Country music legend Ferlin Husky passed away this Thursday. He was best known for his string of late 50's singles including the legendary track "Drunken Driver." The Missouri native got his start entertaining sailors in WWII. After moving to Bakersfield, CA for a DJ gig, he began performing in honky tonks under the name Terry Preston. Reverting back to Ferlin Husky for his Capitol and King LPs, he soon found major success through marketing to the Rock and Roll crowd. Although already in his early 30's, ten years older than the King, Capitol pushed him as a hearthrob type aimed at the youth market through albums such as Teen-Age Rock, featuring his tracks alongside artists such as Tommy Sands and Gene Vincent. After his initial string of success Ferlin settled into a steady country music career with the occasional low budget film appearance. Hillbillys In A Haunted House, Las Vegas Hillbillys and Swamp Girl are his best know films. Although decidely B-level, he worked alongside Basil Rathbone, John Carradine, Mamie Van Doren, Lon Chaney Jr., Zsa Zsa Gabor and Patty Duke. Unfortunately his later years were fraught with health problems but he went out on a high note with last year's induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame. Although the country section of my personal collection is amongst the smallest divisions, Husky's Boulevard of Broken Dreams from 1957 is tied with Miles Davis' Ascenseur Pour L'Echafaud for my favorite LP of all time. Less a country record, more in an intimate pop crooner vein with country flavor around the edges, Boulevard's production is pure tube studio & echo chamber magic from an era that could never be recreated. Unfortunately I can't find any safe links to post a track so I'm including the appropriately titled "Gone."
Last weekend I found myself babbling on about rare 45’s at a dinner party. I couldn’t shut-up, though I think someone other than myself was listening ... Anyway, the subject -- as to be expected in these hard economic times -- was what is the most valuable record waiting to be rescued from someone’s garage. It’s not an easy answer; there are a lot of hoaxes and misinformation on valuable vinyl out there in the serious record collecting world. I blame the recent rise of tantalizing yarns on bored muckrakers and conspiracy theorists having outgrown tall tales of Area 51, JFK, the Masons, and the New World Order as a viable entertainment option. Now they have moved on to Ebay auctions and hobbyists.
More often than not, a record which exchanges hands for an astronomical amount of cash sits in the genre known as Northern Soul, a style best described as a mid-tempo to slightly uptempo heavy-beat soul music that was danced to in Discothèques in Northern England from the early 1960’s till about the early to mid 70’s. Many of the recordings were heavily influenced by the Tamla/Motown sound and, if not exactly rare, these 45’s are at least hard to track down. Most of these singles were originally released in limited numbers on smaller labels in the US. Finding their way to UK nightclubs was nothing short of a miracle and usually required luck, perseverance and a round trip ticket to Detroit or Chicago. Clubs like the Twisted Wheel in Manchester, King Mojo in Sheffield, The Catacombs in Wolverhampton and the Golden Torch in Stoke-upon-Trent would go till the wee hours of morn, dancers and DJ’s hopped-up on amphetamines acrobatically cutting the rug in a mad, unhinged style that in some respects resembled later day break dancing.
Last October on Ebay, one of those never seen, legendary, Holy Grail of Northern Soul singles came up for auction -- Junior McCants' "Try Me For Your New Love" / "She Wrote It, I Read It" on King Records #6106 -- and went for an astounding ... wait... wait ... you’d better sit down for this ... $15,099.
That is not a typo, the bidding started at a very humble $9.99 but after 25 bids the price went Fibonacci-like. Most reasonable and fearful people are very suspicious of the authenticity of such a final bid. But if it’s true ... holy mother of friggin’ god!
I could find very little info on Junior McCants other than that he was from Cincinnati and he usually sang in a falsetto. This was his follow-up single to another great King release #6076; "The Boy Needs a Girl / Help My Love” from 1967 which failed to chart but did receive regional air play. On the liner notes to a Kent CD collection called King Northern Soul, it states that McCants died of a brain tumor at the age of 24. But I’ve also read that Junior McCants died in a motorcycle accident when he and King staff songwriter/producer/arranger Charles Spurling went out riding. According to the back story "Try Me for Your New Love" was pulled, in respect for McCants family’s wishes. Only a couple of white label promos saw the light of day, obviously at least one survived.
Inevitably another part of the “how much can a 45 be worth!?” question is always “what does an expensive record sound like?” This time I tried not to come off typically jaded and blasé at the dinner party with the usual reply: “not all that interesting.” The fact is, these McCants records are really pretty great, and besides, my New Year’s resolution was to reduce my cynicism --- actually reduce, reuse, recycle my cynicism ... I’ll save it for another day.
So here it is ... what 15 grand sounds like! So pop a couple of bennies, throw on your brogues or your black suede loafers and now groove to the left...