WIB Listening Party #36: Spinning Christmas

featuring…

Various Artists on vintage 45 singles

🍺 Riedenburger Festbier

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

Deep from within a swirling pool of childhood memories, I hear it bubbling up into consciousness: A small intermingling of children’s voices, singing Christmas time is here, happiness and cheer …

For most of us, the run-up to the holiday doesn’t feel much like A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s a hectic dash to finish off projects and order a few more Christmas presents, fearing our loved ones may have got us more than we got them.

With that in mind, I’ll not take up much of your time with this final Listening Party of 2021. The plan’s simple: I’ll spin a few of my favorite holiday-themed blues 45s on the official Who Is Blues cheapo phonograph, which you’ll see in the clips to follow. Quick hits on some great tunes you never hear on the radio.

And I’ll crack open a cheerfully designed bottle of seasonal Festbier from the Bavarian town of Riedenburg.

We’ve all heard holiday classics by Bing Crosby, Gene Autry, Eartha Kitt and Nat King Cole a million times. Let’s give these bluesmen their due.

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WIB Listening Party #30: Reconsider Baby

featuring…

Elvis Presley, Reconsider Baby

🍺 BrewDog Elvis Juice

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

Loyal readers … for Listening Party #30, I’ve chosen to return to the flourishing Scottish-founded brewer I introduced in Listening Party #2: BrewDog. This entry will serve merely as a preamble to a kind of “BrewDog special” I have in mind for next week on the heels of a satisfying interaction with the company’s customer service department. I’ll expound on that when the time comes.

As for now, we’ll be sampling one of BrewDog’s most hip sounding offerings, a grapefruit-infused IPA they call Elvis Juice. Frankly I’d have thought an Elvis Presley-inspired beer would be flavored with peanut butter and banana. Whatevs. If you google “Elvis Juice,” as I just did, you’ll find that legal battles have been waged between BrewDog and Elvis Presley Enterprises over BrewDog’s attempts to trademark the beer. At this writing, though, Elvis Juice is the name on the can.

Our accompanying musical selection is Reconsider Baby, which has Presley singing the blues in a variety of settings – from a previously unreleased master of the Lonnie Johnson hit “Tomorrow Night” from 1954 (or 1955) to a recording of “Merry Christmas Baby,” a song made famous by Charles Brown, from May of 1971. The compilation originally appeared in the mid-1980s as part of the Elvis 50th Anniversary series – including the blue vinyl edition I was lucky to get my hands on through a roommate who worked for RCA at the time.

So it’s Elvis times two. Are you ready for this?

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WIB Listening Party #1: The Chess Story (Volume 1)

featuring…

The Chess Story Volume 1

🍺 Wolfscraft Frisch-Pils

Words & photos: Vincent Abbate

The Chess Story Volume 1, a Chess Records anthology covering the period from 1948 to 1956, is one of the albums that did it for me. A big bang that sent the blues hurtling into my universe.

Growing up in the States, the blues was familiar to me, but no more so than it was to your average American rock’n’roll fan. That means my concept of what the blues is and where it came from or even what real blues sounded like was vague and limited. I knew of John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. I’d seen B.B. King on Sanford and Son and Bo Diddley’s cameo in the George Thorogood video. I didn’t think of Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton as blues because they were all over FM radio.

Then I found this Chess sampler from 1993 in the bargain bin at a local bookstore. Those were ten Deutschmark well spent. (I’d been living in Germany for maybe two years at that point.) Some of the music I knew – Waters, Chuck Berry – but it was the guys I’d never heard before – Robert Nighthawk, Jimmy Rogers, Lowell Fulson – that made me realize just how many blues treasures were out there waiting to be discovered.

Let’s crack open a bottle of Wolfscraft Frisch-Pils and give this little record a spin…

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