Monday, January 20, 2020

Paying homage to the instrumental

In this latest installment of my occasional "Exploring the world of music" series, I present a small collection of instrumental tunes, spanning in time from the first blues recordings in the 1920s, on up to 1992's "Summer Song" by hard rocker Joe Satriani.

In no particular order, here's the playlist I've assembled:

Joe Satriani - "Summer Song"
Santo & Johnny - "Sleep Walk"
Elmore James - "Pickin' the Blues"
Booker T. & the M.G.'s - "Green Onions" (live)
Bill Haley and the Comets - "Rudy's Rock"
The Allman Brothers Band - "Jessica"
The Champs - "Tequila"
Miles Davis - "Freddie Freeloader"
Dave 'Baby' Cortez - "The Happy Organ"
Dave 'Baby' Cortez - "Rinky Dink"
Sylvester Weaver - "Guitar Rag"
Sylvester Weaver - "Guitar Blues"
The Surfaris - "Wipe Out"

A few interesting notes: According to this Wikipedia article, Sylvester Weaver is credited as the first to record a blues guitar instrumental (both "Guitar Rag" and "Guitar Blues" were recorded in the same session in 1923, though the YouTube video here for "Guitar Rag" mentions that this particular version was recorded in 1927). According to the same Wikipedia article, these two songs are also, "...the first recorded country blues, and the first known recordings of a slide guitar."

Many people mistakenly credit 1950s rock 'n' roll star Ritchie Valens (who tragically died in the 1959 plane crash that also claimed the lives of Buddy Holly and J.P. Richardson, a.k.a. "The Big Bopper," in what has become known as "the day the music died") for the song "Sleep Walk" because it appears in the 1987 Valens biopic La Bamba, starring Lou Diamond Phillips as Valens. It was really recorded by Santo & Johnny.

"Rudy's Rock" is named for Bill Haley's longtime sax player, Rudy Pompilli, who sadly passed away in 1976 at the age of 51 after a battle with lung cancer. According to this Wikipedia article on Pompilli, he did not smoke himself, and it's thought that he contracted it through passive smoking. Back in 2015, I had the opportunity to interview Bill Turner, who played guitar in Haley's band in the 1970s. If you're interested in more music history and fun facts, including the 1970s revival of 1950s rock 'n' roll, then you'll definitely want to check this interview out.


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