Frank Gutch Jr: Life at 45 RPM… My Life as a Vinyl Addict; Plus Copious Notes

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I am a vinyl addict. The gateway drug was radio.  When it was riding the crest of the wave before TV came along and kicked it to the curb that wasn’t there.  Before TV which a lot of people thought would be the death of radio, a format already writhing in pain.  You could only get so big and radio was gargantuan— a seething mass of gelatinous goo— an 800 pound gorilla.  By the time I came along, everyone had a radio.

There were radios in virtually every home and in most garages and cars, well, they started coming with radios as standard equipment.  Schools used them for special programs, kids listened in their rooms and families gathered around to hear the latest entertainment served up by the major networks— Fibber McGee and MollyEscape, The Whistler, and many more.  It was the center of my world.  It was where I was introduced to Bing Crosby and Jo Stafford and Hugo Winterhalter and even Slim Gaillard (we named our dog Putsy, which was what our childlike ears heard when Gaillard ran his Cement Mixer).  Man, that cat was cool.

No, we didn’t have the single or 78.  We didn’t have a record player.  But we heard it all the time during some of the evening “record playing” programs (most were of the news and variety genres back then) and we would soon move into a new house at which time Dad loosened his purse strings and bought a console.  To my surprise, Mom and Dad already had a small stash of records and many an evening, rather than listen to network programs, Mom or Dad would play disc jockey and thrill us for  a couple of hours.  Mainly it was old Country and Western 78s, but slowly they gathered 45s until we had more than my little hands could hold.    Not that they would let me.

I remember the records like it was yesterday.  T. Texas Tyler‘s Beautiful Life (an excellent Jimmy Martin tune, and I think the flip might have been My Dad Gave My Dog Away, though I have been having trouble finding confirmation), The Blue Sky BoysTears On Her Bridal Bouquet, Homer & Jethro‘s Pizen Pete, Mario Lanza‘s La Donna Mobile, The WeaversGoodnight Irene, and those were just the most played.  Others inhabited the little holder that Grandpa had made for Momma (the “holder” was a beautiful piece of artisan work which had sliding doors and held 78s in two wire racks, kind of like dishes)— records by Hank Penny and Hank Snow and Hank Williams (Henry must have been a very popular name thirty years previous), Spike Jones, Red Foley, Bing Crosby.  I especially remember a 45 by Hank Snow & Anita Carter titled Down the Trail of Aching Hearts, a song which never failed to send me into paroxysms of inner joy, the chorus a vocal dual lead rather than lead and harmony.

They were eye candy, too.  All of Mario Lanza’s 45s were on RCA Records’ venerable Red Seal Label (their classical line) and were pressed on red translucent vinyl.  The Blue Sky Boys were on translucent blue. Some of the others (The Gospel Harmonaires, Eddy Arnold, etc) were on colored vinyl as well.  Even in the early- to mid-fifties, colored vinyl had an impact.  It didn’t matter much to me, though.  With a very small collection of records to choose from, I worked my way from front to back and then back to front.  No record escaped my grasp.

blueskyboysMany years after I left home, I wrote a letter to the Blue Sky Boys’ Bill Bolick asking if he knew where I could purchase a copy of Tears on her Bridal Bouquet.  He didn’t know but sent me a hand-written letter I still have today.

I would eventually grow out of Mom and Dad’s meager collection and start building my own.  The first 45 I ever owned was Fats Domino‘s Blueberry Hill which I received as a Christmas gift in 1956.  I think my parents regretted giving it to me I played it so much but their regret was short-lived, as a neighbor girl broke it when she sat on it during a visit.  I was crushed but soon forgot about it as rock & roll was finally making a big push all over the country, even making its way into the backwoods of Oregon.  That was, by the way, the Christmas that my sister got her very first record player, a suitcase portable probably from Montgomery Ward or some other mail-order outfit.  We played that poor little thing to death, eventually destroying it with love in the form of overkill.

By the sixties, I was fully hooked and spending most of my available cash (via allowance) on vinyl or at least music-related things.  Radio was going strong, we finally got a TV (which made for many an afternoon watching Eugene, Oregon’s Teen Scene music/dance program and American Bandstand back-to-back on school afternoons).  Bandstand grew in popularity as time passed, but radio was still king— new radio— rock ‘n’ roll radio.  Of course, what Oregon considered rock ‘n’ roll ran the gamut from Lawrence Welk to Chuck Berry to regional favorites like The Fleetwoods and The Wailers.  While the old hometown, Sweet Home, had no real record store, we had access to the occasional rack of 45s in the drug stores and, when all else failed, there was always the (very) occasional trip to Albany or Eugene.  Momma and Dad didn’t mind hearing our records on the whole, thanks to artists who “crossed over,” meaning weren’t too harsh on the ears.  Dad’s biggest complaint was that he couldn’t understand the words.  Neither could we, but we never told him.

Music really started to kick in when I got to high school.  Radio stations were as strong as they’d ever been, some kids actively arguing over which station was best (and which sings were best).  While the rest of the world was waiting for Paul Revere & the Raiders to supply what they would soon recognize as hits, the Pac Northwest was listening (and dancing) to what were already hits— to us.

When Swim hit the airwaves, I was playing in a band called The Survivors.  I think we had two amps and had to drag a standup piano from the chorus room to study hall to play after game dances, but we tried.  Our guitarist, Bill Johnson, was like a kid in a candy shop when it came to 45s.  I remember him one day calling me up to tell me he had just bought the brand new Paul Revere 45 (no one called them The Raiders in those days, which would have been blasphemy— it was Paul Revere & The Raiders).  We spent our next practice needle-dropping Swim until we had it down.  Thank the gods it was simple and short or we’d still be there.

cream

My introduction to Cream happened in college.  That Dorm Guy (a dude who was far ahead of most of us both intellectually and musically) had a subscription to Billboard Magazine and one day, while thumbing through an issue, I noticed “The Cream” at #1 on the UK charts with what I assumed was a kickass rocker (the hype had reached the States even if the music hadn’t), so I ordered it.  Two weeks later, this package arrived, reeking enough to put you off your feed for a month.  We found out that it was Wrapping Paper and that it not only didn’t kick ass, it sucked.  Many years later, Ginger Baker had this to say.

If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that was me (though I could never play drums that good).  Not only could we not believe it was Cream, we couldn’t believe it was #1 in the UK!  That Dorm Guy, though, knew more than did we.  He simply turned it over.  Cat’s Squirrel laid us back on our heels and we altered our tones.  Not everything Rolling Stone had printed was a lie.  (On a side note, it would be Jethro Tull‘s version, thanks to guitarist Mick Abrahams, which would turn our heads a few years down the road)

Think I’ve gotten off-track, that this isn’t really about 45s?  I’m cutting you some slack is all.  The mid- to late-sixties were the real hotbed of 45s and I could bore many of you to death covering my discoveries of the bubbling under the Top 100, as they say in Billboardland.  I found a ton of excellent 45s, many of which were not available on album until later, if at all.  Sean & the BrandywinesShe Ain’t No Good.  Richard & The Young LionsOpen Up Your DoorSouthwest F.O.B.‘s Smell of Incense.  Radio was chock full of hits back then and I lived in the Willamette Valley, home of the best radio in the country.  Why, KGAL alone would put the vast majority of stations of the day to shame. And KASH in Eugene bumped right up against KGAL in terms of extreme airplay.

pplbustinoutBy the time the seventies came around, 45s were losing ground to albums.  And why not?  You could buy an album for the price of three 45s, depending upon the store, and people were tiring of the format.  Being able to sit and listen for a whole side made it a matter of convenience, even if you didn’t necessarily like all the tunes.  Sure, 45s were still around and still sold, but the advent of albums had been chipping away at their numbers since the late-fifties and sixties.  The seventies just continued the trend.  Until….

Until the mid-seventies.  Thanks to a new scene and magazines such as Who Put the Bomp, 45s made a comeback.  Seriously!  The major labels were kicking into high gear, screening bands like crazy (which meant that if they didn’t think you had it, you were shit out of luck, and what they liked then was mostly lame as hell).  As a result, punk bands were kicked to the curb along with a series of what they called New Wave groups.  At first, it looked like the majors were going to make yet another one of their humongous errors, but given time they would cave.  In the meantime, many of the bands started marketing 45s and EPs on their own.  I co-owned a record store in San Diego at that time and we hooked up with Bomp Distribution for access to 45s by, of course, SD bands The Zeros, The Dils, and The Hitmakers.  What came along with those was a treasure trove of gems.  Like:

Small labels started popping up.  Ork Records covered the East Coast.  Beserkeley mined SF as well as signing The Modern Lovers.  Every city, it seemed, had their own local scene,

I believe these guys were the first of the actual Beserkeley artists to record for the label— Earthquake!  The video is long (the full Winterland show) but is worth it for us Earthquake fans.

Even I wouldn’t put this era of Flamin’ Groovies in the punk/new wave era, but a later version of the band was in the thick of it.  This live TV track is pre-new wave but I couldn’t resist posting it.  Man, the things I am finding today!  Blows my mind.

Wow!  Here is something of which I was unaware.  The Zeros did a morning TV gig in San Diego and they mentioned the Adams Theater show which our store, Scratching the Surface, helped put together.  For those who are intrigued by the very early San Diego punk scene, this is rough but it gets better as it progresses.  I had no idea this even existed.

When I left SD for Seattle in early ’78, I fell into a scene up there which was disjointed at best.  For one thing, just as in SD, there was really no place to play.  And I think the kids were so frantic to get a scene going, they scrambled to keep it alive rather than get organized.  The Meyce were gone by the time I got there, Jim Basnight having moved on to form The Moberlys and Paul Hood to The Toiling Midgets.  Both good guys.  I keep thinking, if only…..

I really hadn’t planned on working with singles when I got to Seattle, but as luck would have it, I was hired as the singles buyer.  For a solid year, I scraped through the catalogues looking for oddities and picture sleeves to make the section a step above the norm.  Mostly it worked but there were lulls.  The gods would not leave me totally without ammunition, though, serving up these puppies to brighten the 45 consumers’ days.

Little Roger & The Goosebumps put out a single which had a very short run because Jimmy Page‘s army of lawyers needed something to do, so they sued to have the single removed from market.  I ordered 100 and sold through them fairly quickly.  When I tried to reorder, they had been removed from distribution.  A lot of people in records thought it was a perfectly legal and acceptable move.  I thought Jimmy Page needed to get a sense of humor, the asswipe.  Then again, when you’re a corporation, you let your lawyers do what they want.  Still an asswipe, though.

The first song I ever heard by The Kingbees was Shake Bop and I was sold from the first note.  Their acceptance in the States, unfortunately, was short-lived, so by the time they came out with My Mistake, they were done.  The picture sleeve was kind of cool, though.

When Scandal hit, I thought they were a shoo-in to drag Pop music into the limelight.  For one thing, Patty Smyth had just the right mixture of cool and sleaze and was cute as hell.  For another, their only bona fide hit rocked.  I could be wrong, but I think the first shipment of 45s were in picture sleeves.  Didn’t matter to me if they were or not.  I just liked watching the video.

I don’t know what it is about Pop music but it is perfect for the 45 format.  When Gary Myrick & The Figures came out with She Talks in Stereo, I ordered a stack of them thinking it would be a smash.  Even with pic sleeve, we sold maybe five.  Sometimes the quality of a song does not equate to sales and that was one of those times.  Still I would not have done anything different.  It still screams hit to me.

I thought I’d done a pretty good job as singles buyer when I decided to give it up to become head buyer.  Our overall percentage of singles sales to album sales was high and I walked away feeling pretty good.  Danny Drinkwater took over and damn if right off the bat he wasn’t handed a gift horse.  Steve Martin, riding the crest of the King Tut exhibit traveling around the country, released King Tut.  Danny sold more of that single than I had of all my singles for the last six months.  I never understood why it was a hit but Danny giggled every time he heard it, which was way too many times for me.  I thought the damn thing would never fall off the charts.

That was it, I thought.  By the time I was ready to leave Peaches, singles were a dying animal.  CDs had come in and as much as a few major labels wanted to keep singles around in that format, they failed to catch on.  I left Seattle sure that I would never see 45s again, except those from the past.  Then, Bob Segarini asked me if I would write for DBAWIS.  I had been out of records for awhile and didn’t really know the present status, so at first I was like a fish out of water.  Luckily, I had a long past in records and had a few tales to tell until I got up to speed.  By the time I did, what was staring me in the face?  A resurgence of the single!

I stepped right into the middle of what I am sure is going to be the next wave of collectables.  Artists, probably as much because of lack of funds as the cool factor, are diving in with both feet.  Still, cool or not, a lot of exceptional music is being bandied about as 45 RPMs.  Hell, Seventh Fire Records has a whole subscription program so that you don’t miss out!  You gotta love that.  And here is where I give you a real tip.  Melissa Payne released a 45 on Seventh Fire back in 2014 and it’s a beauty!  Limited pressing, great song, and from an artist who has really been picking up steam lately.  Here’s the video.  You can order the 45 here.  Listen!  It’s outstanding!  In fact, hearing it again makes me love it even more.

I’ve been plugging Charlottesville’s Warhen Records for a few years now, it seems like, mainly because they have consistently excellent product.  Watch this puppy all the way through, then stop off at Warhen’s Bandcamp page to listen further.

My God!  I thought I had a string of labels to mention, even thought I had notes, but if they exist, I can’t find ’em.  Must be a flare up of Mad Cow Disease.  That’s okay.  I’ve given you plenty to ponder and listen to.  Well, besides these, and you know what that means.  It’s time for…

NotesNotes…..  Man, I loved Spirit back in the day!  They had that groove on some songs and that spaciness on others which made them one of the best.  My favorite period was the Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus period but I never got over this outstanding track.  Hopefully, this won’t be pulled from YouTube by the time this column is posted.

Seattle is coming up on the Capitol Hill Block Party and this year Moon Dial will be supplying some of the music.  They have a bit of Oami in them, Oami a band I discovered back in 2005 and quickly adopted.  Both bands have an approach to music which, while based in rock, is fleshed out with just enough jazz to intrigue me.  Wish I could be there.  Dates for the party are July 23-25.  Check the party’s website for the schedule.

If you are unaware, Seventh Fire Records has this subscription 45 RPM thing going on whereby they release a series of 45s and you sign up for them, whatever they are.  I think it’s pretty damn cool, myself, and thought you might like to get a look at what it’s all about.  Kind of.  Keep it in mind if you’re of a mind to be adventurous with your music.

And if you are wondering about this whole Crash Vegas thing, check this out.

Brother Tom Griswold is stuck on this track, off of ex-Zero Javier Escovedo‘s prime City Lights album.  Hell of a song.  Good guy, too.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/121950933″>Javier Escovedo &quot;See You Around&quot; (Official Video)</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user4666852″>David Robles</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com“>Vimeo</a>.</p>

Australia’s Bill Jackson has been burning candles at both ends, promoting his new album The Wayside Ballads Vol. 1 while working crowdfunding for the trip top the States to record Vol. 2 in Nashville with Thomm Jutz at the helm (and hopefully on guitar).  Bill is a national treasure, capturing much of Australia’s history (and attitude) in song.  While not a folkie in the true sense of the term, he has enough of the Bleecker and MacDougal in him to make you think he was there.  Ruth Hazleton, riding high with Kate Burke and their excellent Declaration album, sent me this, just to make sure I didn’t forget ol’ Bill.  That is one whole lotta talent on that stage, the video shot the night of the CD release of Jerilderie.  It’s an album, sports fans, and I have no idea what it means.  All I know is, when it came in the mail, it went straight into the CD player and stayed there for a damn long time.

I will forgive them dirty rat bastards Ransom and the Subset for plagiarizing the title of one of my favorite Pop albums, Tarney Spencer Band‘s No Time to Lose, but I will never forgive them for not dogging me until I gave this album a good listen.  I organize hunting parties to find music like they play— melodic with hooks and harmonies and full-on band sound.  I’m blaming them for my not having written about the album numerous times by now (it was released October of last year).  I have to.  I’m damn embarrassed that while listening to it (yes, they contacted me as soon as they posted it on Bandcamp (click here) that I gave it only cursory mention.  Normally, I would have been bouncing off the walls.  Maybe I was under the influence or something.  But allow me to correct that now.  If you dig Power Pop or even just Pop, either No Time to Lose is for you.  Meaning, Tarney Spencer’s or Ransom’s.  Hell, even famed producer Keith Olsen chimed in with praise, and that counts for a lot with me, he having been involved with The Millennium‘s pop classic album, Begin.  Ach, but I fear the Pop gods will be on my case for this gaffe.

Which is a springboard to a rave about another of my Pop faves, Norrish Reaction.  I mean, I loved this album when it was new and it has only gotten better with time.  Not just Pop, it is a ride through a musical fantasyland I cannot get enough of.  This should have been a smash!  For all the people who want good music, this is it!!!  Thing is, if you don’t at least listen, you don’t want good music.  Here is a video on the making of NR’s album I have posted in the past.  It only gives you a hint of the music on it.  I will not give up on these guys and especially this album.  The music is too good to let it lay.  Watch the video.  If you want to, visit the Soundcloud page and listen to it all the way through, front to back (I recommend it heartily— click here).  Pop a cold one.  Lay back.  And listen!  I can’t think of a better way to spend an hour or so.  I know you know I love this, but let me put it this way.  If I owned a label, I would beg these guys to let me put it out on vinyl.  They already have CDs.  Buy one!

Australia is starting to make quite an impact on music in the States, at least on me.  I have always been fascinated by the ties musically between the States, Canada, the UK, and Asutralia, but lately it has been driven home by artists such as Courtney Barnett, Kate Burke & Ruth Hazleton, Shannon Bourne, and Hannah Gillespie, not to mention one I believe will end up in Australia’s music hall of fame (if they have one), Bill Jackson.  Each has passed along lists of artists to watch and hear.  Each has expanded my horizons.  This week, Hazleton tagged me on a post about a lady named Suzannah Espie, who oddly enough tags her music “Americana”  (I prefer calling it “Australiana,” a term I had read somewhere and adopted).  Listening this morning, I accept Americana because had I heard her blind, I would be thinking America.  She writes beautiful music which could just as easily come out of Montana, Texas, or Virginia and sings it with an American sensitivity.  She has a new song out which is haunting in its application (it is an apology titled I’m Sorry) and has others you can access by visiting her website (click here).  I am always astounded to hear musicians from other countries sing like they were born in Portland, Oregon but talk like they are from another country.  Like this:

It has taken me many years to work my way to Alistair Hulett.  I wish I had found him earlier.  You will hear about him in the near future.  Until then…..

Coloring outside the lines.  The OF do it very well, indeed.  From their Escape Goat album.

=FGJ=

Frank’s column appears every Wednesday

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonFrank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

One Response to “Frank Gutch Jr: Life at 45 RPM… My Life as a Vinyl Addict; Plus Copious Notes”

  1. I have to go lie down now. This was exhausting. PS – Kingbees singer/guitarist Jamie James is from Toronto 🙂

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