IF I HAVE TO WRECK L.A.-KENT AND MODERN RECORDS BLUES INTO THE 60S VOL 2.

If I Have To Wreck L.A.-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 2.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD.

As the sixties dawned, musical tastes were changing and soul music’s popularity had started to grow. By then, new independent labels were  being founded all across America and labels like Stax, Atlantic and Motown became household names and hit-making machines. They released some of most successful soul music during what was a golden era.

By the end of the sixties, soul was much more popular than blues music. This would’ve been unthinkable a decade earlier when bluesmen plugged in electric blues’ popularity grew throughout the fifties. Especially in Chicago, Memphis, St Louis and Detroit where Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Reed, Lightnin’ Slim and B.B. King provided part of the soundtrack to the fifties. However, just a few years later and soul had overtaken blues in the popularity stakes. The times they were a changing and so was music.

Despite this, there was a still an audience for the blues during the sixties and labels like ABC-Paramount and their imprint Bluesway plus Chess, Kent and Modern were home to some of the giants of the blues. However, the singles and albums they released sold in smaller amounts or passed many record buyer’s by. Some critics thought that the blues music was no longer relevant and it was destined to become a footnote in musical history.

That was despite a new generation of artists on both sides of the Atlantic flying the flag for the blues and trying to introduce the music a new audience. In Britain, The Rolling Stones, Cream, The Yarbirds, The Kinks, The Animals, John Mayall, Georgie Fame, Them, Fleetwood Mac and later Led Zeppelin all spoke of their love for the blues and acknowledged how it had influenced their music. There was even a British blues boom in the mid-sixties which resulted in a resurgence of interest in the music.

Across the Atlantic, a new generation of musicians and bands that had been influenced by the blues had embarked upon musical careers during the sixties. This included artists Ry Cooder, J.J. Cale, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin as well as The Doors, Canned Head and Jefferson Airplane. They spoke of their love of the blues and how it had influenced their music. Despite this, the blues was no longer as popular as it had been and many musicians were struggling to make a living.

Part of the problem was that many of the clubs that blues musicians previously played in were now hosting rock groups. There were fewer places for bluesmen to play in towns and cities across America. To make matters worse, some record companies were reluctant to sign and release singles and albums by blues musicians. It was a tough and worrying time for blues musicians.

Two labels that were still signing and releasing blues music during the sixties were the Kent and Modern Records which were owned by the Bihari brothers. They had founded Modern Records in 1945 with  RPM Records following in 1950, Meteor Records in 1952 and then Flair Records in the early fifties. This was followed by the budget label Crown Records and Yuletide Records which released Christmas music. The other label that the Bihari brothers founded was Kent Records in 1958. Just like Modern Records, Kent Records established a reputation for the blues music it released.

Recently, Dick Shurman compiled two volumes of blues from the vaults of Kent and Modern Records. The first was Dirty Work Going On-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 1 which was released a couple of months ago. Hard on the heels of this compilation of West Coast blues comes the followup If I Have To Wreck L.A.-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 2 It’s a compilation of Texas blues that focuses more on gutbucket, downhome blues. This means that the harmonica replaces the horns that were a feature of Volume 1. However, Volume 2 like its predecessor has been released to mark an important anniversary.

In 1999, the Japanese label P-Vine released the first instalment in its Modern/Kent Blues Treasures CD series. This was the first of four volumes which were  limited editions of 300. Each of the compilations featured West Coast blues obscurities from the vaults of the Bihari Brothers’ labels. For some people this was the first time they had heard these tracks and was the start of a voyage of discovery.

Twenty-one years later and Ace Records have just released two more compilations of blues that were recorded or released by the Bihari Brothers’ labels. This is Dirty Work Going On-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 1 and the followup If I Have To Wreck L.A.-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 2. It looks back at the West Coast blues between 1965 and 1976 and features twenty-four tracks from Willie Headen, Smokey Wilson, Big Mama Thornton, Long Gone Miles, Willie Garland, Model T Slim and Lowell Fulson. They’re part of the much-anticipated followup to Dirty Work Going On-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 1.

During his time signed to Kent Records, Willie Headen, a blues guitarist from Austin, Texas, recorded just fourteen tracks for the Bihari brothers. He released a single on Smogville and two on Kent, while the remainder of the tracks lay unreleased. That was until 1999 when P-Vine released West Coast Modern Blues 1960’s Vol 3 and Take 3 of Hey Baby, Take 5 of If I Can Ever Make Up My Mind, Take 6 of Baby You’re Wrong and Take 6 of If I Have To Wreck LA made their debut on the compilation. They were a tantalising taste of what lay unreleased in the Kent Records’ vaults.

This also included Take 1 of If I Have To Wreck LA which opens the compilation and is the first of the unreleased tracks. It was recorded for Kent in 1968 and features a hurt-filled vocal that’s accompanied by moody and blistering blues guitar licks that replicate Willie Headen’s sadness and frustration.

Other unreleased tracks include Take 3 of Mama Said which he recorded for Kent in 1967. The following year he recorded Take 5 of If I Can Ever Make Up My Mind, Take 11 of You’re Too Cold and Take 2 of Hot Wire Baby. The eight tracks from Willie Headen are the perfect introduction to an oft-overlooked bluesman.

In 1976, Smokey Wilson was recording what would become his 1977 album Blowin’ Smoke. One of the songs recorded during the session but never released was You Told Me A Lie. There’s a mixture of hurt, disbelief and emotion in  Smokey Wilson’s vocal during this long-lost hidden gem.

By 1965, drummer, harmonica player and blues vocalist Big Mama Thornton was signed to the Bihari brothers Kent Records. She recorded the Before Day (Big Mama’s Blues) which features a vocal powerhouse and augments it with her harmonica. However, when the single was released in 1965 but wasn’t a commercial success.

Blues singer Long Gone Miles was born in Lachute, LA, on May the ‘8th’ 1925 and was mentored by none other than Lightnin’ Hopkins. In 1968, he recorded ten tracks for Kent Records. A number of these tracks have never been released until they featured on If I Have To Wreck L.A.-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol. 2. This includes Take 1 of War Time Blues, Gotta Find My Baby, Take 4 of Little Sweet Thing, Take 4 of Rocks In My Pillow, Take 2 of Let Me Play With Your Poodle, Take 4 of Low Down Dirty Shame and Miss Nella Belle which featured on the P-Vine compilation West Coast Modern Blues 1960s Vol. 3. These tracks are a reminder of a talented and underrated country blues singer who sadly only release one single on Kent Records.

In 1967, harmonica player, guitarist and vocalist Model T Slim recorded Somebody’s Done Hoodooed The Hoodoo Man for Kent Records. However, this slow and moody blues wasn’t released and makes a welcome debut on the compilation. The following year, 1968, he released Christine as a single with Baby, Don’t Tear My Clothes on the B-Side. Both sides are reminder of a talented and versatile bluesman whose career sadly, was curtailed because of a ill health.

One of the biggest known names on If I Have To Wreck L.A.-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol. 2 is Lowell Fulson. He recorded Blues Pain for Kent Records and this unissued take made its debut on a P-Vine compilation in 2001. Nineteen years later it returns for an encore and is one of the hidden gems in Lowell Fulson extensive back-catalogue.

Less than a couple of months after the release of Dirty Work Going On-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 1 comes the much-anticipated followup If I Have To Wreck L.A.-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 2. It features another twenty-four tracks which were released between 1965 and 1976. Most of these tracks have never been released before and make their debut on this compilation of Texas blues that focuses more on gutbucket, downhome blues. This means that the harmonica replaces the horns. It’s quite different to the music on Volume 1 but just as good. 

For anyone with even a passing interest in blues music If I Have To Wreck L.A.-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 2 this is a compilation they’ll want to add to their collection. Unlike so many blues compilations, compiler Dick Shurman has eschewed familiar tracks and instead, has chosen unreleased tracks, long-forgotten singles and B-Sides that were recorded by familiar faces and new names for Kent and Modern Records. They’re part of a compilation where the emphasis is on quality.

Just like Dirty Work Going On-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 1, If I Have To Wreck L.A.-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 2 is another lovingly curated blues compilation from Ace Records that’s a cut above the competition and is well worth buying whether you’re a blues connoisseur or a newcomer to the genre.

If I Have To Wreck L.A.-Kent and Modern Records Blues Into The 60s Vol 2.

2 Comments

  1. On my to buy list!

    • It’s well worth buying Bernadette. So is the first volume. You’ll enjoy them. I’ve been enjoying them both and hope further volumes are released.

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