Being nothing if not seasonal, I have put together a third Halloween mix. This one covers the black & white era of rock & roll, from the mid-’50s to the mid-’60s — which also happened to be the golden era for Halloween novelty songs. Some of these are utter gems; the value of others resides in their novelty.
Billy Lee Riley was a big influence on Bob Dylan Dylan influence. Like Warren Smith, another Dylan favourite, he was on Sun Records at a time when Sam Philips diverted all his promotional resources to Jerry Lee Lewis’ career. Dylan reckons Riley might have been a bigger star than Lewis. Like Smith, Riley left Sun and went west. He had a few minor hits, and worked as a session musician. In the early 1970 Riley quit music and moved into construction. He made a comeback in the 1990s, even earning a Grammy nomination for his 1997 blues album Hot Damn!. Billy Lee Riley died in 2009 at the age of 75.
Another Sun Records alumnus features here: Jumpin’ Gene Simmons who used to open for the young Elvis. He had only one single on Sun. His only hit, Haunted House, was released by Hi Records, future home to soul legends such as Al Green. One of the singer’s fans was young Israeli-American musician named Chaim Witz. When Witz — a name that, quite suitably, means “joke” — needed a cool name, he took that of Gene Simmons. The real Gene Simmons died in 2006 at the age of 73. The long-tongued douchebag is still around.
Not all acts here are rock & roll and R&B acts; some are garage rock bands. The Kingsmen are represented here with the instrumental Haunted Castle, the song that was the flip-side to their massive hit Louie Louie.
The Castle Kings released only two singles, including the track featured here. The writers of the 1961 song did rather better: Atlantic boss Ahmed Ertugun and future Halloween story Phil Spector.
The Five Blobs were not even a band, but a collection of session musicians assembled by musician Bernie Knee to record the title song for the 1958 Steve McQueen movie The Blob, an early collaboration by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. In the 1970s, Knee recorded a song in support of Richard Nixon as the crook was fighting impeachment charges.
Round Robin does/do some impressive growling on his/their song — except it is not really clear who Round Robin was. Wikipedia suggests it was the songwriter Baker Thomas (who wrote The Wonder Of You); and in absence of any better info, I’ll go with that.
Music wasn’t really Bob McFadden’s claim to fame. He was rather better known as a voice actor on animated shows: his credits include Milton the Monster, Cool McCool and Snarf from the ThunderCats. His appearance here owes to an album he recorded in 1959 with folk-poet Rod McKuen. His background as a cartoon voice shows on the song. McFadden died in 2000 at the age of 76.
If producer/comedian Dickie Goodman sounds like an early version of a white rapper on his 1961 song, consider this: Goodman was the inventor of the “break-in” technique, an early type of sampling.
Of all the weird tracks here, the most bizarre must be Jimmy Cross’ 1964 song. It is a parody of the road death songs that were popular at the time — Dead Man’s Curve, Leader Of The Pack, Tell Laura I Love Her, Teen Angel or Last Kiss by J. Frank Wilson, whose similarly bizarre song in this mix precedes that by Cross. I Want MY Baby Back moves swiftly from the ridiculous to pure WTF. You have to love lines like this: “Well, when I come to I looked around, and there was the leader, and there was the pack, and over there was my baby.” But the denouement… well, it’s the reason the song features on a Halloween mix.Some people may think that I have yielded to cliché by including The Monster Mash. But in this collection, the song is placed within its context and very much belongs here.What is striking is how little it actually stand out from the rest of the crowd.
As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-spooked covers. PW in comments.
1. Jackie Morningstar – Rockin’ In The Graveyard (1959)
2. Billy Lee Riley – Nightmare Mash (1963)
3. Johnny Fuller – Haunted House (1959)
4. The Duponts – Screamin’ Ball (At Dracula Hall) (1958)
5. Bo Diddley – Bo Meets The Monster (1956)
6. Johnny Otis Show with Marci Lee – Castin’ My Spell (1969)
7. Kip Tyler – She’s My Witch (1958)
8. Little Richard – Heeby Jeebies (1956)
9. David Seville – Witch Doctor (1958)
10. The Monotones – Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1958)
11. Round Robin – I’m The Wolfman (1965)
12. The Kingsmen – Haunted Castle (1963)
13. The Diamonds – Batman, Wolfman, Frankenstein Or Dracula (1959)
14. Ronnie Cook and The Gaylads – Goo Goo Muck (1965)
15. The Castle Kings – You Can Get Him – Frankenstein (1961)
16. Dickie Goodman – Horror Movies (1961)
17. Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers – Monster Mash (1962)
18. Jumpin’ Gene Simmons – Haunted House (1964)
19. Lloyd Price – Under Your Spell Again (1962)
20. Lee Ross – The Mummy’s Bracelet (1958)
21. Leroy Bowman – Graveyard (1958)
22. Allen Sherman – I See Bones (1963)
23. Bobby Rydell – That Old Black Magic (1960)
24. The Five Blobs – The Blob (1958)
25. Big Bee Kornegay – At The House Of Frankenstein (1958)
26. The Moontrekkers – Night Of The Vampire (1961)
27. Hollywood Flames – Frankenstein’s Den (1958)
28. J. Frank Wilson – Unmarked And Covered With Sand (1964)
29. Jimmy Cross – I Want My Baby Back (1965)
30. Bob McFadden – The Mummy (1959)
31. Gary ‘Spider’ Webb – The Cave (Part 1) (1961)