The Doo-Wop Challenge

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 15, 2013 09:24pm | Post a Comment

Some years ago, my then-roommate and friend Seth and I dreamt up the Doo-Wop Challenge. I don't exactly remember what the impetus was although the catalyst was undoubtedly cannabinoid. The challenge in question was primarily a test of almost pointless endurance and stubbornness, like a quiet contest. Who can go the longest only ever listening to Doo-Wop when playing music. But we were both genuine fans too, not masochists. I, for one, always got excited when a Doo-Wop act would appear at the no longer extant Be-Bop Battlin' Ball held at the no longer extant Rudolpho's in Silver Lake.

The Moonglows - I Knew from the Start

Of course music is inescapable and a participant in the challenge would hardly be expected to leave a party, movie theater, restaurant, &c just because something other than Doo-Wop wasn't playing. But what would happen if every time you put a dime in the jukebox, chose an mp3 or sang a tune it was Doo-Wop? Would you start dressing differently, speaking differently, being differently? In Jeannot Szwarc's Somewhere in Time (1980), doesn't focusing thoughts on a penny allow for Christopher Reeve's character to travel through time to stalk his fetish?


The Chords - Sh-Boom

It was about sixty years ago that the first Doo-Wop song, "Sh-Boom," reached the Top Ten on the pop charts. It was written and performed by The Chords, a Doo-Wop group that featured Carl Feaster (lead), Claude Feaster (baritone), Jimmy Keyes (first tenor), Floyd "Buddy" McRae (second tenor) and William "Ricky" Edwards. The formed in The Bronx in 1951 and were discovered performing in a subway station. They recorded their only hit with Atlantic Records' Cat Records label.


The Larks - Shadrack

For the uninitiated, Doo-wop is a vocal-driven but not a cappella style of Rhythm & Blues. The earliest confirmed usage of the term "Doo-Wop" to describe the music (it was a common scat phrase in the music, thus its usage) is from 1961 although the music's heyday was in the 1940s and '50s and its roots trace back considerably further. Doo-Wop groups often took their names from birds and/or sounded like makes of cars and the name "doo-wop" refers to one of the many wordless vocal sounds sung by these performers who are still the highlight of many a PBS fundraising special.

The Titans - So Hard To Laugh, So Easy to Cry

At least as early as the 1860s vocal formed and soulfully harmonized spirituals, folk songs and pop songs like those written by Stephen Foster. The first line-up of The Fisk Jubilee Singers formed in 1871. There were Barbershop hit versions of Tin Pan Alley pop songs like Richard H. Gerard and Harry Armstrong,'s 1903 hit, "(You're the Flower of My Heart,) Sweet Adeline" and Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth's 1908 hit, "Shine On, Harvest Moon" during barbershop's golden age of the 1900s and 1910s. The most obvious direct antecedents of Doo-Wop were the vocal groups The Mills Brothers and The Ink Spots, who formed in 1928 and 1934 respectively. Both groups were usually quite mellow and perhaps Doo-Wop is unfairly characterized as an exclusively mellow music. Not every Doo-Wop song was as mellow (not to mention lovely and atmospheric) as The Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes For You." 

The Clovers - Lovey Dovey

Doo-Wop first emerged in East Coast black communities in the 1940s although it quickly found a foothold in Italian and Puerto Rican neighborhoods as well as far off places like Compton and El Monte, California. Doo-Wop continued to chart into the early 1960s when it largely was absorbed by the more commercial soul acts coming out of Motown, surf-pop harmonizers like The Beach Boys and Jan & Dean, and baroque 'n' rollers like The Left Banke, The Merry-Go-Round, and The Zombies.

The Platters - The Great Pretender

Doo-Wop never went away completely, however. Its echoes can be heard in Sha Na Na, ShowaddywaddyDavid Bowie's "Drive-In Saturday," the soundtracks to Rocky Horror Picture Show and Phantom of the Paradise, Elton John's "Crocodile Rock," and Billy Joel's "For the Longest Time." Whether or not you allow yourself to listen to these and others like them during your Doo-Wop Challenge is up to you. When you're done, share how long you lasted and what, if any, effect it had on you. Thanks!

The Cadillacs - Jaywalker


Part Two of Interview with Fabian Jolivet of New Orleans Benefit "The Congo Square Project" Distributed Exclusively By Amoeba

Posted by Billyjam, February 3, 2013 02:41pm | Post a Comment
As outlined in the previous pre Fat Tuesday preview / Amoeblog interview with drummer Fabian Jolivet (the compiler and producer of the  Congo Square Project that Amoeba is exclusively distributing with all proceeds benefiting New Orleans relief efforts) Amoeba Music is wholeheartedly continuing its undying commitment to doing our bit in the still much needed recovery and rebuilding in the Gulf Coast area of New Orleans. Last week Amoeba unveiled the 14 track The Congo Square Project Foundation: Sacred Ground Volume 1 in the series and this week we are unveiling the anticipated sequel, The Congo Square Project Foundation:  Sacred Ground Volume 2.

And we are once again giving away a free download from this newest volume. Yes, even though we are practically giving away the full album for only $5.99 (Note: with all proceeds going to NOLA) we are also giving away completely free download tracks at no cost. Last week Amoeba gave away a free download copy of "Shallow Water" by The Young Guardians of The Flame off Vol 1, and this week we are offering for free download a copy of "Down by the Riverside" by Washboard Chaz.

This weekend, between studio sessions, I caught up again with Fabian to ask him specifically about these two free download tracks from the Sacred Ground Volumes 1 and 2 in the six-part Congo Square Project Foundation series being sold exclusively by Amoeba Music. Regarding the free download being launched this week, "Down by the Riverside" by Washboard Chaz, Fabian notes that this traditional gospel song, that was first published almost a full century ago but written many years before that, has also gone by such other titles as "Gonna Lay Down My Burden" and "Ain't Gonna Study War No More" and been recorded numerous times over the years by various artists. "One night I was walking the streets of New Orleans taking musical Polaroids, trying to do my best Alan Lomax impersonation, when I heard the colorful Washboard Chaz play his rendition of this Black gospel plantation classic singing, "I ain't go study war no more, study war no more, ain't go study oh war no more. Gonna lay down my sword and shield. Down by the riverside…" To Fabian these lyrics, sung by a Woody Guthrie type traditionalist, seemed perfectly in tune with the current political/economic climate. "I immediately invited him to come on-board the project," said Fabian, quickly noting how, "[I] wished politicians could learn to sing that wise song too!"

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Interview with Producer Fabian Jolivet of New Orleans Benefit "The Congo Square Project" Distributed Exclusively By Amoeba

Posted by Billyjam, January 27, 2013 03:02pm | Post a Comment
It may now be eight years since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast but that does not mean that Amoeba Music has in any way abandoned its continued commitment to doing its bit in the still much needed recovery and rebuilding in the area. On the contrary; we've up the ante, and so this Fat Tuesday (Feb 12th) Amoeba invites you to celebrate Mardi Gras in style with us while simultaneously helping the city of New Orleans in its long, slow uphill road to recovery and rebuilding - with a portion of proceeds from all sales at Amoeba on Fat Tuesday going directly to NOLA and benefitting Tippitina's Foundation and the New Orleans Musician's Clinic. For Fat Tuesday at Amoeba Hollywood there will be  big celebration that will include a very special performance by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (they play UCLA later that night with Allen Toussaint), DJs spinning rich diverse mixes of New Orleans music, plus another popular Line Parade (see video below of last year's Line Parade at Amoeba Hollywood). And in its continued homage to New Orleans as cultural center of American music and in helping preserve and protect its musical legacy,'s Vinyl Vaults now feature more than a hundred remastered rare songs (circa 1923-1932) of N.O. legend Louis Armstrong. Additionally Amoeba will exclusively be distributing six volunteer/benefit releases compiled/produced by Fabian Jolivet for The Congo Square Project Foundation with all proceeds benefiting New Orleans relief efforts. 

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Farewell New Orleans Musical Great James "Sugar Boy" Crawford

Posted by Billyjam, September 18, 2012 10:07am | Post a Comment
As reported yesterday by the New Orleans' Times-Picayune website  New Orleans rhythm & blues legend James “Sugar Boy” Crawford passed on Saturday while under hospice care following a brief illness. He was 77 years of age. The  New Orleans singer will live on through his music and through one song in particular; the song that most folks know as "Iko Iko" which was a rendition of his song which, in turn, was his interpretation of much earlier N.O. traditional music.  Crawford recorded it under the title "Jock-A-Mo" which he borrowed from traditional Mardi Gras Indian chants. The song was later remade into “Iko Iko” by the Dixie Cups who, among many others, won acclaim with the song. The numerous others who have covered it over the years include Dr. John, The Neville Brothers, The Radiators, Buckwheat Zydeco, and Willy DeVille. The Grateful Dead and Cyndi Lauper have also done versions of the song.  Of course James "Sugar Boy" Crawford's musical legacy goes a lot deeper than that one song and I have included a few selections below (audio only video clips) from the artist's rich career which peaked in the fifties and sixties (he retired in the mid 1960's - reportedly after getting beat up by the cops but had returned to the public eye in recent years). Look for many of these songs, that include the 1956 Imperial Records single "She's Gotta Wobble (When She Walks),"  on CD at Amoeba Music's three stores. His music so worth seeking out even if, at times, it can be perceived as sexist. 

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