton John albums. As a young lad, Elton had been befriended and helped by Long John Baldry. Long John Baldry and Davy Graham knew each other from the early 1960’s. Around 1975 Le Patron saw Long John Baldry, and an unannounced Davy Graham performing in a function room above a pub in East Ham, London.
Another name on the back of the Folk, Blues and Beyond album is the cover photo credit: Crispian Woodgate. It turns out, following an internet trawl and following up oblique references, that Crispian Woodgate, was, years later, a regular drinker in a north London pub that was a local of Suggs, of Madness. Suggs reports that one day he went back to Crispian’s gaff and was “blown off my socks” to see the photo original of the Folk, Blues and Beyond cover. The reason? Suggs says in his Blog that Davy was “a singer I had liked immensely since the age of eleven”. Suggs was eleven in 1972, seven years before he and Madness burst onto the scene with One Step Beyond. When Crispian died, Suggs was at the funeral.
Ray Davies of the Kinks went one better: he was at Davy Graham’s funeral, in 2008. This extraordinary fact was revealed in an interview with the London Evening Standard, January, 2013. When asked who his favourite musician was, he didn’t hesitate: Davy Graham. Seemingly he knew Davy from the early sixties.
The Davy Graham/The Ballad of The Sad Young Men/Fran Landesman link could go on forever: Saxophonist Phil Woods, who was on the 1962 All the Sad Young Men album, and Georgie Fame, who it is said Fran Landesman wrote lyrics for, were together years later on Georgie’s Me and the Blues album (Go Jazz records, 1992). Then there is the fact that the writer Julie Burchill married Fran Landesman’s son Cosmo Landesman…..
And did Julie Burchill have a view on Davy Graham? No – stop, stop! Enough! Enough!
( “The Doctor will see you now, Mr Grafton“……
“No, wait nurse – I’m trying to work out the Davy Graham influences in One Step Beyond.”
No, please. I haven’t found out who the drummer was on Folk, Blues and Beyond. Danny Thompson was on bass..
Where is the King? Photo books celebrating 150 years of the Art of Photography, published around the time that the Twentieth Century was on the way out, were noticeably lacking one photo – that of Elvis.
These books had photos of not quite a King – Edward 8th – always taken with his American wife. (The photographer Phillipe Halsman had them jumping – his trademark shot – in their stockinged feet). Then there was the not-quite-an-artist Andy Warhol who repeated his 15 minutes of ‘fame’, every fifteen minutes, for 15 years, usually with a photographer on hand.
But Elvis? Yes, there were nods to popular culture – Marilyn Monroe, for instance shot by Eve Arnold on the set of The Misfits. But Elvis? True, his manager ‘Colonel’ Parker tightened the reigns on unofficial exposure to Elvis by autumn 1956, including photographic exposure, but that can’t be the only explanation.
A New Star in the Galaxy
By the time RCA had released his first single with them in early 1956 ( having been signed from Sam Phillip’s Memphis Sun label) the King had not so much as arrived, as exploded in the North American white popular culture cosmos. White audiences had never seen sexual gyrations like it, let alone heard a style of music that blended country and rhythm and blues or was pure rhythm and blues, such as Hound Dog (released shortly before the Independence Day Memphis show, above).
Elvis’s incendiary sexuality caused kittens for the nationwide Steve Allen TV show and its sponsers. To neuter him for the white TV audience Elvis had to perform in a suit and and tails, with a basset hound wearing a top hat on a pedestal, as Elvis sang Hound Dog. The show had a higher rating than Ed Sullivan’s, who allegedly had said he would never have Elvis on his show. After being knocked off the Number One perch by Allen (and Elvis), he relented.
Two days later Elvis was back home in Memphis. When Elvis took the stage on July 4, 1956 at the Independence Day show at the Memphis Russwood Stadium he told the 14,000 people at the show: “I’m gonna show you what the real Elvis is tonight”. And he let rip.
The White Supremecists were incensed at his “Nigger music” (in Alabama they went on TV to protest at everything Elvis stood for, using the above phrase). In Florida a Judge banned Elvis from gyrating whilst in venues within the jurisdiction of the Judge.
The White Supremicists were right to be alarmed.
Two years after his death, the book Elvis ’56: In the Beginning was first published. It was packed with intimate photographs of Elvis taken by freelance photographer Alfred Wertheimer, with a commentary by him to the photographs, and the circumstances in which they were taken.
Alfred had been contacted by the Pop Division of RCA records in March 1956 to take some shots of Elvis. Liking what they saw from the first batch he was contracted to continue shadowing Elvis (with a Nikon S-2 camera) through to the July 4 concert in Memphis. In his forward Alfred reckons that by the time that Elvis appeared on of the Ed Sullivan show in September, 1956 the Colonel was having his way with increasingly isolating Elvis from the impromptu and un-authorised contacts Elvis had with the media.
Luckily, Elvis wasn’t always taking notice and the Colonel couldn’t be everywhere at once. Because of this, in addition to Alfred Wertheimer’s intimate photographs of Elvis we have the stunning photos of him, arms around some of the cream of the black r & b, ballad, and doo-wop scene, taken by Memphis based Ernest C. Withers backstage and on stage at an all black concert for an all black audience (segregation was still a reality in 1956) at the Memphis Ellis Auditorium, December 6 – 7.
It is unclear in The Memphis Blues Again, the collection of Ernest C. Withers photos of local and visiting black artists, from the early 1950’s through to the 1980’s, whether the photos taken of Elvis having a ball were published locally or nationally at the time. It is doubtful. The Colonel would certainly have spiked them. As Ernest C. Withers comments “Elvis was young and he was not chaperoned by Colonel Parker and them around black people…” but he goes on to say that was soon to change.
Ernest’s photos show Elvis on stage with Rufus Thomas, and backstage hanging out with Junior Parker, Bobby Blue Bland, Brook Benton, B.B.King, amongst others. Also on stage were The Moonglows, and Ray Charles.
That early December – just after Thanksgiving Day – was some week: December 4, two days before, Elvis dropped in on Sam Phillips cramped studio and caught Carl Perkins trying some ideas out, with Jerry Lee Lewis on piano. Always with an eye for publicity Sam Phillips rang up Johnny Cash and got him to drop by for a Photo Opportunity: The Million Dollar Quartet was what it became known as.
And yes, the White Supremecists were right to be outraged. Here was a white boy crossing the line, against a background of segregation in the South and the fight back from a concerted black Civil Rights movement. In less than a year – 1957 – there was a stand-off between the Arkansas State and the Federal Government over integration in the classroom. In September of 1957, to enforce de-segregation President Esienhower had to send in the US Army 101st Airborne Division to escort what were known as the Little Rock Nine black high school students into the High School. At the time, in the Billboard R & B charts the second only ever white singer was Number One: Jerry Lee Lewis with Whole Lot of Shaking Going On. (Four years later Jimi Hendrix did time in the 101st Airborne).
Jerry Lee had also crossed the line. In 1956, the year of these revealing photos, Elvis had been the first ever white artist to make it into the Billboard R & B charts, with Hound Dog, a hit amongst the black record buying public when released by Big Mama Thornton in 1953, written by the white duo Leiber and Stoller. In 1956 Elvis was in the R & B company of black artists including Ray Charles, Little Richard, Bill Doggett, Shirley & Lee and Fats Domino.
At every level Elvis was one of the most significant ‘phenomena’ in the United States, and his impact and influence, in music and/or style eventually permeated large parts of the Globe. He was and remains the undisputed King. And his picture in Photo Anthologies? Absent. Why? A Cultural Stitch-Up? Not consciously, but many of those assembling the photos wouldn’t even think to include him. There are, however, a lot of other significant musical Royalty and Aristocracy missing, who also had a huge impact on racial relations within the United States. Without them, a recent commentator has suggested, Barack Obama may never have made it to the Whitehouse.
King Oliver, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Earl Hines… All missing. But there is a King Edward (not to be confused with the potato that was named after his grand-father), and there is a minor artist called Andy Warhol in these anthologies. Never mind. There is one photo book collection that does include a snap of Elvis, by Bill Ray. It isn’t an anthology of 150 years of photography, but it’s the one book of photographs Le Patron would have above all others: The Great Life Photographers.
Notes & Sources Elvis ’56 by Alfred Wertheimer is still in print, and sold in the US with a different cover to the UK 1994 edition. Also still in print is The Memphis BluesAgain, by Ernest C. Withers. Ernest C. Withers was one of the foremost photographers of the Black Civil Rights movement, and his photographs of that movement have been, over the years, on exhibitions throughout the United States. The Great Life Photographers is also still in print. Many of the great photographers of the Twentieth Century such as Margaret Bourke-White, Robert Capa, Gordon Parks, Eugene Smith, Larry Burrows, are in it.
Note on photo cropping: No photographer likes someone else to crop their photos. Unfortunately the double page spreads of some of Arnold Wertheimer’s photos of his time with Elvis in Elvis ’56 were too large for Le Patron’s photo scanner. He humbly apologises and urges the interested to buy a copy of Elvis ’56 to see the uncropped originals.
Here is a link to a You Tube homage to Elvis and the Black American community: