Saturday, June 25, 2011

Harmonica Kid on Nucraft 2022

Harmonica Kid - Coo-Coo-Coo / Jole Blon (Nucraft 2022)



Back in the 1970s, somebody found a Harmonica Kid record and decided, because the artist had a voice that was somewhat similar to Link Davis's, that it must be Link Davis under a pseudonym. Since that time, the accumulated evidence has exploded this myth, but of course the record collecting community is more immune to self-correction than a third world dictatorship, and 40 years later, the Harmonica Kid is still routinely identified as Link Davis.

"The Harmonica Kid" was actually the nom de disque for a man named Smith Spadachene (1911-1983). It appears Smith was the son of Italian immigrants who settled in Grimes County, Texas, during the late 1800s. He served in the military during WWII and was probably in Houston by 1949, when he made his debut on Gold Star. A long series of singles of varying quality on Boyd Leisy's Nucraft (the same label that produced Solid Jackson Hipsters) followed, but these didn't sell. In 1964 he made the world's worst Beatles tribute record ("Beatle Twist"), and finally the Kid concluded his career in the 1970s with a strange commentary on a current economic crisis ("Inflation").

Paul Brown of the Bar X Cowboys recorded one of Spadachene's songs, and was the only person I've ever talked to who remembered the Harmonica Kid. Paul said that the Kid worked in his family's grocery store in the Heights area of Houston, and wrote songs for a hobby. He didn't think that the Kid actually played live gigs. The record business being what it is, even hobbyists and amateurs get lucky once in a while, and Spadachene's moment came in 1954 when Skeets McDonald had a minor hit on Capitol with one of his songs, "I Love You, Mama Mia."

Billboard, April 23, 1955.

"Coo-Coo-Coo" b/w "Jole-Blon," from 1955, is the Harmonica Kid's attempt at Cajun music, and is a pretty fun record. No harmonica is present, but the fiddle playing is quite good, and it's possible that Link Davis (who had a single on this label around the same time) agreed to sit in on this session. Billboard gave it a lukewarm review, stating that "despite poor recording, (it) could see some territorial action." The territory was not as impressed.

"Jole Blon" is credited to Leisy and Spadachene. You can't say these guys didn't have gumption.

Billboard, Sept. 6, 1952.

Gold Star 712 (c. 1949)
Moving On
Spanish Two-Step

Nucraft 104 (1952)
ACA 2149 OPS Blues (Smitty the Harmonica Kid) v: Harmonica Kid
ACA 2150 I Love You Mama Mia (Smitty the Harmonica Kid) v: Harmonica Kid

Nucraft 107 (1952) BB ad: Sept. 6, 1952
(A)ACA 2281 I'll Keep on Crying (Smith Spadachene) v: Harmonica Kid
(B)ACA 2282 Take a Trip with Me (Smith Spadachene) v: Harmonica Kid

Note: "I'll Keep on Crying" listed in ACA files as "Lonesome Blues."

Nucraft 111 (ACA master: March 30, 1953 )
ACA 2491 Jole (Leisy-Spadachene) BB: May 23, 1953
ACA 2492 Blon (Leisy-Spadachene)

Nucraft 114 (1953)
HARMONICA KID with the Sunset Playboys
(A)114-A Martha Lea (Smith Spadachene)
(B)118-B(sic) I Wish You Wuz My Darling (sic) (Smith Spadachene)

Nucraft 130 (1954)
I Didn't Do Nothing (S. Spadachene-B. Leisy) BB: June 5, 1954
Little Dutch Girl (S. Spadachene-B. Leisy)

Nucraft 132 (1954-55)
SMITH SPADACHENE and Band "Double Header Special"
GS-1103 Ivory Tower (Fulton-Steele)
GS-1104 I Love You Mama Mia (Spadachene-Leisy)

Nucraft 2021 (1955)
Parakeet Love Song
My Deon Son

Nucraft 2022 (1955)
Jole-Blon (S. Spadachene-Leisy) BB: April 23, 1955
Coo-Coo-Coo (S. Spadachene-Leisy)

Azalea 102 (1955)
A-009 You Pretty Little Thing (Shelly Lee Alley)
PAUL BROWN with the Gibbs Sisters and Luke Colburn
A-010 Rum and Soda (B. Leisy-S. Spadachene)

Note: AZALEA 102-B is a reissue of Nucraft 102-B.

Nucraft 100 (1959)
I Can Always Tell (Leisy-Spadachene) BB: June 8, 1959
Little Dutch Girl (Leisy-Spadachene)

L&Q 100 (c. 1964)
Beatle Twist (Spadachene)
Little Dutch Girl (Spadachene)

L&Q 101 (c. 1974)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bobby Doyle on Back Beat 531

Bobby Doyle - Hot Seat / Unloved (Back Beat 531)

"Hot Seat"

The blind pianist Bobby Doyle (1940?-2006) had a shot at the big time in 1962 when Columbia signed him for an album. Unfortunately, the style of music that Bobby was playing at that time -- the "jazz" vocal group, a la the Kirby Stone Four and the Hi-Los -- ceased being popular about five minutes after the album was released. There's a MySpace page which has some tracks from the LP. Kenny Rogers, who sang and played acoustic bass with Doyle's Trio, went on to superstardom while Bobby was relegated to the Houston and Austin lounge circuit for the rest of his life.

Not mentioned in any of the articles and obits on Doyle was this 1964 effort for Don Robey and Back Beat. Bobby is obviously channeling Roy Orbison in "Hot Seat," a very commercial rocker that should at least have been a regional hit, but no dice. This came in an attention-grabbing picture sleeve that looks more like 1957 than '64.