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Incredibly Strange Music Vol. I Excerpt: Gil Ray

Back to Incredibly Strange Music Vol. I

GIL RAY: THE LOUVIN BROTHERS’ Satan Is Real was re-released on Stetson Records, but the Stetson hat people raised a fuss. So the British record company changed their name to Longhorn Records—they’re a really good reissue company; they provide all the information, including the session dates. There’s a note about the making of this cover image of Satan with buck teeth: “The fiery setting pictured on the cover of this album was conceived and built by the Louvin Brothers themselves using chiefly rocks, scrap rubber and lots of imagination. The scene became a little too realistic, though, when Ira and Charlie were very nearly burned while directing the photography for this dramatic cover photo.” All the songs are quite good, with high harmonies that sound kinda “creepy” to me. The title song “Satan is Real” is probably the best number. There are a lot of songs about drunks: “The Drunkard’s Doom,” “The Kneeling Drunkard’s Plea”—I guess alcohol is the Louvin Brothers’ most besetting sin. Their music is “a personal crusade against the Prince of Darkness” and I’m sure they were serious, too. But they could have built a better Satan—that one looks like Captain Kangaroo . . .

REX ALLEN’s The Hawaiian Cowboy not only has a great color cover but a color picture-disc inside as well [Bear Family label]. This is mainly a YODELING album. “Texas Tornado” is a great song; “Who Shot That Hole in My Sombrero?” has a racist “Mexican” accent. “Slap Her Down Again, Pa” is “great” if you’re into slapping women when they get cantankerous—we’ve come a long way since then, hopefully. “Chime Bells” best shows off his amazing vocal technique. Rex Allen narrated a lot of Disney nature specials like Old Yeller—almost any ’60s and ’70s Disney production features his voice. He did some nice western albums in the ’40s, but then turned into the Wayne Newton of western singers doing a Vegas-type act. Another singer with a real “cowboy” sound was ROY ROGERS—he put out some great records with good clean vocals and a crisp backup band. I hope it’s true that he had his horse Trigger stuffed . . .

R/S: Are there more country records dealing with abuse of women?

GR: WAYNE RANEY, a country guy from the ’40s or ’50s, wrote “Why Doncha Haul Off and Love Me?” which Rose Maddox covered. But you don’t haul off and love somebody—you haul off and hit them! Another song called “My Little Yo-Yo” has lyrics like “you come bouncin’ up whenever I throw you down” . . . predecessors of Two Live Crew! Unrelated to this topic but amazing is The One and Only WEBB PIERCE, which has the strangest female background vocals that almost sound like steel guitars, behind his primitive vocals.

This SONS OF THE PIONEERS & FRIENDS record has “Festus” from Gunsmoke on it. I don’t think you can get much weirder than Festus singing “The Hokey Pokey” backed by The THREE SUNS, who combine skating rink music with light jazz like no other. I was impressed by that, plus the fact that there are two songs here by opera singer EZIO PINZA—my wife Stacey, who’s an opera buff, freaked out when she saw this. You haven’t lived until you hear him sing “The Little Ole State of Texas” backed by the Sons of the Pioneers!

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