Songlines: ‘Call It Stormy Monday But Tuesday is just as Bad’ Part 1
Enshrined in the Grammy, Rock and Roll and the Blues Foundation’s Halls of Fame, as well as the U.S. Library of Congress’ National Recording Legacy, T-Bone Walker’s ‘Call It Stormy Monday But Tuesday is just as Bad’* is an acknowledged foundation stone in the development of blues and rock ‘n roll.
Not bad for a number that was first released as a B-side.
It was the nascent Blues and R & B bands who turned T-Bone Walker’s 1947 number into something of a “standard” in England. In the U.S., it was, more often than not, jazz or lounge singers who were first drawn to cover the number. Early adapters included Nancy Wilson, Pat Boone, Lou Rawls and Les McCann and Jimmy Witherspoon.
The first covers by “rock” bands in the U.S. were relegated to LPs, used to help pad the running time when they didn’t have enough original material. We’ll have a look at some of those in separate post.
The first to release a cover of the song in the U.K. was Alexis Korner’s Blue Incorporated, on 1964’s “Red Hot From Alex”
Korner may have seen Walker performer the number when he was touring with the American Folk Blues Festival in 1962, but the arrangement here more closely follows Walker’s original recording.
Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated
Herb Goins: vocal / Alexis Korner: guitar /
Danny Thompson: bass / Barry Howten: drums /
Ron Edgeworth: piano / Art Theman: tenor saxophone /
Dave Castle: flute
Transatlantic LP, “Red Hot From Alex” (Released 1964 U.K.)
Herb Goins an expatriate Black American singer replaced Cyril Davies as lead singer for Blues Incorporated, and while his vocals are smoother than Davies’, they lack any real sense of personality.
What helps to make the number successful, surprisingly, is Korner’s guitar work, some of the best that he committed to tape.
The number is a highlight of the LP, nicely highlighting the group’s willingness to wander off the straight and narrow path of purism to bring Dave Castle’s flute into the mix.
Around this time, The Graham Bond Organisation, consisting of former Blues Incorporated members Bond, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Dick Heck-Stall Smith made the number part of their live repertoire.
The following year, the British Vocalion label released Bobby Bland’s 1962 LP “Here’s the Man!!!” in the U.K. and within months, three different covers of Bland’s recording of ‘Stormy Monday Blues’** appeared, in August, September and October.
Bobby Bland: vocal / Wayne Bennett: guitar /
Hamp Simmons: bass / John “Jabo” Starks: drums
(edited version) A-side Duke 45 (1962)
(full length) Here’s the Man!!! (Duke 1962)
Bobby Bland – Stormy Monday Blues (full length) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwufDac-ku8
The LP swung back and forth from raucous numbers such as ’36-22-26’ and ‘Turn on Your Lovelight’ to aching ballads like ‘You’re the One’ and ‘You’re Worth it All’, but nothing prepares the listener for the startling intimacy of the closing track.
The horn section has packed up, it is past last call, and the near empty club is dotted with solitary drinkers, unable to make a connection for the night yet unwilling to return home alone.
One of the finest pairings of voice and guitar, Wayne Bennett’s lines console and comfort, maintaining a firm steadying hand even when Bland’s silky tones are torn by apart by his raw emotion.
Singer Chris Farlowe and guitarist Albert Lee came close to matching that symbiosis on their cover of the song, the first inspired by Bland’s recording, a two-sided single released in August of 1965.
Legend has it that neither Farlowe, or anyone else in the band was aware that the tapes were rolling when this song was recorded; they were simply warming up before beginning to get to work that day. In support of this is the fact that the number runs over six minutes. It seems doubtful that the label would have planned to release a two-sided single.
Farlowe maintains that he was not only surprised when this “rehearsal” was released a few weeks later, but bewildered by its being credited to one Little Joe Cook. Apparently, those in charge at the label hoped that the pseudonym sounded American enough to fool British Blues fans into thinking that this was a recording by a another “rediscovered” bluesman returned to the stage and studio after toiling in obscurity thirty or more years.
Little Joe Cook
(Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds)
Chris Farlowe: vocal / Albert Lee: guitar /
Ricky Charman: bass / Ian Hauge: drums /
Dave Greenslade: keyboards /
A & B side, Sue single (Released August 1965 U.K.)
Albert Lee’s guitar and Dave Greenslade’s organ work leans more towards a light jazz sound rather than deep blues, but it is Farlowe who roots the number in the blues; his delivery is completely unforced, (the downfall of so many of his contemporaries) whether rising effortlessly into falsetto or coarsening with remorse as he unburdens himself.
September saw the song released as the B-side to the second, (and last) single by The Nightshift. The arrangement took a decidedly more blues-based approach instrumentally, i.e. bringing in a harmonica, only to be completely let down by the singer who sounds as if he is recounting his uneventful day at the office to his uninterested wife.
The recording was belatedly plucked from obscurity when it was released on “Ultimate Rarities Collection Volume 1” a Jeff Beck compilation released in Japan in 1998; it was introduced to a wider audience when Castle Communications also included it on “Jeff Beck Shapes of Things (60’s Groups & Sessions)” in 2003.
As with some of the other tracks on those two collections, Beck’s connection here may be more associative than actual.
He had played with The Nightshift for a short time in 1963, (it is even possible that this was a different band with the same name). Beck had replaced Eric Clapton in The Yardbirds in March of 1965 and it seems unlikely that he would be doing session work at that time, even for old friends.
Brian Wiles: vocal & harmonica /
(possibly) Jeff Beck: guitar / Dave Elvidge: drums
B-side Piccadilly 45 (Released September 1965 U.K.)
The Nightshift – Stormy Monday – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwEQqDqZlH8
From the opening notes of the brief intro, the guitarist’s tone and technique reminds me very much of the playing heard on Them’s recordings at the time – (this of course is of no use at all in identifying the player as apparently no one knows who played on their records either).
Unfortunately, the singer was no Van Morrison; in fact, he wasn’t even Jeff Beck (see: ‘Hi Ho Silver Lining’). The passionless vocal seems to be striving for a sense of world weariness, but only achieves disinterest.
The guitarist (whoever he is) valiantly tries to bring something interesting to the proceedings, with arpeggios and runs up and down the fretboard, building up a nice head of steam towards the end, forcing the singer to almost raise his voice.
In October, a third version was released on Manfred Mann’s second LP “Mann Made”. A showcase for the vocal and harmonica work of Paul Jones (who, along with guitarist Mike Vickers, would leave the band shortly after this LP’s release); the number is most notable for being the first (that I am aware of) to rework the arrangement for harmonica rather than guitar.
Paul Jones: vocal & harmonica /
Manfred Mann: keyboards / Mike Vickers: guitar /
Tom McGuiness: bass / Mike Hugg: drums
HMV LP, Mann Made (Released October 1965 U.K.)
Manfred Mann – Stormy Monday Blues – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_gZQMPrQIM
As with the Nightshift’s version, Jones appends a brief intro to the number, a blast of harmonica that promises escape but quickly stutters and stalls leading the listener into the song.
Jones was an excellent British R & B singer but the grit in his vocals was fine grained, giving everything that he sang a high gloss pop finish.
He misses the emotional subtext that Farlowe brought to his recording, but that was never the point. Jones and the band were “Performers” their professionalism and proficiency too often substituting for a deeper engagement with the material they were covering.
Musically, Jones’ fine harp work dominates, with the band seamlessly handing off the support work to one another, with Mann’s piano underpinning a verse, and then the bass dominate beneath Jones’ harmonica solo; Hugg’s drums are brought forward for a few lines and Vickers slips in perfectly timed tasty little fills.
The song’s popularity in England would continue unabated into 1966, especially as a live number and in the next entry we will take a look at three live performances by John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers featuring both Eric Clapton and Peter Green as well as a later version by Fleetwood Mac.
*Few recorded the song under it’s full, original title, which to Walker’s frustration lead a large majority of the early covers to be incorrectly credited to Hines, Eckstine and Crowder, the writers of a 1942 song titled ‘Stormy Monday Blues’ a song with no connection to Walker’s other than having “Stormy Monday” in the title
**The original Duke single of Bland’s recording, not released in the U.K., deleted Wayne Bennett’s guitar solo, the key element that most of the subsequent covers on both sides of the Atlantic honed in on.