Monday, August 11, 2008

Vinyl Record Day - NSFW Edition!

Tuesday, August 12 is Vinyl Record Day, a commemoration of the anniversary of the invention of the phonograph. For the second year, I write this post as a participant in the Vinyl Record Day blogswarm organized by J.A. Bartlett from The Hits Just Keep On Comin'. I'm proud to be invited to participate once again, and I encourage you to check out all of the bloggers, many of whom participated last year but a great many more who are coming aboard this year, from the blogswarm roll call page.

Last year I discussed how vinyl played a fundamental role in my evolution into the Stepfather of Soul. This year I've decided to dive into a particular segment of my collection that doesn't get coverage on the blog. The "party record" has a pretty long history, stretching well into the 78 RPM era, and such albums, which featured blue humor and often suggestive cover art, thrived well into the '70s and perhaps even the '80s. The party record was so named because it would often be played at adult social gatherings. Usually they were sold under the counter at record stores or by mail order. One of the best known and most notorious party record labels was Laff Records, who recorded everyone from Joe Ross from Car 54, Where Are You? to a young Richard Pryor to LaWanda Page ("Aunt Esther" from Sanford and Son) to Richard & Willie (a foul-mouthed take on the Willie Tyler & Lester ventriloquist act), but a great many others, mostly low-budget affairs, also recorded material. A Laff discography is available here (warning - this page includes nude cover art and is, accordingly, not suitable for viewing at work or by minors or those who would be offended). I think that changing mores by the '80s did in the party record, in part because the humor contained in those grooves just didn't seem so dirty in light of mainstream success by Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, Andrey "Dice" Clay and others. Some of the jokes are downright tame to a 2008 listener.

I've decided to feature material from two party albums for my Vinyl Record Day feature. Although party records were not limited to black comics (one of the most famous party record artists was Rusty Warren, whose "bodacious broad" routines graced albums like Knockers Up!), in keeping with the blog's usual subject matter, two well-known and one lesser-known black comics' works are featured. I will reiterate my earlier warning, as some of this material is indeed not safe for work and not suitable for minors or those who don't appreciate blue humor.



The late comic and actor Nipsey Russell is probably better known today as "the poet laureate of television" due to his frequent game show and talk show appearances, on which he was regularly called upon to recite comic couplets - a well-known one was "the opposite of 'pro' is 'con' / this fact is plainly seen / if 'progress' means 'move forward' / then what does 'Congress' mean?" - and as the Tin Man in the film version of The Wiz than he was for his comedy, but Russell was an important figure in African-American comedy, as his more intellectual approach to his material - including sharp monologues about race - set the stage for comics like Dick Gregory and Bill Cosby. In the '50s and early '60s Russell cut several party records, mostly for the Humorsonic label, but as he became a TV fixture he dropped blue material from his act. I present here four selections from his The Birds and the Bees and All That Jazz album. "A Day at the Races" finds Russell joking about a bad time at the track (remarking about a slow horse he had bet upon, "you've heard of a photo finish? They could make an oil painting of that rascal") before settling into a re-telling of Redd Foxx's famous "The Race Track" routine. On "Radio Roundup" Russell drops lots of bad puns in a fake radio news report. "My Friend Luigi" allows Russell to do a little humor in an exaggerated Italian accent, and on "School Days" Nipsey dips into "little Johnny"-styled jokes. It's not clear from the album notes whether this album was recorded at a nightclub, and I sort of doubt it, because the audience laughs just a little too hard at some jokes, but it's a good album nonetheless.

Redd Foxx was a star long before "Sanford and Son" catapaulted him into "household name" status thanks to prolific album output on Dooto, Loma, Warner Brothers, King and Foxx's own MF stretching back to the 1956 Dooto LP Laff of the Party. Foxx was easily the "King of the Party Record," and his stuff is more widely available on CD than many of his contemporaries. At Home was recorded at Foxx's Los Angeles comedy club (it was in business from 1967 or so until 1971, when it burned down), and over the course of the album, Foxx tells lots of blue jokes, gets some jabs in at some audience members, and even makes reference to the fact there's a recording being made ("sit in the back - you gonna mess my record up with an 'ooooh'," Foxx says). You can check it out here in two parts (Part 1 and Part 2).

Happy Vinyl Record Day! Keep laffin'!

2 comments:

Vincent the Soul Chef said...

Thanks for the laughs, dear Stepfather... I never knew Nipsey Russell did stand up, or at least I never heard any of it. And the Jimmy Lynch has got to be good...

I plan to be in Atlanta in late October, we'll have to try and hook up!

TopDailyMonitor said...

http://vinyl-records-sale.blogspot.com/

wow it is really interesting!