Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Feelin' Good Factor or Boogie Chillen's Twisting Chillen

Following on from the previous post about Junior Parker's Stand By Me, I happened to be listening to an old edition of Steve Propes' 45s Show  which included Henry Strogin's Old Folks Boogie While the Young Ones Twist.

This record, new to me, reminded me of an earlier Junior Parker recording, made for Sun Records. (The above is the album on which I first heard Parker's Feelin' Good back in the days when Charly put out records which sounded, as well as felt, good, but that's a topic for another time.)

Anyway, I investigated a little online and found there was a missing link between Parker and Strogin. More to the point, I also discovered that Parker had previous. As with his recording of Stand By Me, Feelin' Good wasn't exactly the fountainhead.
Yes, yes, I know this won't exactly be news to some readers, but it is to me. Here's how the situation is summed up on the allmusic site:
The riff that launched a million songs, "Boogie Chillen" turned all the guitar players loose, each proffering their own brand of boogie after John Lee Hooker stormed to the top of the R&B charts with this crude little piece of Delta blues in 1948. The original was nothing more than Hooker, his electric guitar cranked right up, and his foot stomping away keeping the beat. Over a repeated monochord riff, Hooker made the original mold that all guitar players followed with. Most successful of all was Junior Parker, recording for the Memphis Sun label under the sobriquet of Little Junior's Blue Flames. Parker's "Feelin' Good" was a cover version, changing the tune just enough to skirt the issue of copyright and, in turn, spawning its own set of offshoot covers (Magic Sam, James Cotton) and sound-alike numbers including Sammy Lewis' "Feel So Worried," Slim Green and the Cats from Fresno's "Old Folks Boogie," and Parker's own "Feel So Bad."
It's odd, then, that Parker didn't feel the need to apply a similar caution when it came to recording Stand By Me. There is no attempt to disguise tune or tempo, and hardly anything is done to the lyrics - just enough to make it seem a song to his girl, not his God, and that's it. Admittedly it's translated to a kind of Southern soul style, but that's done by the substitution of a sax for the quartet crooning behind Johnnie Taylor, not through some radical reworking. The original shape remains unmistakable. Even if Parker's justification might have been that Sam stole the idea from Tindley in the first place, what you hear on the Parker recording is so audibly Cooke's reworked version of the theme that it's the equivalent of respraying a hot car without bothering to change the number plates. Odd.

But it's also worth pointing out that the Parker songbook was published in 1980, almost ten years after his death, so maybe it was a simple mistake. If you know anything about it, please let me know.

For those, like me, not familiar with most of the recordings mentioned, here are John Lee Hooker's Boogie Chillen, Junior Parker's Feelin' Good (not the best audio, I'm afraid), Sammy Lewis' Feelin' Worried, Al Simmons and Slim Green's Old Folks Boogie, concluding with the Henry Strogin side.

No doubt there are a myriad of related songs not mentioned by the allmusic writer - precisely the kind of thing Steve Propes would know, and recent editions of his programme can be downloaded for free on the Rock-It Radio website, here. One of the surprises of his shows is to hear just how many songs from the fifties were reworked by other groups and artists and didn't get anywhere.

You can find an interview with Steve Propes on the Princess Cornflakes blog here, complete with A Shock Revelation at the end.

Part One
Part Three
Part Four

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