Up-tempo Dutch cowboy swing

Here on Plant Vinyl, we love weird. The strange and the unexpected, the bizarre find at the bottom of the crate of LPs. And De Chico’s – a Dutch trio formed in 1947 – well, they raise weird to new heights.

The Dutch-language Wikipedia page describes De Chico’s “een hillbilly-trio uit Amsterdam”. Which sounds dreadful. Cowboy pastiche, wearing clogs.

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De Chico’s. Image: Discogs

And yes, there is a bit of that. Harmless hollerin’ fun like this:

But here’s the thing. Yes, it is tacky, but behind the rootin’ tootin’ farce, isn’t the music, well, good? Something like the Andrews Sisters. Only singing cowboy songs. In Dutch.

They had an early hit with “Koel Helder Water”, which is, yes, a Dutch language version of the Hank Williams’ classic, “Cool Water”.

Better, I reckon, is ‘Domme Cowboy, Wat Heb Je Gedaan’ (roughly idiot cowboy, what have you done?). If you have to label the genre, this is up-tempo Dutch cowboy swing. Yep, weird. But it’s great. Just listen!

  • Artist: De Chico’s
  • Album: Koel Helder Water (compilation)
  • Tracks: A1 Koel Helder Water (Cool Water), A3 Domme Cowboy, Wat Heb Je Gedaan
  • Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm, vinyl
  • Label: MFP
  • Made in: Netherlands
  • Catalogue: MFP 5089
  • Year: 1970

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs

Young Turk

Torok is an unusual name for an American country artist of the 1950s. Country is usually the domain of the Anglo name: Nelson, Cash, Jennings, Parton. Even those not born with one used to put a suitable name on with the cowboy hat. Baldemar Garza Huerta did better as “Freddy Fender”.

Torok means “Turk” in the Hungarian language, and it was a surname given to people whose forebears had migrated there from Turkey in the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. That empire was destroyed in the First World War, and in the wake of that defeat a Hungarian couple, Niklos and Irene Torok, migrated again, to the United States.

3331There, in Houston, they had a son in 1929. Mitchell Torok grew up listening to the music around him, took up guitar at age twelve, and by his 20s became small-big in country music. He appeared on the major country radio programs, and wrote song for many of the stars of the day, particularly Jim Reeves.

His biggest hit came in 1953 with “Caribbean”, a light-hearted stomper with a vaguely Hawaiian sound celebrating the beauty of ladies in Cuba and Haiti. It’s a fun song but I prefer the B side. One of Torok’s idols was the great Hank Williams (who died before his time earlier that year), and there is more than a hint of Hank in “Weep Away”.

Whoever bought this record loved this song – it has been played many, many times, and the shellac is battered and worn. Even through the rumble and scratch, this is a heartfelt performance.

  • Artist: Mitchell Torok
  • A side: Caribbean
  • B side: Weep Away
  • Format: 10”, 78 rpm, shellac, mono
  • Label: London
  • Made in: Australia
  • Catalogue: HL-1011
  • Year: 1954

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs

 

 

The Deadly Hume

Highway 31 runs between Australia’s two biggest cities, Melbourne and Sydney. The Hume Highway, it is also called, and there is not a lot of love out there for it. It used to be both boring and dangerous, especially on the New South Wales side of the border.  There was even a rock band named after it: The Deadly Hume. These days it is well-made dual-carriageway the whole distance: still boring, but safer.

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Only 800-odd Ks to Sydney …  some locals have added welcoming bullet holes to the sign.

Back in 1969, though, it was still possible to conjure some romance from Highway 31, and this is what Johnny Chester did. I recently sold some of Chester’s records to a man in Western Australia. Not knowing much about the artist, I asked about the buyer’s interest. It was a lovely reply:

I have known him all of my life but not so much in recent years since we moved over here to WA (used to live in Vic). He’s a great guy (very modest), his career started out back in the late 50s. He sang rock & roll back then which then morphed into the pop scene in the early ’60s. He toured Oz with the Beatles when they came out. In the late 60s he got into country music. He’s in his 70s now. I picked up some of his old sheet music just for a keepsake. Then of course I started to think about getting some of his old 45’s and here we are today!

This is Johnny Chester’s take on the Deadly Hume, a sort-of up-tempo Australian version of “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, in which a man leaves his lover and puts miles and place names between them. No great pretension, but it rocks along, features some nice guitar, and is good fun.

  • Artist: Johnny Chester
  • Single Title: I Just Don’t Know How to Say Goodbye
  • Side B “Highway 31”
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: Philips
  • Catalogue: BF-456
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1969

Many of the records featured on this blog, and hundreds of others, are for sale via Discogs

Stage fright

Mea culpa. Or, as young folks say these days: “my bad”.

It’s like this. I pick up a battered old single, a local release, mid-sixties. I have not heard of the artist,  Ned Miller, but I recognise the song on the A-side. “Do What You Do Do Well”: one of Johnny Cash’s hits. Clearly, then, Ned Miller was a second-tier country artist, pumping out a cover.

My bad. The great Johnny Cash did have a hit with “Do What You Do Do Well”, but that was after this release. Not only did Ned Miller release it first, he wrote it. In fact, Miller wrote lots of great songs. One, “From a Jack to a King”, was a top ten hit in many parts of the world, but mostly he wrote excellent songs, which other people recorded. “Invisible Tears” and “Dark Moon” were two: hits for Bonnie Guitar and Elvis Presley respectively. There were plenty more: Miller was in the top echelon of Nashville’s songsmiths. Why didn’t he have more success as a performer?

0673 labelSimple, really. He didn’t like performing, and often suffered stage fright. He retired from the entertainment business in 1970, saying: “If you love shows and like to perform, it’s a great business, but if you don’t, you shouldn’t be in it.”

It was not that he couldn’t play and sing. Just listen to this, “Dusty Guitar”, the delightful B-side to a more famous song. The record is a bit battered, but the performance shines through. It is a rumination on musical fame, ironically enough from someone who achieved it, and then decided it was not for him.

  • Artist: Ned Miller
  • Single title: Do What You Do Do Well
  • Track: B “Dusty Guitar”
  • Format: 7”, 45 rpm
  • Label: W&G
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Catalogue number: WG-S-2321
  • Year: 1964