Monday, 7 July 2008
256-320 LAME VBR
Vinyl rip & scans from Tower ST 5103
Now this is a rare share - the other Jimmy Caravan LP from the 60s that has not been re-issued! Only his sophomore effort, Hey Jude, has been given the reissue treatment so far and there are lots of inexpensive copies in circulation. His debut, Look Into the Flower, is a different story entirely and sells for $40 and up. I combed blogs for days and slsk for years but have yet to see a digital copy - only a few tracks. His rendition of "Higher and Higher" appears on a Funky 16 Corners mix, "Look Into the Flower" shows up on an Iron Leg mix, "Little Bird" appeared on a Radio Madrid podcast, while someone has upped "Holiday" on the Philaflava forum. To be honest, that's pretty much the meat of this LP save for two Beatles covers: "Eleanor Rigby" and my personal fave on the LP, a smokin' take on "A Day In The Life" described by Jazz Motel as "a great version...in trio where the cacophony orchestra of the original piece, that divided the two ‘separate’ pieces of Paul and John, is substituted by a cacophony organ that gives you goose pimples with the Lesley."
There's not much info on JC out there and practically none at all on these sessions. What little is known comes courtesy his liner notes, a serious Captain Beefheart fan (Caravan was a member of the Magic Band for Bluejeans & Moonbeams) and some mentions by a couple guitarists who worked with him in later years: Mary Kaye (the famous guitarist who invented "lounge" with Prez Prado and had a Fender Strat named for her) and Earl Alexander (a one-time member of the Blues Caravan).
Born ??/??/1940 in Pennsylvania (I'm guessing Pittsburgh), he picked up accordion and oboe at a young age and by 15 was gigging in Pittsburgh. He went to Carnegie Tech and spent time in the Air Force, where he was a member of the Air Force Band. Speculating that he completed Carnegie and spent at least a year in the service, this period would be roughly from '58 - '63 give or take. Shortly afterward he switched from wind to keys and was turned on to the possibilities of his newly chosen instrument by a fellow Pennsylvanian, the late Jimmy McGriff, and spent the next couple years honing his chops in Pittsburgh's mob-dominated nightclub scene while learning the ropes of the music biz at the same time. That neck of the woods was fertile ground for B-3 bombers, with Jimmy Smith out of Norristown PA and the New Jersey stomping grounds of Groove Holmes and Charles Kynard only a stone's throw from away.
At some point in the mid-60s he headed out to the left coast and started working the scene in L.A. where A&R rep Jackie Mills (an ex-drummer for Billie Holiday, Lionel Hampton, Nat King Cole, Chico O'Farrill and others) signed Jimmy to his own Wednesday's Child Productions. Two albums followed: Look Into the Flower on Tower in 1968 and Hey Jude in 1969, both produced by Mills. Absolutely no info can be found on the guitarist and drummer who fleshed out the trio for either of these releases which fell into obscurity almost immediately.
His trail goes cold for a couple years but he joined guitar and pop culture legend Mary Kaye in her unit from '71 - '73 when she was living in California. Shortly after that stint, he appears on Captain Beefheart's Bluejeans & Moonbeams in '74 playing the 'Star Machine' as his B-3 was deemed in the liner notes.
By all appearances, he was active in the L.A. music scene for at least another ten years and sometime in that period he put together his outfit The Blues Caravan (not to be confused with the German group) who released one eponymous LP on GNP Crescendo in 1985 (don't bother ordering the cassette as it's out of stock and still hasn't been removed from their site). The line up featured Jimmy (keys); Neil Norman (gtr & prod), Alex Acuna (drums), Rufus Anderson (gtr), Fernando Harkless (sax), Claude Williams (trumpet) and Charles Faris (bottleneck gtr). Both Norman and Faris also played bass but I'm not sure who did so on this session.
The best document I was able to dig up came from Earl Alexander's site: A short article on Jazz & Blues written by the man himself. I have no idea where it's from and I'm still waiting for any response from Alexander's website but judging from the offbeat musical company he kept, the statements of those who knew him and his own words, JC seemed like a chill cat from the down-and-dirty East who probably didn't blow up as a result of having too much integrity and humility - and he was probably just fine with that!
If anyone has any other leads on Jimmy Caravan info (I can't even find his date of passing) please leave a comment and help shine some light on an unsung hero of the Hammond B-3.
Listen to this lost classic HERE or HERE.
UPDATE: Just got an extremely helpful response from Earl Alexander regarding the above clipping. He confirmed Jimmy wrote a regular music column for a South Central L.A. weekly newspaper called "Scoop," which I'm assuming is still published as the "Los Angeles Scoop" but I'm waiting for confirmation. Mr. Alexander was also kind enough to offer up a contact at KJAZZ 88.1 FM which I'm checking into. Gotta say he's a class act all the way and if you didn't check out the link to his site yet, give him a hit for his counter! Here's what he had to say about the clipping:
"When I first put up my web site, it was mostly used as a point of contact with other musicians. I remember looking for some photos and other things of interest that could go onto the site and that's when I found this old clipping that I had cut out and saved many years ago. I couldn't believe that I still had it. It was an article about me from a local South Central Los Angeles news paper where Jimmy wrote the weekly jazz and blues section. Anyway, I wanted to do something to remember one of the coolest cats that I had ever known in my music career so I posted this article. The general responses I get usually goes something like: "Oh yeah, I remember Jimmy Caravan. Whatever happened to him? What a great cat."
Stay tuned for further developments....