Wednesday, May 03, 2006

decades later, after the accident


glisten - Lucky 13 Pt. 4: Percy Mayfield

#7: Percy Mayfield - Sugar Mama, Peachy Papa

#8: Percy Mayfield - The Voice Within

Talk about a hard row to hoe, Percy Mayfield sure had one. At thirty, Percy fought his way to the top of the hill with a self-penned number one R+B single, 'Please Send Me Someone To Love'. His movie-star looks and songwriting chops put him in the running to become one of the first great pop stars of the fifties but two years later, Mayfield gets in a horrendous car crash that terribly and irrevocably disfigures him.

He spends months recovering, writing and, finally, touring again. Mayfield spends the next seven years on the road, fighting depression and alcoholism. His songwriting had always focussed on a dark inner life (Percy's first published singles included 'Two Years of Torture' and 'Life Is Suicide') and the fallout from his accident fuels a number of macabre blues ballads that would become standards, among them 'Stranger in My Own Town' and 'The River's Invitation'.

By 1961, Mayfield has pinballed from Specialty to Chess to Imperial and appears to have reached the end of his career when he sells a song to Ray Charles titled 'Hit the Road Jack'. The tune is a massive jackpot and, knowing a good thing when he hears one, Ray signs Mayfield to his newly formed Tangerine label. Mayfield stays with Tangerine to the end of the sixties, but eventually moves on to write tracks for RCA Victor until the mid seventies, when he effectively retires. In 1984, not yet sixty-five, Mayfield passes away.

The two tracks I have up today showcase Mayfield's intensity, virtuosity and versatility as both a songwriter and a performer.

'Sugar Mama, Peachy Papa', Mayfield's duet with obscure rnb singer Joy Hamilton, is a pop gem; bouncy and sweet as molasses. Frothy and full of nonsensical scatting, it's a wonderfully syncopated call and response, uptempo swinging sunshine that's utterly frown-proof.

'The Voice Within,' on the other hand, gives a look into Mayfield's harsh inner world. Essentially a schizophrenic interior argument for suicide, 'Voice' is driven by buzzing demonic saxophones, death-march drums and a skeletal, tripping piano line. It's less a blues and more a malaise. Both songs are amazing listens and memorable melodies; if this is your first time meeting Mr. Mayfield, I imagine you'll be hungry for more.

tell me more about it...

Both of these tracks hail from 'Memory Pain' the second volume of the outstanding two disc Percy Mayfield best of. You can buy the discs from Amazon for fifteen bucks a pop or from Oldies.com for a few dollars less.

If you'd rather download, both iTunes and eMusic have the greatest hits; neither, unfortunately, has the gorgeous Rhino handmade Tangerine/Atlantic set that tracks Percy's later and equally impressive work. The disc is long out of print and starts at the usurious price of a hundred bucks on Amazon.
Read this bio.


Kim Cooper and Nathan Marsak run an occasional LA bus tour that explores some of the darker spots of Los Angeles' criminal history. Over the course of 2005, Kim and Nathan have taken their interests online, obsessively blogging the police blotters and local dustups and murders of 1947 L.A..

Recently, they've started a new project with the same bent, only they've dialed the wayback machine this time to 1907.

Lots of great newspaper clips and plenty of film clips as well; it's a clear porthole to an earlier, equally complicated time.
King Hippo, we hardly knew ye.
I'm sure all you 1337 kids already know how to save youtube and googlevideo movies as mpegs, so I won't even bother telling you.
I strongly support drawing on things. Just not on people.
That kind of thing leads to Mr. Cool Ice.

Apparently, he had a T-shirt company design the tat in Corel Draw. Arial Black is forever, I guess.
The last statements of everyone executed in Texas since 1982.
All three hundred and sixty two of them.
"showPAN's Sharezo No. 1 in b min, op. 20 ".
All kinds of cool and geeky print for sale at fairly reasonable prices from Nucleus Gallery in California.
Your tastes may vary; look around the page a bit as there's flavor variation throughout.
Last I heard, there was no more limbo; which is probably for the best, all things considered.

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