Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Compare and Contrast: The Blues Came Down From Nutley, N.J.

Now it can be told: We -- by which I mean my old pal from my college rock band Tony Forte and moi -- taught legendary bluesman Slim Harpo ("Scratch My Back," "Hip Shake," "I'm a King Bee," etc) everything he knew.

From late 1968, here's our unplugged publishing demo version of Tony's "Big Black Car." I'm on bass; Tony's on everything else.

And from sometime in early 1969, here's the aforementioned legendary bluesman with the version he glommed from ours. This is from a recently transferred acetate (the only known surviving copy); please pardon the scratches and other anomalies but (incredibly enough) this is a genuine piece of history which has never been heard before, even by hardcore blues collectors. Slim's on vocals and harp (obviously); the backup guys are the then pit band for the Broadway production of Hair.

And finally, from 1974, here's "Big Black Car" again in the version The Hounds, my aforementioned college rock band, used to open our sets with for years. For those keeping score, I'm the electric guitar on the left channel; Tony's on the right.

The folk process at work, ladies and gentleman.


pete said...

"Go ahead, Marge ... SLEEP with him!"

steves said...

Is this for real?

(If so...HOLY CRAP!!!)

Anonymous said...

Finally, 40 years on, we get to hear the Slim Harpo version. What a find!!!!

Where the heck did it surface from? Did Tony have it and not know it until recently or was he holding it back all these years?


Faze said...

Three good versions of a super-great original. I love the guitar interplay in the Hounds version. So much to be proud of here. But none of these three feels like the definitive "Big Black Car" -- I close my eyes to imagine it and hear Mickey Dolenz's voice ...

Gummo said...

Well, that's pretty much a Life Accomplishment, right there.

steve simels said...

steves said...

Is this for real?

Yes, indeedy.

And to answer the Plumber's question, Tony's had the acetate for years, but he's been trying to extricate the actual tape of the song from the vaults Peer-Southern publishing for a few years with no success.

So I thought it might be nice to get the acetate out there finally.

It's making its radio debut on Saturday, BTW, at a station in Madison Wisconsin.

Our pal Roadmaster has a weekly blues show, and Tony's gonna be interviewed.

Tierra Madre Horse Sanctuary said...

Have you heard Tony's latest CD? He sent it to me a couple months ago. 'Big Black Car' is on it.

Tell you what - his guitar-playing is better than ever, too.

He also has a weekly webcastwith another guy: odgms.com

Anonymous said...

Wow the Hounds player nailed it!
Who was that guy............
Just kidding I know it's me!
Thanks for posting it as it's great to hear it!
Steve thank God you are alive and as well keep us alive!
Johnny Faison. www.basslife.net

Johnny Faison said...

You know I meant the BASSPLAYER. Both Tony and you had more chemistry together than any guitar players I have played with since.

Anonymous said...

A great song. After just these three listenings I was already absently-mindedly singing it to myself.

I'm sure this wasn't the original hope, but I could easily imagine this a hit for a gritty C&W/red state-type singer. But then it'll end up in a Ford truck commercial, so let's not got there.

The guitar work on the demo is quite cool, I think, and the Hounds' version call/response guitar stuff is awesome. Must have been a really fun opening song.


Anonymous said...

Big Black Car is a song that can be adapted to many musical genre.


When are Bobby and Cindy gonna comment?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

EVERYBODY has heard this song (this is the writer talking).
The publisher blew it TWICE: once back in the day, leaving it off a Slim Harpo Compilation (after telling me it was gonna be on it- what, bullshit in the music biz?), and then a coupla years back with this "HOUND" radio guy from NY and his label project of a Slim Harpo Retrospective. They PASSED on the track (!?). Everyone in NASHVAUDEVILLE passed on it too ('what kind of music is this?', they asked. DUH!). Perhaps its time has come; it'd fab for the SLIM legacy. current purpose of music: commercials, soundtracks, computer games. OK buy me! It's the perfect BOBO Cadillac/Lincoln/Chrysler Imperial ad. THE MONKEES? Circus Boy! It works- BBC w/ ELEPHANTS!! very Ditzney.
I loaned the last tape i had to a cajoling movie company whose project fizzled and they went South. By then the publisher locked the master in a vault in Weehawkin NJ- presumably w/ the MACY's balloons! I'm working w/ them for some MPB (pop mus bras) stuff in RIO in NY via the LA office (again, the music biz. knowing their famous 'alertness', and the Latin American penchant for prompt attention -yeah, right- I'm better off getting on a VARIG jet and doing it myself! Thanks for the kind words on the axework, Jim! God Bless you!
And John Faison, there is nothing fab enuff to say re his playing than the playing says for itself; BRAVO! -a constant mindjolt. I've been singing the SLIM version guitar licks all week!
It took me years to cop them. Those cats cooked- w/ Slim comping on the rhythm track, leading the charge to the great dramatic arc ending w/ the 1-2-3 kick on drum then piano tickle lick at the outro fade. WOW!
The HOUNDS version, as BOB A said was like a 'roller coaster'; it rocks. I'm using BBC now again as an opening #. I hadn't done it for a long time but started again a few years back. I can see the tune in the ZIGFELD FOLLIES w/ scanty tux-top hat-cane leggy chorus girls tap dancing. I always did. Go to ODGMS.COM show #29 to hear the latest acoustic version which is a mix of all of the above. My pal John Surrell, a great drummer now in Madison Wis area, put the final touch on the cake w/ an actual Texas Train shuffle beat, sealing the musical deal on the development of BBC. ciao all, thanks!!!