Spookabilly- Halloween Music
My friend Robert was out at my City Tap gig last Sunday and asked me when my next newsletter would be out. I said it might not be until early November, and he said “Darn. I was looking forward to some Spookabilly” So, by special request, I am posting the collection I made for my newsletter last year.
I hope this collection of crazy Halloween music gets you all feeling festive. When I had the idea for this theme, I knew of a few songs that might fit the bill, but I was amazed at just how much of this kind of stuff is out there. A lot of it is horrible- sometimes in a good way and sometimes not. I am bringing you a collection of stuff that I think is fun. Some horrible in a good way, and some just good. What is your favorite Halloween record? Do you have one? Maybe it’s one of these. Let’s start with..
The first tunes I think of as Halloween classics are The Monster Mash, which I grew up with but never saw performed until this video (Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett, with a great montage of old movie clips), and I Put A Spell On You, by Screamin Jay Hawkins.
Our buddy John Worthington worked up the Monster Mash to play at a fall party a couple years ago, mostly for us gals to sing “tennieshoe, baaaaa oooooooooo”, and the other chorus lines. He also totally cracked me up with his rendition of I Put A Spell On You. He had the words printed out, so there he was sitting next to the dining room table with his reading glasses, reading bits and then standing up to sing out “becAAAAAAAAAuse you’re Miiiiiine”. Hilarious. If you’re gonna do a Screamin Jay song, ya gotta scream, right?
Little Red Riding Hood is another classic from my childhood days. The recording was by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs, even better known for their really big hit Wolly Bully. Sam has lived a widely varied life, including spending some years studying classical music by day while singing in rock bands in the evenings. He worked as a carney, and is apparently currently working as a “motivational speaker”. Bazaar. The WB video is a live appearance with a band that lays down a great dance groove while these women stand perfectly still through the whole thing. Not a particularly spooky song, but such a gem, I went ahead and included it.
Another well known tune from the 60s is One eyed, One Horned Flying Purple People Eater, by Sheb Wooley. Pretty surreal.
And, I found this video with Los Straightjackets playing The Munster’s theme song. Pretty cool.
I always liked the Addams Family theme as well, and I thought the show was a lot cooler than The Munsters. We have a book here with cartoons that were the source of the Addams Family characters and idea. It was written by a guy named Charles Addams, and it is a bit more sinister than the show. I have used it to find cool design ideas for my pumpkin carving. I was a big fan of the Addams Family show, and thought it would be fun to include this batch of clips from the show, including one of my favorite tag line bits “Thank you, Thing.”
Surf, Go Go and Doowap-
Southern Culture On The Skids is one of my favorite NC bands, and they have a few great spooky numbers in their repertoire. Voodoo Cadillac is an old standby. Sinsiter Purpose is an instrumental I hadn’t heard before. It features Rick Miller with some truly sinister guitar tone, with a slow tremolo, and someone adding a haunting Hammond Organ. They had a competition a few Halloweens ago, inviting fans to make a video to go with their song Zombiefied. The winner was really cool and they posted an honorable mention video made in stop motion animation on their FB page as well. I could not find either of them still up on youtube, but I did find this version of the song, featuring some cool go go dancing. Warning: dancing zombies.
The tune She’s My Witch was listed on a SCOTS video as a cover by Kip Tyler and the Flips. I couldn’t find out much about him, but I did find his original recording of the song posted by Ric Vintage Record Shop. Ric’s say Kip was “Born Elwood Westerton Smith (1929 – 1996)”
That lead me to a bunch of great doowap halloween songs, most of them by singers who didn’t have much beyond a small number of recordings. Archie King’s song He’s a Vampire has been covered a number of times, but there isn’t much info about him. The video is his original record in 1959.
Same is true about Round Robin, who had one minor hit besides his spooky cut I’m a Wolfman. This video is a performance on a British TV show called the Lloyd Thaxton Show. Lots of great go go dancing in the background. He appears to be doing lip-sync to his record. The groove on the cut was played by members of the Wrecking Crew in LA around 1964. Go ahead, get up and dance along to it.
While you’re at it, check out this one from one of my favorite rockabilly stars from the late 50s-early 60s- Billy Lee Riley. You may have heard me play Red Hot (Your gal ain”t doodly squat) or Flying Saucer Rock and Roll, two of Billy’s hits. His Halloween song is called Nightmare Mash, and it’s kind of a sequel/copycat to Bobby ‘Boris’ Picket’s Monster Mash. I found it listed on a site that had links to several Halloween albums including Doowap Halloween Is A Scream (Wanda records #1001); These Ghoulish Things; If The Broom Fits, Ride It; and Horror Hop. Too funny.
Some rockabilly songs I found include one from a gal who lives in Austin, Tx, and plays regionally and occasionally in Finland. Marti Brom has toured some with Rosie Flores, but kids keep her from being gone for long stretches. This is her version of the song Voodoo Voodoo, which was originally recorded by Laverne Baker in a more 50s r&b/jazz feel. The Monsters Hop (1958) has a rockabilly/r&b feel. The singer (if you want to call it singing) is Bert Covey, an actor who did frequent guest appearances on TV shows like Bewitched, Hawaii Five-o, the Snoop Sisters, and various game shows through the 60s and 70s. The video has a slide show of images from horror movies through several decades.
I found a couple noteworthy instrumentals. Joe Meek was a record producer in London in the 50s and was one of the first to experiment with a wide range of effects to alter the sound. While most other engineers were working to get the cleanest, most accurate reproduction of the music they were recording, Meek would do all kinds of things to get the sound he wanted. He is said to be the first one to experiment with echo, compression, overdubbing and reverb- effects that we hear in a bunch of popular music today. He was also big on using unusual instruments. His big hit song was called Telstar. He also recorded Night Of The Vampire, both of which give you a sense of just how far he was willing to go to get weird sounds onto his records. The other seasonal instrumental comes from a Finish band called Laika and the Cosmonauts. It’s a mash up of two Hitchcock movie themes (Psycho and Vertigo) written by the excellent composer Bernard Herrmann. The piece is called Psyko.
These last three videos are the random collection. Tarantula Ghoul was a host of a horror movie show in Portland, Or. She would come on before and after a movie in some kind of costume and ghastly/cornball persona (affectionately referred to by har fans as “taranch”). Calvin remembers a similar character in Winston Salem, Dick Bennick, a.k.a. Dr Paul Bearer, who introduced late night movies for the show Shock Theater on channel 8 TV, and occasionally hosted kiddie matinee movies at a local theater. I don’t think Ms Ghoul had any other recordings beyond whatever was on the B side. Her holiday number is Graveyard Rock, by Tarantula Ghoul and Her Grave Diggers, and is accompanied on this video by a fun, 1940s-ish cartoon. Zombie Cowboys is an animated video that the Richmond band, Reverend D-Ray and the Shockers released in 2009. The song feels like it could have been a Western movie or TV show theme, or maybe a Marty Robbins record. Brian Bear’s animation is so excellent! Sparse, with great use of color and the movement is very effective. I need to spend more time checking out his other work. Very cool indeed.
I will leave you with the only country Halloween song I found. From Buck Owens, we have A Monster’s Holiday. Classic Buck. This is yer Halloween twang right here.
Thanks for celebrating the season by accompanying me on this tour. Please share, or leave a comment. What is your favorite Halloween record?