While a substantial majority of the slabs in my father’s 45 stash are songs I know at least a little bit, there are several that are completely unfamiliar. I’d venture that a few are likely unknown to very many folks today, either. Here are four that didn’t come close to scoring big nationally–only one of them even sniffed the Hot 100. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to say, though.
Ralph Marterie and his Orchestra, “All That Oil in Texas”
Marterie was a big band conductor, born in Italy but living most of his life in the States. This is from 1954, so I can’t tell for certain that it didn’t chart, though I’m not finding it in any mentions of his band’s work. To my ears, the music isn’t that far off from what Bill Haley was doing.
Why is it here? I have a theory. My father’s maternal grandfather bought a plot of land not far from Lubbock, TX way long ago–probably in the latter years of the 19th century. It stayed in the family until maybe 15-20 years ago, split among around a dozen heirs. Oil companies drilled on it for several decades, to no avail. It wouldn’t surprise me if the title just happened to catch Dad’s eye in the record store one day.
Two other notes:
–the flip side is the band’s take on the March from Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges;
–the disk is notably heavier than the typical 45 made a few years later.
I’m not wholly certain that this cover of the Hank Williams classic is actually the A-side; Discogs lists the other song, “It Wouldn’t Happen with Me,” first more frequently. The latter has more of that Jerry Lee bravado you expect, comparing himself favorably to Elvis, Jackie Wilson, and Fabian, but I can understand why neither song charted.
While we were living in Stanford in the early 70s, Lewis made an appearance at a tiny theater in Crab Orchard, another small town tucked away in a corner of the county. Dad always regretted not driving down the road fifteen minutes to check out the Killer (Lewis receives mention in the linked article).
The Grandison Singers, “Little Liza”
There’s very little out there about the Grandison Singers. Depending on where you look, they’re either a trio or a quartet, originally a Black gospel group. This is the standard better known as “Little Liza Jane,” and it’s pretty rousing, decidedly informed by the group’s gospel roots (unfortunately, I can’t find anything from the Grandisons on YouTube). The flip is “Grandison Twist,” an attempt to cash in on the dance craze of the day (the single appears to be from 1962). It’s not bad at all, name-checking “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Long Tall Sally,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” and “Willie and the Hand Jive.” I want to know more about what happened to the folks in the group; based on this single, I’d like to hear more of their music, too.
Willie Lee Perryman was better known as Piano Red, with a career that began in the 30s; that linked Wikipedia page indicates he had a couple of songs make the national R&B charts in the 50s. Somewhere along the way Perryman also acquired the moniker Dr. Feelgood. He and his band reached #66 in June 1962 with this song, which one might consider to be in the vein of “Baby Got Back” (the opening lines are “Hey all of you women, now don’t come around unless you weigh around four hundred pounds”). As with the others featured today, I’m really curious how this wound up in Dad’s collection.
The B-side is the original recorded version of “Mr. Moonlight,” later covered by the Fab Four.