Saturday, January 26, 2013

Johnny Horton - Greatest Hits

Johnny  Horton (April 30, 1925 – November 5, 1960) was a great country singer. In Tex Ritter’s 1961 country song, “I Dreamed of a Hillbilly Heaven”, he sang about Hank Williams and Johnny Horton standing side-by-side smiling at him in the heaven. This shows the status of Johnny Horton in the world of country music.

 Johnny Horton’s remarkable singing and story-telling skill help him to open up a whole new world of music – the narrative ballads of American battle history. In fact, Johnny Horton’s best-selling song, “The Battle of New Orleans”, was sold 2.5 million copies. The song was also won the Grammy Award for Best C&W Recording in 1960. I think Johnny Horton must be a pioneer in championing the Blue Ocean Strategy!

I first knew about Johnny Horton when I heard the song, “North to Alaska” on radio when I was in my early twenties. Whenever I liked a song and wanted a copy of the lyrics, there was no Internet for me to google, copy, paste and print the lyrics.  I remember I had to record “North to Alaska” to a cassette tape when it came on air.  I then jotted the lyrics down by listening to the song from my cassette player repeatedly. I think “North to Alaska” was the only song of Johnny Horton I knew before I owned his CD. I finally bought his CD, “Johnny Horton’s Greatest Hits” when I started working in late 80s. That was the sole Johnny Horton CD that I own.

In this album, there are several typical ballads of American battle history such as “Johnny Reb”, “The Battle of New Orleans”, “Sink the Bismarck”, etc. There are also beautiful ballads such as “Whispering Pines” and “All for the Love of a Girl”. And there is “North to Alaska”, the first Johnny Horton’s song that I know.

 “Johnny Horton’s Greatest Hits” LP is an easily available LP in the market. After I bought this LP in October 2006, I have seen this LP for countless times. However, I don’t understand why there wasn’t any other LPs of Johnny Horton surfacing in the market ever since I bought this LP. Every time I came across a Johnny Horton’s album, it was definitely be this album.  

Johnny Horton’s singing career came to an abrupt end when he was killed in a road accident in 1960. It was a great loss to his music fans.

This album was released in 1961.

Song List:

Side A – North To Alaska, Whispering Pines, Johnny Reb, The Mansion You Stole, “I’m Ready, If You are Willing”, When It’s Springtime in Alaska
Side B – The Battle of New Orleans, All For the Love of a Girl, Sink the Bismarck, Commanche, Jim Bridger, Johnny Freedom

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pete Seeger - Freight Train


In my previous post, I mentioned about a folk group named The Weavers. The Weavers was formed by Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, Lee Hays and Fred Hellerman.
I learned about Pete Seeger from my search on Internet about the song, “On Top of Old Smokey”. Pete Seeger was born in 1919. He is a ardent folk singer and an accomplished old-fashioned long-neck, five-string banjo picker. Pete Seeger is best known as the author/co-author of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and "If I Had a Hammer”.
The note at the back of this album describes that “Pete Seeger learned to play banjo the hard way. In order to learn more about banjo picking, Pete Seeger went hitch-hiking with his banjo over his shoulder, looking for the old-time great instrumentalists. He hitched his way through the Appalachians, staying all nights in barns. When he found a fellow banjo picker or a housewife who sang the old ballads he would swap songs and watch and learn.”   
During the forties, Pete Seeger sang with a group of friends called the Almanac. In late 40s, The Almanac Singers was re-shuffled as The Weavers. When The Weavers was disbanded subsequently, Pete Seeger went solo to continue his folk singing career.
In this album, Pete Seeger demonstrated that he could play the simple “Red River Valley” at ease and also the dazzling “Old Maid Song” skillfully. Most of the songs are accompanied by one or two musical instruments, the main one being a banjo picked by Pete Seeger himself.
This album was released in 1964.
Song List :
Side A – T.B. Blues, Dollar Ain’t a Dollar Any More, Careless Love, Bank of Marble, Cayote, Red River Valley
Side B – Freight Train, Old Maid’s Song, Jimmy Crack Corn, John Henry, “Oh, What a Beautiful City”, This Train

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Weavers and Others - Folk Songs

When I was in the first year of my secondary education, besides recess and physical education class, my most enjoyable time in the school was during music class. Although I did not sing well, I really enjoyed the harmonious sound when the classmates sang together.

Reminiscing about the event, I have forgotten why there was a music class for secondary school? It was most probably a noble effort by our form teacher who tried to instill us with interests to learn and improve our English.

I remember most of the songs we sang then were campfire songs and folk songs. There was one particular song that left a lasting impression in me. The song is “On Top of Old Smokey”. I liked this song because it sounded so good when the class sang together. I didn’t care much for the lyrics though.

When I started to collect records, I had a wish list of songs and singers to collect. “On top of Old Smokey” was one of the songs in my wish list. My first collection of the song was Harry Belafonte’s blues version followed by Mitch Miller’s sing-along version. I also have Slim Whitman “Down in the Valley” and “Birmingham Jail”. These 2 songs adopt the music of “On Top of Old Smokey” but with different lyrics. I was delighted to add this “Folk Songs” album that has “On Top of Old Smokey” to my LP collection.

Anyway, this album is not just about this song. It comprises songs from many great folk singers/groups of the 50s and 60s. Two songs from The Weavers are featured. In fact, The Weavers recorded 2 of their biggest hits “Goodnight, Irene” and “On Top of Old Smokey” during the 50s. Another folk singer appeared in this album is Terry Gilkyson. Terry Gilkyson co-wrote “Memories Are Made of This” which was also sung by Jim Reeves and Dean Martin in the 60s.

This album also contains 2 songs that I like very much, “Wreck of Old Number 9” and “Colorado Trail”. These 2 songs were recorded by many country and western singers in the 50s and 60s too.

This album was released in 1964. However, I notice many of the songs were recorded in the 50s. It is an enjoyable folk song album.

Song List:

Side A – On Top of Old Smokey (The Weavers), Black Eyed Susie (Terry Gilkyson), Hey Young Rider (The Ivy League Trio), I Never Will Marry (Tompall and the Glaser Brothers), Greensleeves (Richard Dyer-Benett), Candy Mountain Land (The Gateway Singers)

Side B – Wreck of Old Number 9 (Tompall and the Glaser Brothers), Sweet Betsy from Pike (Oscar Brand), Colorado Trail (The Gateway Singers), Deep Blue Sea (The Ivy League Trio), Billy Boy (Terry Gilkyson), When the Saints Go Marching In (The Weavers)