Wednesday, February 22, 2012

R.I.P. BIlly Strange: Lloyd Thaxton Presents - Decca Records (1964)

This album is simply fantastic - and my only real pre-internet exposure to Lloyd Thaxton. I didn't grow up in Los Angeles. I was born in the eighties. So I was never really in a position to have ever heard about this popular Dick Clark-esque television personality (the point of reference is apt, if not slightly insulting to the superior talents of Thaxton). Fortunately, I found a copy of this album when I was fifteen.

Lloyd Thaxton Presents was the LP pressed by Decca to cash in on the popular teenage dance program The Lloyd Thaxton Show. Decca was pushing a line of teenage pop novelties at the time - the back cover of this LP featuring advertisements for albums by The Surfaris, "The Newest Teen-Age Singing Group - The Munsters," and the soundtrack for the James Darren/Jack Arnold drive-in picture
The Lively Set.


This LP is essentially a tour-de-force for guitar guru and master arranger wunderkind Billy Strange. Seven of the twelve tracks are composed by Strange and all twelve are his arrangements. I've taken the liberty of rearranging the tracks so that Billy's three most rousing numbers appear at the start (as my podcasting facilities go, I am unable to isolate individual tracks without creating a great deal of hardship for myself).
The original liner notes follow the track listings below.

Listen to the whole album - Lloyd Thaxton Presents

Track Listings (in podcast order): 
Slow Slauson 
Doin the Shuk 
C'mon and Swim 
Chug-A-Lug 
My Boy Lollipop 
Because He Loves to Dance the Watusi 
House of the Rising Ska 
The Tennessee Ska (with vocal by Lloyd Thaxton) 
A Hard Day's Night 
Doo Wah Diddy Diddy
La Ska La Bamba 
Luci-Watusi 

Orchestra Directed by Billy Strange - Vocals by The Flowers.

The Lloyd Thaxton Show is too much. When I was first told to watch I expected to see the usual dance hop, with a disc jockey introducing records and teenagers dancing. I watched once and I was hooked. It is not a dance party. It is a musical variety show, based on popular music, featuring young adults. The show is filled with "gimmicks" to give a visual presentation to records that were recorded primarily for listening. It is obvious that Lloyd doesn't just listen to a record - he looks at it and presents it so you can look at it. His "lip-syncs", piano-syncs, finger people, and animated album covers, along with his presentation of the young adults on his show, make for fun viewing. Dancing is a feature of the show because young and old love to dance. That's why Lloyd and I got together on this album. I am trying to present the top tunes with a swinging sound and a beat. Watch Lloyd do these numbers on the Lloyd Thaxton Show. They look great.

Billy Strange

Today's music has, in a way, traveled a full cycle. In the big 40's, the most important ingredient was the sound. If it was big and full, and "swung", it was "hitsville". This sound took over from the free ring-a-tink of the 20's with nothing but a strong beat. It was not the arranger who was important. In the early 60's, the "nothing but a strong beat" came back. Grab yourself a couple of guitars, a fender bass and a loud drummer, and you had it made.

Now the "sound" is back, and the arranger is the most important ingredient once again. One of the best to come along is Billy Strange, who not only can produce a selling sound, but can maintain a rocking beat that is a must. Billy has a knack for keeping the dancing beat driving the big sound along, as you'll agree when you hear Billy's arrangements of the top tunes of today in this album. They are great to listen to for sound, but more than that, they drive you right to the middle of the room to dance. All the tunes say "enjoy yourself". So be my guest.

Lloyd Thaxton

5 comments:

Donna Lethal said...

You were born in the 80s? You must be a reincarnation!

lostandsound said...

Thank you for unearthing these instrumental gems!

Anonymous said...

Here's a quote from Albert Goldman, in his biography of Elvis, about Billy Strange, and the experience producer Steve Binder had during Elvis's "Singer Special":

The Colonel made it clear that the [musical arranger] slot must be filled by Elvis's own arranger, Billy Strange. Who is Billy Strange? Binder knew him well. Everybody in the business knew him. He had a little tag that some producer once stuck on him. It read "you wind him up and he shows up." That was his rep. He was just one of those nothings who attach themselves to names.

Anonymous said...

More from Albert Goldman:

Binder was not happy having to put the music in the hands of a guy who was always turning up at sessions and saying: "There must be a mixup - I didn't get a call!"
Billy Strange was still working on a Nancy Sinatra album when the time came to begin the music rehearsals. Binder had been watching Billy's strange performance for a long time, noting how time and again the arranger made excuses that allowed him to delay doing the arrangements.

Kevin K. said...

The Lloyd Thaxton Show was a hoot, better than American Bandstand. He took the music just seriously enough to get the kids to watch (and dance), but, unlike Dick Clark, seemed to host the show just to make people laugh, not to sell records.