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The Roots of "Lightnin" Hopkins

Added on by The Vinyl Exam.

Wasup Examiners, it's Sama:

Like many of you, I love reading the liner notes of old blues albums. These tend to be stories written by someone involved in the production of the LP or, occasionally, by a music journalist or critic of the day. The stories are historical, funny, and almost always insightful. And many are worth sharing. 

I recently bought The Roots of "Lightnin'" Hopkins from Originals Vinyl in San Francisco. The album was recorded by Samuel Charters after a long hunt for Lightning, and it was initially released in 1959 on the Folkways label under the title Lightnin' Hopkins. The version I have is a 1965 repress by Verve Folkways and it sounds great. I especially love the story behind this album, so much in fact that I decided to reproduce it here for your enjoyment. Below, you will find the story written on the back of The Roots of "Lightnin'" Hopkins by Samuel Charters. It's a story about finding a nascent blues legend, getting him a guitar, and a bottle of gin. 

It is hard now, looking back on it, to remember that when this album was recorded Lightnin' Hopkins was almost unknown to the folk world. A Few of us who had been collecting blues records had some of his old releases and he had stopped recording, and it had been three or four years since anyone had seen him. A cook in the French Quarter in New Orleans told me that Lightning was his cousin and gave me a Houston address for him; so I made an effort to find him every time I went through Houston. Finally, I decided to hang around Houston until I'd found him. He hadn't recorded for some time and I was writing The Country Blues so it was important to locate him to talk to him for the book, as well as to try to record him again. 

Lightning was going through a difficult period, and he was had to locate. He wasn't working anywhere; he'd even put his guitar in pawn. I slept on cushions on the floor of another collector's - Mack McCormick's - floor and we tried to find Lightning in Houston's Dowling Street section. Lightning was lying very low, and no one told us anything that was of help except a pawnbroker who had the guitar. His files had an address for Lightning that turned out to be a large ramshackle building in the middle of a littered patch of open ground. A small boy sent us from there to Lightning's sister; she sent us on to his landlady, and she sent us on to two or three bars where she though Lightning might be. Lightning still didn't turn up, but we were noticed as we drove through the neighborhood. I had an old green Chevrolet coupe that was easy to identify. Mack had to go to work the next morning, but I went down on Dowling Street, and at the first red light a car pulled up beside mine and Lightning rolled down the window and asked me if I was looking for him. 

Lightning and I talked on the street corner for a moment and he decided that he could do some recording for me that afternoon if I could get some kind of guitar. He had a friend with him and the three of us drove around for an hour trying to find a store that would rent us an instrument. When we finally found an old accoustical guitar in a pawn shop Lightning stopped in a music store for some strings and in a liquor store for some gin and we went to the shabby room he was renting in the back of a small wooden house not far from Dowling Street. I asked him questions about himself as we drove, but he said very little, obviously uncomfortable and very distrustful. Despite this, however, we were able to work together, and we did an album in his room. He sat in a worn chair near the bed, I set up the recording equipment inside the door. Lightning was completely unfamiliar with long playing records and I had great difficulty explaining to him that two sides of a record meant more than two songs, but it had been some time since he'd done any singing and he was anxious to begin recording again. Before he finished he'd emptied the bottle of gin and begun to think back over some of the disappointments and the unhappinesses of his life. He finally seemed to forget that the two of us were in the room with him and the blues took on an emotional quality that Lightning was caught only a few times in his years of singing. I was as tired as he was when he finished and we realized that the light was fading in the window behind him.

For the first few weeks after the record was released I was worried about the response to it! Some of the folk blues enthusiasts I'd played it for had disliked it. They didn't think he sounded like Leadbelly. The blues was still so little known to the urban folk audience that only a handful of self-conscious folk blues singers were accepted as performers. It was the jazz audience and the jazz magazines that first began writing about the record, but they were only a few weeks ahead of the folk magazines, who after their first confusion, realized that Lightning was one of the great contemporary folk artists. I was living in a basement in Brooklyn during that summer and people kept dropping in to see if I had any other pictures of Lightning or any material that hadn't been included in the album. Within a year Lightning had begun singing at folk song concerts in Houston and there were nine Lightning Hopkins records on the market. His career as a folk artist had begun.

I worked with Lightning again a few years later, and we both laughed at the afternoon we'd spent together, as we drove to the recording studio. "Who would have thought it would come to all this," he said, shaking his head. He looked just the same as he had when I'd first met him. He was still as thin, still as intent looking, but then he'd been poor and worried, living in a shabby rooming house, his clothes worn and a little out of style. As we drove to the studio now, he'd just gotten back from a concert tour of Europe. He was going to appear at Carnegie Hall the next night; then he was going to fly back to Houston where he now lives with his wife in a home he's recently bought. He was wearing a fashionable suit and expensive shoes and there was a sense of self-satisfaction and quiet pride as he talked about what he'd been doing and the places he'd played in recent months. In some ways he hadn't changed at all, but in others I felt with his new success he has finally found, at the age of 52, some stability and a new maturity in his life. 

Of all of Lightning's many recordings I still find this one, his first long playing record, his most exciting. There was an intensity to the blues, a freshness to pieces like Blind Lemon's "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean," and a robust vigor to the up tempo numbers like "Come And Go Home With Me." He'd done most of them before for his old 78s, but it had been some time since he'd sung them, and it had been years since he'd worked without a heavy rhythm section accompanying him. He's recorded most of them again but on this first afternoon there was an excitement at finding something in them that he'd half forgotten. It may have been that he was finding something in himself, as well, that he'd almost forgotten, and that was to give his life a new meaning and a new direction at a moment when he'd begun to think that his career had ended.

- by Samuel Charters, courtesy of Folkways Records

I Forgot to be Your Lover

Added on by The Vinyl Exam.

Wasup Examers, It's Sama:

As I mentioned at the end of January, I became a contributor over at the daily music blog "Today's Song Is". Given my love for 60's soul music, it seemed apt that I manage the Throwback Thursday section of the blog. To keep things interesting, I decided to choose songs based on a particular theme each month. For February, I chose the theme of "love, longing, and loneliness", given Valentine's day and all that. It's really not too difficult to find a soul love song, but it is tough to find a song that hits you every time. Below is a run-through of my February posts over at TSI (with slight additions). Let me know what you think.

February 5 - Mad Lads - “I Forgot to be Your Lover"

The Mad Lads are a tremendous group from Memphis. This cover of William Bell’s 1968 soul driver was featured on the B side of one of their later albums, A New Beginning (1973).   

Their hit single “Don’t Have to Shop Around” is worth checking out. It features Isaac Hayes and Booker T doing work on organ and piano.  

February 12 - Barbara Mason - “Yes I’m Ready"

Another favorite tune by the Philly native. Released in1965 on the Arctic label, this heartfelt song was written by Barbara Mason herself. If you are interested in what later became known as the Philly Sound, this would not be a bad place to start.

February 19 - The Notations - “I’m Still Here"

A sweet and wonderful 1971 cut by the Chicago group, The Notations. If you find anything by them, pick it up and give it to me.

February 26 - Kenny and Tommy - “Some Day"

I found this 45 in a batch of records my cousin sent me from her father’s basement in Philly.

What can I say about Kenny Gamble and Thom Bell that has not been said already? These two, with Leon Huff, were the purveyors of the "Philly Sound” and produced some of the best soul acts around. “Some Day” gives you a sense of what these two young producers were capable of; they could have done just as well performing music as they did producing it. It’s difficult to imagine what Philly soul would be without them. For those interested in more, check out the book “A House On Fire”, a wonderful read. 

Let me know what you think of these cuts; do you like any? hate any? have your own love songs in the bag that you think I should share? Leave a comment below or send me a message over on twitter @TheVinylExam. Also feel free to recommend a theme-of-the-month for me to stick to over on TSI. I like a challenge.

Salazar on Somebody Please

Added on by The Vinyl Exam.

Wasup Examers, it's Sama:

Our episode this week was about 2 versions of a song called Somebody Please. In the episode, I played clips from Billy Keene's rather funky version, and from the slow, more anguished interpretation by The Vanguards. Because both versions were released in 1969, I couldn't figure out who did the original, and who was covering the song. 

So I left it up to you listeners to help me out. And Indianapolis-based DJ Salazar reached out with this information:

I was not familiar with the Billy Keene version. This is one of my favorite songs and I believe it’s a Vanguards original on the L & M (LAMP) label written by James Davis who also wrote Can I Call You Baby by The Pearls another Indianapolis soul group on the same label.

I also asked you folks out there to let me know if you find another version of Somebody Please and Salazar pointed me to this great R&B cut by K-Ci & Jojo. It's in the same vein as The Vanguards.

Thanks Salazar for the info, and for listening to our show!

For the rest of you, here's Episode 27 in full:

And Can I Call you Baby by The Pearls is a great, slow-mover too:

In the Soul Kitchen Dance Party

Added on by The Vinyl Exam.

Bay Area people, pay attention:

This Friday marks the debut of the "In the Soul Kitchen Dance Party". My very good friends Harry Duncan and DJ Slopoke have come prepared to bring you something old and something new, something soul and something blue. The two vinyl-slingers will be holding it down at a spot called Doc's Lab, a new club that replaced famed comedy-room, The Purple Onion. I do hope to see your face in that place! 

Here's the info you need:

WHAT: In The Soul Kitchen Dance Party featuring Harry Duncan with special guest DJ Slopoke spinning rare and classic deep soul and funk 45s

WHEN: Friday, Nov. 28th Doors open at 8 pm. Music begins at 9 pm.


WHERE: Doc's Lab, 124 Columbus Ave. near Jackson in North Beach, SF

Doc's Lab, is a new nightclub and restaurant located where The Purple Onion used to be.



Photos from The Payback Two Year Anniversary

Added on by The Vinyl Exam.

Hi, it's Sama:

Ah man! I can't believe The Payback has been going strong at Monarch for two years now! Last night was such a blast. Thanks so much to everyone who came through to celebrate with us and major thanks to DJ Enki and Harry Duncan for playing some outrageous music that made a few people collapse from dance-exhaustion! And my gratitude goes to Manny (DJ M3) for letting me grow The Payback at his club, and to everyone else at Monarch who has treated me so well these last two years. Let's cheers to another strong year for The Payback, the indefatigable all-vinyl dance party!

My dear friends, I hope you dig these photos. I'm so glad many of you were able to come through last night for the celebration.

The next Payback is on August 8. The party goes down every Second Friday of the Month with me and a special guest DJ. See you when I see you! And subscribe to The Vinyl Exam to stay in the loop. I was able to record the live sets last night and I hope to upload those soon!


We are Live!

Added on by The Vinyl Exam.

The Vinyl Exam has officially launched and we have three episodes to get you started right! 

Episode 00: In the launch episode, Keith and Sama talk about why they started The Vinyl Exam and what they have planned for future releases.

Episode 01: Sama produces a short-form radio story from Roby Saavedra (aka DJ Beto). Roby plays guitar and talks about the hassle of collecting 45s and the shallowness of 45 DJs.

Episode 02: Keith interviews Junior from Recordbreakin Music. The two talk about The Mizell Brothers and about the World Cup. 

New episodes will be released every Monday.

Please subscribe on iTunes and take the two whopping seconds it takes to click those 5 stars and give us a positive rating. It really helps give the podcast its lifeblood. Hell, take an extra 10 seconds and write us a review! We'd love to hear what you think of our show

The Payback 2 Year Anniversary Party

Added on by The Vinyl Exam.

It's been 2 years since I launched The Payback, my all-vinyl dance party at The Monarch. Check out the info below and I hope you can make it if you're in the Bay Area.

No Cover

The Payback is Monarch’s very own all-vinyl, all-soul, all-RnB, all-oldies dance night that has been going strong every 2nd Friday of the month. And now, the 2 Year Anniversary party of THE PAYBACK is here! On deck we have some of the Bay Area’s top 45 slingers ready to play some of the rarest, danciest grooves for a full night of sweaty debauchery.

July 11 is gonna be the night.

About the 45 slingers:

Columbo Ahmed (The Payback) is the resident record player at Monarch. Every 2nd Friday from 9:30pm to closing time, he plays nothing but the very best in old soul, jazz, and RnB 45s.

DJ Enki (Oakland Faders/The 45 Sessions) has shared the stage with the likes of Z-Trip, J-Rocc, Melo-D, Kid Koala, Rob Swift, Shortkut, Apollo, Jazzy Jay, Peanut Butter Wolf, Lyrics Born, Brother J (X-Clan), Zeph, Romanowski, Doc Fu and a host of others. He was the main resident for the infamous Money$hot weekly in San Francisco for two and a half years, during which it got named one of the top 5 Hip-Hop weeklies in the country by URB Magazine.

DJ Harry Duncan integrates years of experience as a Bay Area-based live music producer and as producer and host of In The Soul Kitchen, the award-winning roots music radio show, into his dj-ing. Respected industry-wide as an innovator, Duncan spins a custom-tailored blend of all styles of soul, funk, r&b, blues, jazz, roots reggae, ska, Latin, African World music and more.

DJ Harry Duncan has appeared with a wide variety of artists including The Roots, The Original Meters, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Trombone Shorty, Tower of Power, Dr. John, Charles Bradley, Femi Kuti, Tedeschi-Trucks Band, Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples, Boz Scaggs, Madness and The Specials.