Archive for the ‘Tracy Nelson’ Category

Big Maybelle

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Listen: I’m Getting ‘long Alright / Big Maybelle

I can not lie. I get weak around any Okeh single, particularly in it’s matching stock sleeve. This certainly must have something to do with purple foil and paper wrapped chocolate bars from that first trip to Ireland when only in my single digits. We spent the summer with my aunt and grandmother in the house where my Mom grew up. Ballymoney, County Antrim. I don’t recall much, except for getting caught dipping my hand into a neighbor’s purse. The result was most unpleasant, but I needed a Cadbury marzipan bar, a flavor long since discontinued. The experience dented my brain permanently.

This Big Maybelle single from 1954 still glistens as a true visual artifact of color and design, and it’s a frequent choice when flipping through the wall shelves looking for something to play.

As with Bessie Smith, I became smitten by Big Maybelle soon after discovering both Janis Joplin and Tracy Nelson. Big Brother & The Holding Company were just releasing their first singles on Mainstream Records then, with Mother Earth, Tracy Nelson’s band also based out of San Fransisco, doing the same on Mercury shortly thereafter. Given they repeatedly name checked Bessie Smith and Big Maybelle as inspirational influences, my curiosity ran high.

Big Maybelle singles were easy and inexpensive finds for years. Album culture was fully prevalent during the late 60′s so singles simply became passé to most music aficionados of the day. This presented me with great joy as the pickings were euphoric. Marked down 7″ records being commonplace meant you could acquire the most amazing titles for a nickel or a dime. This single was one such find.

Her voice, great. The sound quality of these recordings, great. The subject matter, wow. So many Big Maybelle singles just reeked of sex. And comically presented. Surprisingly, Janis Joplin never nicked the idea, or more likely, conservative Columbia Records wouldn’t allow it.

I have to believe a sausage lyric version exists somewhere, with this cleaned up chicken take recorded specifically for the single, given ‘I’m Getting ‘long Alright’ was it’s A side.

Listen: My Big Mistake / Big Maybelle

‘My Big Mistake’, being formula bar room blues, allowed her to stomp and bully through the song in presumably very few takes. I recall hearing Fred Perry and Harry Fagenbaum play this straight into Mother Earth’s ‘Down So Low’ on their overnight college radio show, when underground album rock began overtaking the FM dial. WAER, Syracuse University’s student station gave all night shifts to nocturnal speed freak students who thankfully proceeded to pollute our ears with the wildest and most eclectic records around.

I bought Mother Earth’s LIVING WITH THE ANIMALS album the very next afternoon, a Sunday. We made our weekly trip to the SU campus, hanging around Discount Records or Record Runner on Marshall Street for hours, juggling what to buy. It became my purchase choice that weekend. Once home I discovered Mother Earth had modeled the majority of the album after Big Maybelle’s delivery style on records like ‘My Big Mistake’. maybe even that very song.

Mother Earth / Willie Nelson & Tracy Nelson

Friday, July 17th, 2009

motherearthmeusa, mother earth, tracy nelson, mercury

Listen: Mother Earth (Single Edit) / Mother Earth MotherEarthEdit.mp3

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Listen: Down So Low / Mother Earth MotherEarthDown.mp3

motherearthdidmypartuka, mother earth. mercury, wille nelson, tacey nelson

Listen: I Did My Part / Mother Earth MotherEarthIDidMyPart.mp3

A best friend in high school, Mark, literally fell in love with Tracy Nelson. This wasn’t just fandom. He wrote her letters, and when Mother Earth finally came to the Northeast playing Syracuse with Three Dog Night. For some unexplainable reason, the mere idea of being in a room with her, despite the other nine thousand strong concert goers, gave him the shakes. To be young and in love with your idol is a great combination.

Mother Earth’s debut album, LIVING WITH THE ANIMALS spawned the perfect 7′s: the band’s namesake signature ‘Mother Earth’ and one of the greatest white gospel/blues songs ever ‘Down So Low’. The chances of them being hits were slim, but to focus your trusty overnight stoner underground radio DJ on just the right LP tracks to spin, they did the trick. Hearing both ‘Down So Low’ and ‘Mother Earth’ from the transistor stuffed in my pillow gave them a far away exotic attraction, coming off even more stripped down than early Big Brother & The Holding Company. Tracy Nelson and Janis Joplin captured and held down the white blues fort. Plain and simple: none of the other female voices in the US underground movement could touch them.

Tracy Nelson was beautiful and her country blues voice was not to be messed with. All of her recordings with Prestige, Mercury, both as a member of Mother Earth and solo, as well as Reprise are permanent fixtures in my library.

motherearthrevolution, mother earth, tracy nelson, united artists, revolution soundtrack

Listen: Revolution / Mother Earth MotherEartRevolution.mp3

Likewise Mother Earth’s theme song to the REVOLUTION film on United Artists. UA seemed to be home of the soundtrack albums (Goldfinger, Dr. No, Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush), which they always released singles from. ‘Revolution’ was perfect political slant for the band, given their kind of dark blues image.

tracynelsonwhiskey, mother earth, mercury, wille nelson, tracy nelson

Listen: Whiskey River / Willie Nelson & Tracy Nelson WillieTracy.mp3

In ’74, I suddenly found myself holding a 45 by her and Willie Nelson. Many times a year Jack Riehle, the WEA salesman for upstate NY, unloaded his boxes of unwanted 7′s my way. Those were much anticipated bi-annual moments as I do recall. With no warning, here was a fantastic two sider, and my first thought was they must be related, Not true. It’s B side, ‘Whiskey River’ became our favorite. Corinne and I named our first cat Whiskey, and I’d play it over and over for him, ears always perking on Willie’s first deep ‘Whiskey’ intro. We still smile about that.