Echoes from the Blue Angel
The Blue Angel is the name of a bar in downtown Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where Hillbilly Night started. Hillbilly Night, where only songs older than 1965 can be played, was created to preserve old-fashioned country music. It meets every Monday, is still going strong, and celebrated it's 40th anniversary in 2006. This recording was made in 1990 and remastered for CD in 2005. It features an all-star band of Hillbilly Night members, including the event's founder, Bob Fuller, on the doghouse bass. Craig Morrison is a Canadian musician, author, teacher, and ethnomusicologist who specializes in the roots of popular music. He sings, plays guitar, and, when not at Hillbilly Night, leads a roots rock band. They have a CD available at CDBABY: Live at the Oscar, by Craig Morrison & the Momentz. Morrison is the author of two books: Go Cat Go! Rockabilly Music and It's Makers, and American Popular Music: Rock and Roll. He teaches in the music department of Concordia University. THE BAND Craig Morrison: vocals, guitar Bill Bland: fiddle (Hillbilly Night's chief fiddler) Chris Quinn: banjo (now in The Foggy Hogtown Boys) Rocky Rodgers: Dobro (now in heaven) Bob Fuller: bass fiddle (founder of Hillbilly Night) Ellen Shizgal: harmony vocals (now in Steel Rail) THE CD's LINER NOTES "If you're ever in Montreal and you're free on a Monday night..." For 40 years there's been Hillbilly Night. When these recordings were made, in 1990, it was being held at the Blue Angel on Drummond Street downtown. For the last decade or so, since the original location was taken over by a restaurant, it's been held at the Wheel Club in Montreal's N.D.G. (Notre Dame de Grace) district. It was started by Bob Fuller and is still run by him. Hillbilly Night is an internationally-known event that welcomes all who are in favor of or at least open to Old-Time Country Music. It is attended by the young and the old, the French and the English, the ladies and the gentlemen, the hip and the square. Singers, whether amateur or professional, do two songs each in a rotation backed by a pool of able players. Styles covered include bluegrass, western swing, rockabilly, honky tonk, skiffle, old-timey, fiddle tunes, hillbilly, country boogie, Nashville Sound, and then some. You haven't seen anything like it. This event has built a real and expanding community, and is a jewel in the cultural world of Montreal. THE SONGS (notes by CM) 1. Joint Bank Account. I found this song on a vinyl LP called Rock & Rock-a-Billy again released in 1980 by the Dutch company White Label, during the period when the rockabilly revival took off in Europe. Various labels, usually run by record collectors, began reissuing records that had been made decades earlier in the United States. I bought many as part of my research into the style's history, which culminated in my book Go Cat Go! Rockabilly Music and It's Makers (University of Illinois Press, 1996). The song, more honky tonk than rockabilly, was written and recorded in the 1960s by Bill Lancaster who released it himself in on a 45rpm single. It seems nothing more of him is known to collectors. 2. Little Joe. This song, also known as "Darling Little Joe," was recorded by the Carter Family in 1934. My arrangement was inspired by the first version I heard: Norman Blake's, from his album Back Home in Sulphur Springs (1972). 3. I Can't Quit (I've Gone Too Far). The great country star Marty Robbins wrote this. It was issued in 1956 on the flip side of his hit "Singin' the Blues." 4. Drifting and Dreaming. The full title is "Drifting and Dreaming (Sweet Paradise)." The 1925 sheet music cover, which shows that it was popularized by Ted Lewis, calls it A Hawaiian Love Song, Fox Trot with Ukulele arrangement. George Olsen, a popular sweet-band leader, had a hit with it in 1926, and it was redone as a slow instrumental on a Hawaii Calls album. I know it from childhood, from hearing my mother's copy of Vera Lynn Sings Songs of the Twenties. Lynn was England's most popular female singer during World War II era. 5. Fuller Blues. I learned this from Sam McGee's Grand Dad of the Country Guitar Pickers. Mike Seeger, of the New Lost City Ramblers, recorded him in 1970 in McGee's hometown of Franklin, Tennessee. With his brother Kirk, McGee's career goes back to the 1920s. They recorded prolifically and were early members of the Grand Ole Opry. 6. Lonesome For My Baby. I learned it from Ernie Chaffin's 1957 recording on the Sun label of Memphis. 7. Your Old Standby. Jim Eanes and the Shenandoah Valley Boys recorded it in 1957. Eanes, a bluegrass singer, wrote it and it did well for him. George Jones, in a duet with Gene Pitney, revived it in 1966. 8. Legend In My Time. This is one of the many great Don Gibson songs from the late 1950s. 9. FOD. This is likely an old minstrel song. A folk song collector got it from a migrant farm worker in California in 1941, and 15 years later it came out on a Library of Congress album called Anglo-American Shanties, Lyric Songs, Dance Tunes, and Spirituals. That's where I found it and added it to my repertoire of children's songs for it's odd imagery and the fun of shouting out the nonsense word each verse. Kids like it! 10. The Blue Angel Song. Bob Fuller, Hillbilly Night's founder, Jeannie Arsenault, the event's goodwill ambassador, fiddler Bill Bland, and singer Billy Anthony are among those named who are still Monday night regulars. Rocky Rodgers now plays in heaven's hillbilly band, Chris Quinn has moved to Toronto, and several of the others mentioned are either departed forever or have drifted away. To bolster the old timers, a whole new crop of people have become part of the family. 11. Why I'm Walkin'. I first heard this song, a 1960 top-10 country hit for Stonewall Jackson (who wrote it with Melvin Endsley), in a live performance by Ricky Scaggs, who revived it in 1988 as "Angel On My Mind (That's Why I'm Walkin')". 12. Rockin' With Red. Written by albino bluesman Piano Red, who had a hit with it in 1951, this became a rockabilly standard when done by Little Jimmy Dickens, Roy Hall, and others. It was sometimes renamed "She Sure Can Rock Me."