James’ Brand New Blog

Kitty Wells & Jon Lord & Funk Brothers’ Bob Babbitt, RIP

- July 17th, 2012

JBNBlog has been playing the music of three departed heroes last night & this morning.

Country queen Kitty Wells, 92, and Deep Purple’s organist/keyboardist Jon Lord, 71, often played London. I interviewed Kitty Wells, too.

The third of Monday’s losses was someone I should have known . . . now I better track down Standing in the Shadows of Motown on DVD to find out more about Bob Babbitt. The bass player was part of my personal hit parade & hits galore. Wow. One of the famous ones, Scorpio, was Iggy Pop’s choice on a jukebox jury-style compilation Iggy came up with. There is a lot more background here about him down below (the bass part). He deserves it &, after all, the Wells & Lord bios are pretty well known.

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Kitty Wells, in an undated photograph, & it’s a classic. Courtesy of theboot.com

Listening to Kitty Wells on an old Decca LP Kitty Wells’ Greatest Hits reissued on tape was a revelation. She sounds tense, mannered, almost intensely even about what’s going on . . . It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels was the first No. 1 country hit by a woman & it’s an amazing performance. Sure it stands out but there’s a fine Release Me & a playful Amigo’s Guitar & a good one for the Rizdales or Hey Loretta! I’ll Repossess My Heart & then Password, when Kitty pretty much says if & when she hears the right emotions/words, that man can come in. You go, Kitty etc. The chorale behind her all over the album is irritating. That’s just me. Focus on the steel, the guitar & Kitty

I’m pretty sure Kitty Wells was at the Western Fair when I reviewed a multi-multi-act country show . . . almost like a history lesson. When you interviewed her, you had to talk to her husband, too. I griped to myself about that the time wanting to fit Kitty into a nice pre-feminist context. Which was pretty immature.

Kitty Wells was true pioneer. Here are some heartfelt words from Rocklands Talent, via media ace Marlene Palmer. Rocklands’ president Brian Edwards pays tribute to her better than JBNBlog ever could.

It is with a heavy heart that the Management and Staff at Rocklands Talent & Management Inc received word (Monday) that Kitty Wells, known worldwide as “The undisputed Queen of Country Music” had passed away at age 92 from complications following a stroke.  Wells last toured Canada in 2006 alongside Roy Clark, Jean Shepard, Stonewall Jackson  and Johnny and Bobby Wright.  The Legends Tour went to Winnipeg, Brandon, Regina, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary, London, Lindsay and Hamilton.

“Kitty was not only one of the greatest and most respected pioneers in Country Music” said company President Brian Edwards, “She was also a pioneer of our entire operation, as she and her husband Johnny Wright took me under their wing some 32 years ago, and taught me how this business should be run. Together we did over five hundred shows from coast to coast in Canada and Australia. The principals they brought to this business are the reason we are still going strong”, noted Edwards.

Kitty Wells is often credited as being the one who “started it all” for women in country Music.  When her recording of “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” went to the top of the charts in 1952, she became the very first female in Country Music to have a “#1 hit”.  She went on to have twenty three hit records and recorded well over sixty albums.  Wells won countless awards over the course of her career and in 1976 she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.Jon-Lord--008

Deep Purple’s Jon Lord playing an ARP Odyssey analogue synthesizer on stage in Australia in 1975. Lord has died aged 71. Photograph: Fin Costello/Redferns . . . courtesy of guardian.co.uk

Jon Lord was/is admired by many friends of JBNBlog’s. All of them rate Deep Purple much more highly than I did in the 1970s when they seemed slow & kinda dumb. (You did see immature up there, didn’t you?)

Listening to Deepest Purple this morning with my ears on Lord mostly, wow, fine stuff. Sure, some of it will always be stuck in the 1970s . . . & one of the songs rips off the Blues Magoos (!) . . .  but Lord has great touches of colour and solo spots . . . did he create the riff for Smoke on the Water? Jon Lord wasn’t in the lineup when JBNBlog reviewed the Purps at the RBC Theatre in 2005. Which may be just as well. I bitched about keyboardist Don Airey showing off with Bach. Don, my apologies. Jon, you are missed.

Am I the only one who thinks Dennis Coffey’s Scorpio has some Smoke on the Water flavour to it? Ace Shaft soundtrack styled groove & that bass solo . . . that bass solo . . . read more about it in what follows.

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Bob Babbitt, in an undated photograph, courtesy of vintageguitar.com

Here is some of the Detroit News obituary for Bob Babbitt:

Babbitt had a big impact on the Detroit scene well before Motown. He had extended family living in Michigan and his wife, Ann, was from Dearborn, so it was an easy decision to spend most of his time here as a young working musician.

That’s him on several Del Shannon songs, including “Little Town Flirt,” “I Go to Pieces” and “Handyman.” The thrum of his bass can be heard on other seminal Detroit hits such as “Cool Jerk” by the Capitols,” “Love Makes the World Go ‘Round” by Deon Jackson, “War” and “S.O.S. Stop Her on Sight” by Edwin Starr, “Oh How Happy” by the Shades of Blue, among many others.

Babbitt’s bass solo on “Scorpio,” the 1971 international smash by Dennis Coffey and the Detroit Guitar Band, propels the song along so memorably, that, as Detroit bass player Ralphe Armstrong once said, every bass player in Detroit had to be able to play it or they couldn’t get a gig.

“His bass solo on ‘Scorpio’ has not been equaled, when you get right down to it,” Coffey said. “That set the bar pretty high for bass players.”

That rumbling, funky solo wasn’t planned or written, Babbitt came up with it on the spot at the DM Studio (now Superdisc). Coffey had penciled in a “breakdown” for the middle of the song, and let the musicians do whatever they wanted.

“Everybody went crazy,” Coffey recalled. “First, that wild percussion with ‘Bongo’ Eddie, and then Bob just dropped that bass solo in, it was impromptu.”

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120716/ENT09/207160405#ixzz20sronFwV

Here is some of the Associated Press obituary.

Born Robert Kreinar in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Babbitt — who studied classical bass in his youth — joined Motown after moving to Detroit and building himself a solid reputation as a session musician.

He became one of the very few white musicians to join the Funk Brothers when Motown called upon his services in 1967 to complement the label’s legendary — but increasingly erratic — bassist James Jamerson, who died in 1983.

Babbitt played on more than 200 Top 40 hits in his lifelong career, including the Capitols’ “Cool Jerk,” Smokey Robinson’s “The Tears of a Clown” and Stevie Wonder’s “Signed Sealed Delivered I’m Yours.”

He also featured on Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On” album, one of Motown’s biggest sellers, before migrating towards the 1970s Philadelphia soul scene, recording “Then Came You” and “Rubberband Man” with the Spinners.

Babbitt’s talents remained much in demand after he settled down in Nashville, and he figured prominently in the 2002 documentary “Standing in the Shadows of Motown” that gave belated recognition to the Funk Brothers’ story.

 

 

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