Sunday, November 25, 2012
Trini's father, Trinidad Lopez II, was a singer, dancer, musician and actor in Mexico, but moved to America with his wife at an early age to make a better life for themselves. That "better life" didn't come easy. Mexicans were frowned upon, and Trini's parents had to survive by day labor and taking in other people's laundry.
Being a poor boy from the barrio, Trini soon began hanging out on the streets. He started running with a rough crowd of kids, and could have ended up as a gang member had his father not intervened. When Trini's father found out who his son was hanging with, he gave Trini the spanking of his life - literally. He beat the boy so badly that he felt incredible remorse, so he spent a hard-earned 12 dollars to buy his son a guitar, and taught him how to play it. Trini would always say that he owed his career to that spanking.
Soon young Trini was busking for coins on the street corners with his guitar, in between classes at Dallas' Crozier Tech High School. Unfortunately, the money situation for his family got worse, not better, and Trini dropped out to help his family pay the bills. By this time, he had gotten a small group together, and began gigging in small clubs around Dallas, eventually making it to the El Cipango Club, which was in the rich section of Dallas, singing the rock and roll hits of the day along with a few original tunes.
Trini's songwriting skills began to mature, and in 1958 he recorded his first single for the local Volk label ("The Right To Rock"), but the record almost never came out. Seems that the producer wanted Trini to change his last name for the record (much like Bob Keene persuaded Ritchie Valens to shorten his last name from Valenzuela). Trini refused and walked out the door (made sense, since Trini was getting lots of gigs in Dallas under his real name anyway). The producer relented, and Trini recorded his single. It wouldn't be the last time that Lopez would show how proud he was of his heritage and his roots.
Somehow, the Volk 45 came to the attention of someone at King Records in Cincinnati, home of Hank Ballard, Little Willie John, James Brown and many other great R&B stars. They signed Trini to a contract, and for the next two years King would fly Trini Lopez from Dallas to Cincinnati to record. Unfortunately, none of those records became hits, though two of them, "Don't Let Your Sweet Love Die" and "Nobody Listens To Our Teenage Problems", got good airplay in the Southwest. If you can ever find them, dig up Trini's King sides (you can find most of them here). You'll find that these are some of the best rockers of the late 1950s.
After the King contract expired, Trini accepted an offer from The Crickets to become their new lead singer after Buddy Holly died (Trini had befriended Buddy in the late 50s). But after Trini drove out to California to meet them, he found that The Crickets weren't in much of a mood to work - they were still collecting fat royalty checks and having infrequent rehearsals. So, Trini was left in California with no contract, no bookings, and no money. He recorded a one-off single for the local Dra label (the killer "Sinner Not A Saint", later reissued on United Modern in 1964), and accepted a 2-week engagement at Ye Little Club in Beverly Hills as a soloist - just Trini and his guitar.
That two weeks turned into a year, and soon Trini moved into a residence at P. J.'s in Hollywood. He took the town by storm, and soon celebrities like Bobby Darin and Jackie Cooper were asking to sit in on drums. Don Costa from Reprise Records (Frank Sinatra's label) saw Trini one night and signed him to an eight-year contract with the label, and by 1963 Trini was a star, with hit records like "If I Had A Hammer" and "La Bamba" and hit LPs like "Live At P.J.'s". Gibson Guitars even asked Trini to design a guitar for them in 1964. He ended up designing two - the Lopez Standard and the Lopez Deluxe. Both are highly sought-after on the collectors' market. Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters swears by his. In 1965, Trini was asked to host an episode of "Hullaballoo", and, true to form, insisted that some of his Mexican compadres like Vikki Carr and The Sir Douglas Quintet appear with him.
The Reprise recordings, while good, show that Trini had to dilute his rocker tendencies for wider commercial acceptance. But every once in a while he'd sneak out a killer rocker like this one, as the B-side to his remake of Bobby Darin's "Jailer Bring Me Water". Dig Trini!!
NOTE: that's not a skip in the middle of the record - someone at Reprise was a really bad tape editor.
Trini Lopez - You Can't Say Good-Bye (Reprise 0260) - 1964
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
I don't know a whole lot about Ben Hughes. Apparently he was from the West Coast, making records for the Specialty, True and Hollywood labels (and may have made other records as "Sonny Woods" for Hollywood - I don't know, I don't have them). But the man could seriously rock.
I first heard this when The Hound spun it on his WFMU show - he only played it ONCE, but lucky for me I had my trusty pad and pen to write down the artist and title when he back-announced it. I managed to snag a copy for 5 bucks a few years later.
It's pretty obvious why this never became a hit - even though it rocks the house. Hughes, a big-voiced baritone, keeps singing about a sack that he fills with fruit as the backing group yells "SACK!" (and a guy in a high-pitched falsetto says "in the SACK!") .....but as the song goes on, you begin to realize he's singing about his "sack" on a MUCH more personal level, especially when he sings "I got a big-a, big-a sack, with a-fruit from A to Z / I'm gonna give the fruit to you, so you can like-a like-a me!"
Ben Hughes - Sack (Specialty 630) - 1958
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
But there's an old saying - "The American people get the President they deserve", and BOY is it true. I have friends - intelligent, normally rational friends - who have decided that they HATE the state of Texas because of former president George W. Bush. I can understand people hating Bush (though I don't understand why they don't hate Clinton even more), but to hate A WHOLE STATE because of the actions of ONE MAN from that state? Do these normally rational people think that all Texans are a bunch of yahoos who blindly follow anyone from Texas just because they're from Texas? You've also got the idiots who talk about "the good old days" of America as if they actually existed. Where everybody loved the President and didn't worry about what the government was doing. Guess what? Our government has been SCREWING people since day one, and people have been questioning the government since day one; it's only become the "correct" thing to do since the 1960s (and that's because everybody thinks the hippies invented revolution - which is EXACTLY what the hippies want you to think so they can sell you tie-dyes and beads and patchouli oil; talk about capitalist assholes!).
Which brings us to this record (well, really, it's more of a fascinating sound document than a record). Every time I hear it, it reminds me that not everybody loves their president, even if he's from their state. Elliot Anderson was the owner and proprietor of Anderson Saddle And Boot Co. in Laredo, Texas. Apparently, he got screwed over by the government and President Johnson's "War On Poverty" program. Basically, LBJ's "War On Poverty" focused on an increased government role in education and health care (sound familiar, anti-Obama folks?) to reduce the poverty percentage in America. Elliot doesn't elaborate in the record exactly HOW the "War On Poverty" destroyed his business, but apparently the Mexicans were all to blame (for years, Anderson had a website detailing exactly what happened, but it's been taken down, unfortunately, and I can't remember what was on it - only thing I do remember is that he talks about releasing this record in 1966); what most likely happened was that some poor Mexicans received federal assistance to learn the art of leather-making, and before long they formed their own company just across the Mexican border near Laredo and drove ol' Elliot out of business. What probably pissed him off was not the competition, or even the fact that they were Mexicans, but the fact that they took American government assistance and then, when they built a business, didn't use it to contribute to the American economy.
After many letters and phone calls to the government (which were ignored), Elliot Suit Case Anderson "wrote" this song (really just putting new lyrics to "Jimmie Crack Corn") and pressed it up on his own Poverty label. You can hear how frustrated he is at the beginning and the end of this record, when he talks about what happened to his business.
It's strange, it's not very good, but it's a fascinating peek into 1966 Texas and one man's fight against a government that would not hear his pleas for help. I truly wish I could say this record was an anachronism.....unfortunately, this could have been recorded yesterday.
Elliot Suit Case Anderson - The Saddle And Boot Factory That Faded Away In The Land Of L.B.J. (Poverty 001) - 1966