Spinning turntable singles with "Little Danny C"
Vermont's honky-tonk titans The Starline Rhythm Boys are known for their spirited, rockabilly-tinged country and blue-hued swing. Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Danny Coane is among the legends of the Green Mountain music scene. Along with guitarist-vocalist "Big Al" Lemery and stand-up bassist Billy Bratcher, he always provides a raucous good time.
Coane is a wellspring of energy and enthusiasm; he's played in bands since the early '60s -- including the late, great Throbulators -- but he still gets excited about a rockin' tune. Over the years, Coane has amassed an incredible working knowledge of American music as well as an enviable record collection. The feisty musician with his slicked-back 'do and vintage western duds is always a hoot to hang with -- especially when you're drinking PBRs and listening to some of the coolest singles ever pressed to vinyl.
Seven Days asked Coane for a personal listening party with his top-10 favorite 45s -- and such a short list ain't easy for a serious collector. So we bent the rules a bit and threw in a couple B-sides. The comments below are all Coane's.
1. Bill Doggett: "Honky Tonk Part I & II" (King, 1956)
This is probably one of the earliest rock instrumentals. Bill Doggett was actually a jazz guy -- played Hammond B3. He had this little group with Billy Butler and Clifford Scott, who was this great tenor sax player. This is just one session, one take.
It's just a groove, man -- hand claps, this was major. Clifford is just honkin! Check the fade they do on this record, it's cool! When you put on [B-Side] "Part II" -- it comes right back up.
When I was in The Throbulators, these people that hired us to play a gig said, "There's this friend of ours from New York City, she plays tenor sax -- she's pregnant, but can she sit in with you?" I'm thinkin', "Aww, man, this could be bad." So this woman got up there, and I said, "What do you want to do?" And she said, "Honky Tonk." So we did it. And this woman had it note for note. Played it just like this 45. It was unreal.
2. Jerry Lee Lewis: "High School Confidential" b/w "Fools Like Me" (Sun, 1958)
I bought this in the '60s. I worked at a record store in Montpelier in high school called Mix Music. [Owner] Cliff Mix was the high school bandleader. He hired me to run the store while he was in the back giving lessons. I'd be goin' through the store, throwin' stuff on and checking it out!
The thing I love about Jerry is that he's a stylist. A lot of people like the piano glissandos with his right hand, but his left hand is killer. He's just pumpin', man, big-time!
This was Jerry Lee's fourth hit, and what's cool is that there's some country on the flipside. He's rockin' on "High School Confidential," but "Fools Like Me," aww, man. It really gets me. This is country! These kids are listening to rock 'n' roll and they're puttin' this on the flipside, man! It's great. I'm a B-side dude.
3. Chuck Berry: "Maybelline" b/w "Wee Wee Hours" (Chess, 1955)
This guy is one of my idols. I mean, who's the king of rock 'n' roll? Chuck Berry writes, plays guitar, bandleads -- the whole thing. It's gonna be 50 years in May, man, since this thing hit the charts. I didn't buy it then, but I heard it in the early '60s.
Check out the flipside: "Wee Wee Hours." This is Chicago blues, man. When I heard this I was like, "What is this?" This white kid in Vermont is sayin', "Who are these guys?" It's Chuck playin' hard blues. He's not shoutin'. He's just layin' back behind the piano player. This was the first blues I ever heard. I always liked this more than "Maybelline."
4. Gene Vincent: "Be Bop a Lula" b/w "Woman Love" (Capitol, 1956)
Sun Records is classic, but Capitol had better reverb. Think about the major artists on Capitol -- Sinatra, the Beach Boys. It was a big, big scene.
Gene Vincent was the first rockabilly I ever heard. I heard this before Elvis. It's jumpin'! Listen to that slap-back echo -- and Cliff Gallup on lead guitar... man!
The flipside I always loved. It's Gene bein' vulgar and breathin' hard. "Woman Love." Gene is the godfather of the punk movement, man. He's just leerin'. I used to play this over and over tryin' to figure out what the hell he was sayin'. Gene Vincent and Carl Perkins were my rockabilly guys. I mean, Elvis was great, but these guys...
5. The Jaynettes: "Sally Go 'Round the Roses" b/w instrumental (Tuff, 1963)
This is a bizarre tune, man. I bought this when it came out. This song always intrigued me 'cause it's mysterious. It's like a kid's nursery rhyme, a jump-rope song. I heard that it could even be a lesbian reference.
I remember being told years ago that it was recorded in an elevator shaft. That may not be correct, but it is a big production with lots of singers and reverb. The flipside is an instrumental, so you can "sing along with the Jaynettes."
It was a number-two record. I remember going to dances in high school and they played this. The band I was playing with then, The Jesters, had two girl singers. We still didn't do this one, though -- not enough firepower!
6. Bill Monroe: "Devil's Dream" b/w "New John Henry Blues" (Decca, 1963)
I used to tune in to WWVA in Wheeling, West Virgina, with this Emerson transistor radio I had. I don't remember what the station's wattage was, but you could pick it up on a clear night. That's how I heard bluegrass. I just loved it, man.
Bill Keith plays on this. He was the guy who went beyond the Scruggs style of banjo into this more progressive style. He was from Massachusetts, and he was playin' in a way the Southern folks had never heard. He was able to play fiddle solos note for note.
Gordon Stone comes off this style of playin' -- he's influenced by Bill Keith. Keith was only with Monroe for about a year, but it was really different stuff.
7. John Lee Hooker: "No Shoes" b/w "Solid Sender" (Vee-Jay, 1960)
I got this one from The Jesters, 'cause none of 'em wanted it! But I'm listening to it goin', yeah, man, what is this scene?, and gettin' goosebumps.
He's not burnin' up the neck. His changes are all wrong, and the band is going against the changes. Listen -- he's not even playin' the guitar at this point!
As a white kid in Mont-pelier, I never heard anything like this. I got it from the guys and I was like, "Holy shit, who is this guy?" Later, I got his albums and learned all about him, but at first it was just this single, "No Shoes."
8. The Pyramids: "Penetration" b/w "Here Comes Marsha" (Best, 1963)
Here is a side of Danny Coane that the general public does not know. I'm bluegrass, country, honky-tonk and rockabilly, but one of my favorite styles of music is surf.
We played surf instrumentals in The Jesters. Our guitar player was good and he could do this stuff. We played this one in the band. This record charted nationwide and so I picked it up. The flipside is interesting, too. I had no clue about it until years later, but one of the members of The Pyramids was a black guy named Willie Glover. And he wrote this and sang this flipside. It was very different from the surf stuff -- a soulful ballad. He moved to California from the East, and played rhythm guitar in a surf band. It's weird as a B-side, but I always loved it.
9. Marty Robbins: "El Paso" b/w "Running Gun" (Columbia, 1960)
I actually bought this when it came out in 1960 -- that would've been junior high school. Columbia, 98 cents. The producer on this, Mitch Miller, was a big-band leader, and he put the nix on it initially, sayin', "Too long -- over three minutes." But Marty was like, "No. This is a ballad, it's a whole story."
The thing about this is that it was unique for country music at the time. Grady Martin, the guy doin' lead guitar, was a big session player in Nashville, and he's playin' all that Spanish stuff. He was like a major guy. All the people playin' on this were A-list Nashville session men.
He was one of the best country singers, no question, but I always liked the story and the Spanish guitar. There was nothing being cut in country like this back then.
10. Bobbie Gentry: "Ode to Bille Joe" b/w "Mississippi Delta" (Capitol, 1967)
Another mysterious kind of song. Roberta Lee Streeter, better known as Bobbie Gentry. This is her playing with just a guitar and a string section. She was just a girl from Mississippi, man -- then she becomes a showgirl in Vegas.
I heard it on the radio, on a country station, but it was absolutely different than what was coming out at the time. It isn't country at all -- it's r&b. It flipped me out. Even the strings, you'd think it would be corny, but it's great. It's dark. Grace Slick cut this, too, believe it or not. I love it!