Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Shaky's Occasional Bootleg Series - No.1

Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two "Guest Star" Radio Show - 1959

1. Intro - 2. Country Boy - 3. Chat with Johnny - 4. Don't Take Your Guns to Town - 5. Buy Saving Bonds Spot - 6. Swing Low Sweet Chariot - 7. Outro

I'm not sure of the origins of this or whether any of it has been released before, but I'm pretty sure that the show as a whole hasn't seen the light of day before. A transcribed feature presented by the Treasury Department for the United States Savings Bonds, the show dates from 1959 and comes in astonishing sound quality. How some of this stuff becomes available and with such clarity is hard to comprehend. The beauty of this little gem, apart from the short running time, is that because of the sound quality, it's a pleasure to listen to, not just an historically important recording.

The CD kicks off with deejay Lou Crosby introducing the houseband Buzz Adlum and his Orchestra and "today, starring Johnny Cash", as Buzz and the band play merrily in the background. Johnny and the Tennessee Two kick of with an on-the-money reading of his Sun recording Country Boy. They are at their pure and basic best, boom-chicka-booming like only this trio could. This really could have been a studio outtake such is the quality of both the music and the sound. Johnny and Marshall Grant are as tight as a gnat's snatch, the perfect boom-chicka-boom rhythm section - well, they did invent it after all. Luther rings away in Country Boy, superb as always, especially the opening jangles! His guitar is blunt and the notes sullen in Don't Take Your Guns To Town, totally appropriate to the songs lyrics. The sparse arrangement gives the song a better feeling than the Columbia single in my opinion.

Between the two songs Johnny tells his life story to date, summing it up in a couple of sentences. He joked that he and the Tennessee Two bugged everyone in Memphis until someone would listen to them. Crosby informs us that there are more than 40 million Americans with Savings Bonds before asking Johnny whether he recommended it. Being on a show that was being sponsored by the product you'll not be surprised to hear Johnny say it sure was a tip top idea and that listeners should "try it and watch your savings grow".

Buzz Adlum and his Orchestra provide a pleasant enough western instrumental, Twilight On The Trail, complete with clip-clop rhythm and strings and flutes. No doubt he listeners were dying for the song to end and JC to come back on. I know I was tempted to hit the skip button. It's a fascinating glimpse of what our heroes had to put up with in those pioneering days. For the last song, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Johnny says, "we got a real rockin' spiritual here that we love". That pretty much sums it up, and a great version it is too.

To sum up, a brilliant little show with unbelievable sound quality, a real must for Johnny Cash fans to snap up.

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