Listen – Lemon Chimes – MP3
I’m back following the long holiday stretch, hoping that you all dug the last podcast and are ready for more goodness.
On the podcast tip, as I stated in the last post I have a very cool mix in the hopper that will probably drop in this space next week. It’s something that I’ve been cooking for a long time and it finally came together during December, so stay tuned.
Today’s selection is a very nice bit of country/folk/rock by one of the more interesting and influential groups of the 60’s.
The Dillards came got their start in the early 60’s primarily as a bluegrass band. They came to fame via appearances as the fictional Darling family on the Andy Griffith show between 1963 and 1966.
The Southern California country rock scene included number of former bluegrass musicians, like Chris Hillman and Clarence White of the Byrds and David Lindley of the Kaleidoscope. The Dillards became a huge influence on this scene, with Doug Dillard playing on the seminal country rock LP ‘Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers’, after which Dillard & Clark were formed and recorded two albums for A&M.
Just before this period, when the Dillards were first exploring electric instruments and fusions of country, folk and rock they recorded the LP ‘Wheatstraw Suite’.
Back when I was a kid, and reading everything I could get my hands on about rock music, ‘Wheatstraw Suite’ was often cited as an important album in the creation of country rock. This has always been an especially interesting period for me, not only because I’m a fan of the sound, but because the musical history often contradicts the conventional wisdom on the subject.
While some would have you believe that country rock got its start with the likes of the Eagles, there were numerous examples of formative instances of the genre years before the members of that particular band started hating each other’s guts.
The earliest “major” group working in the genre was of course the Byrds, recording electrified versions of straight country – like Porter Wagoner’s ‘Satisfied Mind’ – on their early albums. There were also efforts by the Monkees (mainly Nesmith influenced), International Submarine Band (featuring early work by Gram Parsons), Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Rick Nelson and of course the band that Chris Hillman would form with Gram Parsons, the Flying Burrito Brothers*.
On “Wheatstraw Suite” the Dillards were working a lot more on the country/folk side of the street, but there is a definite pop thread running through the entire album, with covers of tunes by the Beatles (‘I’ve Just Seen a Face’), Tim Hardin (Reason to Believe) and Jesse Lee Kincaid of the Rising Sons** (‘She Sings Hymns Out of Tune’ which was covered around the same time by Harry Nilsson).
Today’s selection ‘Lemon Chimes’ was recorded in a different version prior to the ‘Wheatstraw Suite’ album and released as a 45 (the version you’re hearing today is from the LP). The tune was written by the drummer on this session, Dewey Martin who went on to play with the Buffalo Springfield. Interestingly enough, that 45 was produced by none other than David Axelrod during the Dillards very brief (two singles) sojourn at Capitol Records following which they re-signed with their longtime label, Elektra.
Though I haven’t heard that earlier version, I love the rerecording on the LP, where the Dillards managed to create a unique fusion of countrified Sunshine Pop. Listening to the tune it’s hard to imagine that the group performing it were a straight bluegrass band but a few years before.
I hope you dig it.
*Interestingly enough two of these groups contributed members to the Eagles, with bassist Randy Meisner coming from Rick Nelson’s band and Bernie Leadon coming from the Flying Burrito Brothers.
**The Rising Sons also included Ry Cooder (pre-Beefheart), Ed Cassidy (pre-Spirit) and Taj Mahal