Thursday, November 24, 2011

Down & Out

After Lonnie Mack's legendary instrumental »Memphis« skyrocketed the r&b and pop charts in summer 1963, Cincinnati's Fraternity Re- cords put together an album which eventually was released (mono only) in October. This LP (Fraternity # F -1014) features all the better known tunes associated with Mack's influential guitar style (»Memphis«, »Wham!«, »Down In The Dumps«, »Suzie-Q«) and some more songs besides.

Lonnie Mack has the distinction to call a very decent Wikipedia article his own, actually much better, more complete and more meticously documented than most other entries on '60 r&b music; over on WangDangDula you also find an exhaustive discography. On the back cover of his LP, Lonnie is credited, by Cincinnati Post's Dale Stevens, with a »lowdown, dirty and twangy« guitar style. But Stevens also portrays him as a »country boy, and I mean back country«. This image stuck with Mack for a long time, and the Output critic John Morthland wrote in 1984: »It was the era of satin pants and histrionic stage shows, and all the superior chops in the world couldn't hide the fact that chubby, country Mack probably had more in common with Kentucky truck drivers than he did with the new rock audience« (quoted from Wikipedia). If you like to read a more recent assessment of Lonnie's music and career, have a look at Greg Schaber's article »Mule Train«, published in the October 2000 issue of Cincinnati Magazine.

The Charmaines (publicity shot from 1966)
There are two tracks on Lonnie's Fraternity LP which stand somewhat apart from the rest. The first of these is »Baby, What's Wrong«, an uptempo adaption of a Jimmy Reed song. This tune (a dynamic feet mover in and by itself) earned its place on this blog by the simple fact that it features The Charmaines prominently as backing vocal group. The Charmaines from Cincinnati were a female trio of 18 year-olds when they won a local contest in 1960 and then were given a contract by Fraternity. More details on their work with Lonnie Mack you'll find in the liner notes to Ace CD # 1135. However, their appearance in »Baby, What's Wrong« remained uncredited on Lonnie's Fraternity LP. Even when the song was released as a 45 in November '63 (Fraternity # 918, shortly entering the pop charts at # 93) it went into the market as a Lonnie Mack release without any mention whatsoever of The Charmaines. Ah-Oom-Ba!

The second song of a somewhat different flavor on Lonnie's LP is the bluesy instru- mental »Down And Out«. Here we have Lonnie Mack & his band (Marv Lieberman, Ron Grayson, Wayne Bullock, Truman Fields and Irv Russotto) moving a long way from their country roots. And they're really into it:

Lonnie Mack (*feat. The Charmaines): *»Baby, What's Wrong« / »Down And Out«
from the Fraternity LP # F-1014 (The Wham Of That Memphis Man!, 1963)

(Both clips from Billboard, November 9, 1963)

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