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PLAYLIST: The OA's Online Mississippi CD #1

MORE, MORE, MORE! Here is the first in our series of online-only Mississippi Music CDs, because if you're like us, one CD can't even begin to encompass the fantastic, soul-stirring riches of the Magnolia State. For your listening pleasure, we're presenting thirty additional tracks by super-talented musicians, most of whom are underrated. If you like the tunes, we encourage you to purchase more music by these artists to support and celebrate their efforts.

 

1. "Uh Huh Huh" by Luke McDaniel (1959)

"From 1952 to 1960, Luke McDaniel blazed a trail with his exuberant, unfettered mix of white country and black r&b. He tore it up with a series of hillbilly and rockabilly sides for Jackson, Mississippi label Trumpet [Smirnoff's note: which was founded by Lillian McMurry, a woman!, in 1950], for King Records over in Cincinnati, and for Meladee in New Orleans. He played alongside Hank Williams on TV, shared a stage with Elvis, and saw his songs recorded by Buddy Holly, Jim Reeves, George Jones, and The Byrds. Yet he never received his due." —Lois Wilson 

"Uh Huh Huh" was recorded in 1959, three years after McDaniel walked out of the Sun recording session that could have launched him to stardom.

(Origin: Ellisville, Miss., 1927)

2. "Mississippi County Farm Blues" by Son House (1928)

An acrobat on the guitar, Son House stretches his strings to sound like two guitars, backing vocals (you can hear those low-on-the-fret strings just beneath his voice), and even a gonging bell. The song is a Paramount Records survivor, but check out Gayle Dean Wardlow's "Top 12 Rarest Blues Records" in Issue 75 for a list of those that have never been found.

(Origin: Riverton, Miss., 1902)

3. "Jumpin' Jack Flash" by Thelma Houston (1969)

Before joining the pantheon of disco legends for the hit single "Don't Leave Me This Way," Ms. Houston lent her powerful vocals to one of The Rolling Stones' most famous songs. While Mick and Keith were heavily influenced by Delta and Nashville sounds, Thelma shows us what it really means to be born in a crossfire hurricane.

(Origin: Leland, Miss., 1946)

4. "Devil Doll" by Lee Denson (1958)

Lee Denson, a.k.a. Jesse James, is one of rockabilly's unsung pioneers. He also claimed to have taught Elvis how to play guitar. While no lyrical masterpiece ("Devil doll is my age/Devil doll is in my grade"), the minor chord progression and backing chorus in this song add a sinister sheen surely familiar to any teenager in love with the teasing, flirtatious virgin in the next row.

(Origin: Rienzi, Miss., 1932)  

5. "You Sucker" by Ed Nasty & The Dopeds (1978)

In 1978, apparently the kids in Jackson, Mississippi were just as pissed as they were everywhere else—and while we're surprised by the canonical dedication to the Jackson punk scene (as revealed in the magazine's pages), we're also not too surprised that it could yield minute-and-a-half stingers like this one, which could have easily been dreamed up by The Germs in L.A. to great fanfare but instead stands as a brilliant artifact of Southern sneer. (And, the friendly disc-slingers at Goner Records in Memphis have hinted at a possible current-day Ed Nasty revival—so stay tuned, fiends!)

(Origin: Jackson, Miss., 1957)

6. "A Woman Rules the World" by Bill Coday (1971)

Other songs have hinted at it, but it takes a soul man from Mississippi—a state famous for its beautiful women—to point out the obvious. Though discovered in Chicago, Coday remained true to his Delta juke-joint roots with songs like "On the Chitlin' Circuit" and "Her Love Is Good Enough To Put in Collard Greens."

(Origin: Coldwater, Miss., 1942)

7. "Done Somebody Wrong" by Elmore James (1960)

Elmore James loved cars, hunting, rotgut whiskey, and the guitar. Born in 1918 as Elmore Brooks, he played blues at local dances under the name "Cleanhead"—and by his twenties graduated to the title of "King of the Slide Guitar." The trademarks of his style were a hair-raising howl and amplified arpeggios, but he could be austere and restrained, too. The tiny silences in "Done Somebody Wrong" may give you the feeling of running along railroad tracks—there's enough foundation to give you the idea of a road, just like there's enough instrumentation in the right places to give you the idea of a song. And that guitar will lure you to follow wherever those tracks are going. 

(Origin: Richland, Miss., 1918)

Smirnoff's Note: We have been trying to get this clear-cut masterpiece of a song onto an OA CD since year one of our CD series. Alas, the song's owners, EMI, maintain a strict policy of not granting gratis clearances to nonprofits...even when such sharing would clearly promote sales of their artists. Some people think outside the bun; others have no more range in their thinking than a fast-food hamburger patty. In any case, our love will not be stopped, so here is the song. If this "Done Somebody Wrong" so entrances you that you go out and buy more Elmore James, please don't tell EMI—they probably have a rule against buying, too. Also: I wish there was a TV station that only ran music videos of old, pre-video songs like "Done Somebody Wrong." I have in my head a vision of white go-go boot sweeties dancing to Elmo's intoxicating beat.

8. "(You Can't Blow) Smoke Rings" by The Gants (1966)


In the mid-'60s, The Gants became one of the only Delta garage-rock outfits to achieve any national notoriety. Unfortunately, their success came and went with their only hit, a song called "Roadrunner." Heavily influenced by The Beatles, The Gants borrowed elements of The Fab Four's sound and combined them with country and blues sounds pulled from the Mississippi soil.

(Origin: Greenwood, Miss.)

9. "Someday You Will Pay" by The Miller Sisters (1955)

This country duo made up of sisters-in-law Elsie Jo and Mildred Miller (Wages) knows a thing or two about harmony. They certainly knew enough to impress Sun Records' Sam Phillips at least. He released a series of the duo's singles written by the group's backing guitarist (Elsie Jo's husband and Mildred's brother) Roy Miller, but due to the popular shift from country to a more rockabilly-style sound, they never charted a hit. Eventually, the ladies decided to call it quits and went their separate ways, but left behind several golden country tunes like this one, which features another Mississippian among its credited musicians: Charlie Feathers.

(Origin: Tupelo, Miss.)

10. "Creation of the Beast" by Phil Cohran (performed in 1968)

Recorded live at Chicago's Afro-Arts Theatre in 1968, this track and others featured on Cohran's Armageddon CD contain some fantastic material that few had heard until last year's release by Katalyst Entertainment. The years Cohran spent playing with Sun Ra can be readily identified in these songs, and "Creation of the Beast" is particularly striking with its Afro-cosmic sound; the perfect soundtrack to some sort of space-age Western film.

(Origin: Oxford, Miss., 1927)

Smirnoff's Note: I don't recall the name of Phil Cohran ever coming up in all my years of living in Oxford.

11. "Geraldine" by The Ole Miss Downbeats (1961)

 

Originally a high-school band from Winona, Mississippi, the band's name changed accordingly when some of its members enrolled at Ole Miss. "Geraldine" was recorded under the first incarnation of John Fry's Ardent label of Memphis, back when it was run out of his parents' house. Had The Ole Miss Downbeats come along a few years later, they might have enjoyed the sort of success that future Ardent groups such as Big Star did. We love the definitive Mississippi stamp provided by the duck-call at the beginning of the song (yes, a duck-call). 

(Origin: Winona, Miss.)

12. "If Jesus Had to Pray" by Robert Anderson (1954)

Robert Anderson's voice is operatic but also ghostly, and it fills up the space around you. Anderson was born in Mississippi, but moved to Chicago and became a gospel pioneer. Singers and musicians who toured with him were referred to as his "caravan," and Anderson would go on to form a group known simply as The Caravan, which was perhaps the most well-known gospel act of the ’50s and ’60s. 

(Origin: Anguilla, Miss., 1919)

13. "Straighten Up and Fly Right" by The Kidds (1966)

This 1960s garage-rocker from Mississippi's Big Beat label is sung as a warning to a less-than-faithful lover. Several of the elements in the song easily evoke The Doors—from the lazy treble-toned guitar riff in the vein of Robby Krieger to the psychedelic Ray Manzarek-esque organ fills (don't miss the solo when it comes by; you'll be sorry if you do), not to mention the way the singer seems to be invoking Jim Morrison's baritone croon just before each chorus on such lines as "You're gonna be a one-man woman/And you know I'm gonna treat you good." Whether The Doors had any actual influence on the band is unclear, but it certainly wouldn't be any surprise.

(Origin: Greenville, Miss.)

14. "Hittin' the Bottle" by Jimmie Lunceford (1935)

Any number of pop and rock songs celebrate the act of "Hittin' the Bottle," but how many swing like Jimmie Lunceford's take on getting sloshed? Maybe it's because Lunceford's tune hinges on a sobering twist: "Everybody hits the bottle," the Fulton, Mississippi native sings in his laconic baritone. "Everybody except Jimmie hits the bottle." That Lunceford fell into obscurity after members of his band were sent to fight in World War II is a shame. But not as shameful as the story of Lunceford's death: In 1947, age 45, the once-great bandleader was poisoned and killed by a fish-restaurant waiter in Oregon who resented having to serve lunch to a "Negro."

(Origin: Fulton, Miss., 1902)

15. "Summer Rain" by Al Wilson (1969)

From Wilson's provincial (and, of course, underrated) LP Searching for the Dolphins—also home to the better-known "The Snake" and "I Stand Accused"—"Summer Rain" charted at No. 14 in 1968—for Johnny Rivers. In Wilson's mouth and on his vinyl a year later, the only domesticity left in the track is in its theme, not its delivery. Wilson's vocals are as clear as the cleanest country, and his vibrato has everything to do with the power of his voice bending the air to its will. You'll find the instrumentation and production to be worthy of Wilson's talent as well. 

(Origin: Meridian, Miss., 1939)

16. "My Buddy, Blind Papa Lemon" by King Solomon Hill (1932)

The theme of death and loss is common in the blues, but never has it been more alive and haunting than in this track. An ode to fellow bluesman and friend Blind Lemon Jefferson, this was one of only a handful of songs recorded by Hill in 1932 and wasn't discovered until 2002 by record collector John Tefteller.

(Origin: McComb, Miss., 1897)

17. "Gambling Barroom Blues" by Jimmie Rodgers (1932)

You could teach a kid this melody within six minutes—it's the same three lines repeated throughout the song—but you better not give her the lyrics. There's a similar dissonance between what we might hear today as comedy in his drunken yodel as Rodgers sings of his pal walking into the bar and then pulling his pistol on him ("I quickly smote him down"). The number of characters in the song (including a flat-footed policeman) is astounding for the track's brevity, and, like Rodgers's careening yodel, warns of a night gone out of control. 

(Origin: Meridian, Miss., 1897)

18. "When God Dips His Pen of Love" by The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi (1949)

Like the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi came out of the Piney Woods School near Jackson. The lineup was originally a quartet of classmates who performed using alternate names for different genres after they graduated and went professional (Cotton Blossom Singers for secular music and The Jackson Harmoneers for gospel tunes). They changed their name to The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi around 1946, after becoming a quintet with the addition of Percell Perkins, who was also their manager (and not blind). The members changed over the years, but the group would continue into the '90s. 

(Origin: Piney Woods, Miss.) 

19. "All Strung Out Over You" by The Chambers Brothers (1967)

It's unclear where exactly in Lee County Mississippi these brothers were born before moving to California, but one thing is certain: These boys went to church. The gospel songs they grew up singing melded with the rock and psychedelia of Southern California to form a raw, original sound. The group was original in other ways, too; while the four founding members were truly brothers, drummer Brian Keenan wasn't fooling anyone: He was white.

(Origin: Lee County, Miss.) 

20. "Special Agent 34-24-38" by Mamie Galore (1965)

A Delta gal with a big voice, Mamie Davis got an early start performing with the Ike & Tina Turner Revue and Little Milton. In the mid-1960s, she wound up in Chicago with a record deal, a new surname (borrowed from Pussy Galore, the sultry blond in Goldfinger), and a suggestive pop-soul single, "Special Agent 34-24-38," inflected with the era's mod sensibility and obsession with spies. Despite her vocal skills—her sparkly and bright voice would have suited a group like The Supremes—Mamie didn't lift off. Her sound was a little funky, but her persona—on stage—was not. She gestures stiffly to the appropriate body parts while singing about those curvaceous measurements, but she's restrained, a proper lady in a lusty soundtrack. 

(Origin: Erwin, Miss., 1940)

21. "Find ’Em, Fool ’Em, Forget ’Em" by George Jackson (1969)

Jackson found success as the songwriter behind numerous soul hits at FAME Studios, Muscle Shoals Sound, and Malaco Records. But he could sing his own material, too. In this funky number, Jackson tells of his failure to follow his womanizing father's example and the heartbreak—his—that ensued. What did this mean daddy tell young, sweet George to do? "He had a reputation for shuckin' and jivin' all the women/And for breaking their hearts, leaving 'em all cryin'." 

(Origin: Indianola, Miss., 1945)

22. "Come Inside Your Love" by The Missing Links (ca. 1967)

Wattsy Watts, of The Riviaires, grew up and joined this other band in Oxford. Well, sort of. Though he was still in high school, the sound is infinitely more mature. "Come Inside Your Love" follows a studied garage-rock progression, with vocal harmonies and all; there are even more than two instruments! The group disbanded after graduation—another fun teen project without greater ambition—or perhaps they broke up to avoid this gem of a yearbook senior prophecy by David Freeman, a member of the group: "David Freeman's future stinks. He stayed with The Missing Links."

(Origin: Oxford, Miss.)

23. "Do Right Man" by Sam Baker (1965)

This song opens with the most delicious MacGuffin—that melodic strumming feels like we're about to embark on a jangly Beatles tune, until Baker's high, plaintive voice and the hypnotically monotone organ vamps shatter that quaintness. Throw in some deep horn jabs after the first verse, and you have a soul burner so potent you can practically see the heat rising off of the dance floor.

(Origin: Jackson, Miss., 1941)

24. "Somebody Help Me" by The Lancers (ca. 1967)

This track will have you seeing orange and avocado-green paisleys. Lyrically, it's about that feeling your middle-school-aged self gets while staring in the mirror, flexing his biceps: "Why can't I be like other boys?/Why can't I do like other boys do?" Sonically, "Somebody Help Me" contains—in its harmonies and tambourine and the lead singer's secret-weapon falsetto—all the joys of careless teenagedom, wrapped in a surprisingly tight package for how DIY the song may be.

(Origin: Greenville, Miss.)

25. "Every Time" by Lil Green (1951)

Listening to Ms. Green's catalog—and especially this track, a product of her sole session with Atlantic, which was the last of her life—can teach you how to insist on getting what you want. The reediness of her voice up against a well-anchored guitar (possibly session guitarist Mickey Baker's) creates not so much a contest as an exhibition of her charisma's strength. She fairly growls "kiss" as if daring anyone to impeach her modesty, as if daring that guitar to drown her out (it won't).

(Origin: Clarksdale, Miss., 1919)

26. "I Ain't Bo Diddley" by Mickey Gilley (1963)

This manic little rocker from Jerry Lee's other famous cousin serves primarily as a rocking-country answer to the eponymous anthem by McComb, Mississippi's most famous son. In his own macho display, Gilley frantically pounds the keyboard, cackles like a demon, mocks the way your girlfriend talks, and asks a bunch of questions you know you can't answer. Kind of sends you, huh?

(Origin: Natchez, Miss., 1936)

Smirnoff's Note: One might be tempted to stay away from Mickey Gilley not only because his later, Top Ten country pop often sounds glib or overly produced, but because his early rockabilly work is said to be mere Jerry Lee Lewis copycatism. The truth: Yes, there is a clear Jerry Lee influence in Gilley's piano playing. But that influence, once filtered through the artist known as Mickey, comes out forceful and pleasing in its own way. In other words, Mickey Gilley is a great artist.

27. "Tomorrow Never Knows" by Junior Parker (1971)

This Beatles original has its place as one of their most psychedelic forays on the band's 1966 album Revolver. Junior Parker's moving take, however, strips the song down to its bare bones.

(Origin: Clarksdale, Miss., 1932)

28. "Don't Touch Me" by Tammy Wynette (1967)

This torch song, penned by fellow Mississippian and powerhouse-songwriter Hank Cochran, became a much bigger hit for his onetime spouse Jeannie Seely the year before Ms. Wynette released it on her '67 debut. But don't you feel like the Seely version is a little too polished, a little antiseptic? The force of Tammy Wynette is that every note comes out bent by heartbreak—there are no completely smooth edges in her songs, and they're better for it.

(Origin: Itawamba County, Miss., 1942)

29. "I'll Be Gone, Long Gone" by The Mississippi Sheiks (1931)

Formed in the late 1920s on a farm in Bolton, Mississippi, The Sheiks could sing the hell out of the blues. "There's no use to grieve/No use to cry," Walter Vinson sings on "I'll be Gone, Long Gone." "You show me yo' water, honey/Or your well go dry." The innuendo is slick, and the accompanying guitar notes bend in all the right places. When the chorus arrives, the listener doesn't want to believe Vinson's threat: "I'll be gone, long gone/Never to come back no more." It's possible to hear an echo of the band's fate in that last line: In 1935, the group disbanded to return to farm work, never to play music no more. 

(Origin: Bolton, Miss.)

30. "I'm Not Your Fool Anymore" by Teddy Edwards feat. Tom Waits (1991)

The marriage of Mr. Edwards's smoky, swanky jazz and Mr. Waits's soulful but violent-crime-scene of a voice is a match made in.... Well, regardless of where it was made, its spirit is pure Mississippi.

(Origin: Jackson, Miss., 1924)


Fine print: If you own the rights to any of the sound or video clips here and feel they have been used without permission, please send a request to delete the link—along with proof of your ownership—to editors@oxfordamerican.org. We just want to get more music out into the world; but if we've stepped on your toes, let us know.

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