Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bennie Hess on Pearl 707

Idaho Bill Westfall (Bennie Hess) Singing With His Snake River Boys - If You Can't Get Five Take Two / Treasured Memories (Pearl 707)

"If You Can't Get Five Take Two"

One of the great things about Bennie Hess is that, no matter how much of his music you have, there is always more out there; and he is almost never boring. He would sometimes record under colorful pseudonyms, also, as he does here as "Idaho Bill Westfall." Why record under another name? Why not? Perhaps Bennie, a hard-core Jimmie Rodgers disciple, thought this record would have been too wacky and unorthodox for his country fans. It is, as far as I know, his only session to feature trumpet and kazoo solos. What a shame that no film footage (and few photos) survive of this remarkable character.

Pearl was a Houston label, despite the "Hollywood" address, and this was presumably recorded in that city in 1957. "If You Can't Get Five" was an old hokum blues, first done by Peggy Johnson (1934), then Georgia White (1936), and finally Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies (March 1936). Hess presumably was influenced by Milton's version. Never a western swinger, Bennie nonetheless manages to pull off a fine performance here that seems to pay homage not just to Milton Brown but '30s western swing in general.