Chick Hall, Jr.

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Chick Hall, Jr. - Guitar
Dave Panzer - Bass, Guitar, Keyboards
Rob Muncy - Piano, Horn, Percussion, Horn Arrangements
Mustang Horns:
   Steve Shaw, Tim Powell, Joe Herrera, Joe Brotherton, Josh Carr
Drums: Vick Chase, Mike Smirnoff, Chip Clemmer
Percussion: Earl “Applejack” Freeman
Vocals:
   David Akers, Skip Mahoney, Barbara Malone, Lynni Thorne
Mandolin: Tom Mindte
Violin: Susan Jones
Guitar & Vocals: Rachel Hall



Working Girl Blues * 20 – 75 * End of the World * Poinciana *
Honky Tonk pts. 3 & 4 * Aura Lee * I’m Your Vehicle *
Sleep Walk * Only You * Oh! Lady Be Good *
(You Ain’t the) Bossa Me * Sweet Dreams

The Washington DC Area has always had great guitar players for as long as I can remember. We have been spoiled, really, to be able to walk around the block to the local Legion Hall, teen club, or bar and have our minds blown by Danny Gatton, Roy Buchanon, Bobby Parker, Bill Kirchen, Bo Diddley, Link Wray, Roy Clark or Chick Hall (both Senior and Junior). More than just great players, they were/are stylists, innovators and risk takers. Some of them shaped and changed popular music way, way beyond whatever compensation and credit they received. Most of them were stay-at-home family men who watched, passively, as younger, flashier looking musicians latched on to their ideas and ran to the bank with them. It’s an old story. This is Chick Hall Jr’s first album under his own name, and yet he has been playing guitar for fifty years. Like his dad he can play in many different styles of music and burns on jazz, rock, country and blues. On this CD he is backed by, essentially, an R&B band. His father played and arranged for country combos for more than fifty years but never had a commercial recording to his name. When DC native Jimmy Dean asked him to come to New York in 1962 to lead the band on his weekly TV network music show, Chick, Sr turned him down to tend to his own night club he had opened in 1955. “Chick Hall’s Surf Club” is still open to this day. In 1960, after being bested in a guitar jam session, jazz/bossa guitarist Charlie Byrd asked him, “Why are you wasting your time playing country?” Hall’s response: “Well, I’m working steadier than you.” So, to my mind, Chick Hall Sr started the tradition of great guitarists from the DC Area. He also
taught his son a thing or two. Chick Hall Jr joined his first rock group at age 13, went on to form the “Magestic Neons” and played the usual teen clubs, parties and rock bars. The Neons actually yielded a 45 RPM on the Unicorn label for Elliot Ryan, but, like his dad, Hall Jr eventually gravitated to country music under the employ of Ronnie Dove, Johnny Lee, Lori Morgan and Ace Cannon. For the past twenty years Chick has led his own trio or quartet in the Rock or Country genre, usually at the Surf Club. But, also like his dad, he loves to really let loose on a fiery jazz solo if the song calls for it. A Chick off the old block?

Us old-timers grew up with the juke box. We knew where the good ones were and spent a small fortune in nickels, dimes, and quarters to keep them playing. I actually found one that played for free in Ritchie Coliseum at the University of Maryland in 1960.
The only problem was, it was during a rally for John F. Kennedy and the campaign workers kept playing “High Hopes”, the Kennedy theme song, over and over. Kennedy was late and I, at 13 years old, had heard enough of “High Hopes”. So I quickly punched up a few other songs and hot-footed it. Lo and behold, Chuck Berry’s “Little Queenie” boomed out next, people cheered and the campaign workers went nuts trying to get the Kennedy theme back on with no luck at all. At the opening beats of Fats Domino’s “I’m Gonna be a Wheel Someday”, in walked John F. Kennedy, making the long walk up to the podium with Fats wailing with his every step. It’s still my favorite Fats song and my favorite juke box memory. But the juke box hits CD you hold is different from the original hits; thus the “Nuke” in the title. For example, Merle Haggard’s redneck country anthem “Working Man’s Blues” takes a left hand turn into town with Barbara Malone’s vocal tribute to the working girl with “Working Girl Blues”.

Next up is Willie Mitchell’s soul juke box hit of 1964, “20 - 75”, a horn laden R&B march. Chick and his rhythm section stomp and scream and … wait a minute … what’s James Brown doing here? Skeeter Davis’s blubbering hit “End of the World” pretty much made her career in 1963. But Chick doesn’t need lyrics. Guitars weep, too. “Poinciana” was a bona fide jazz juke box hit for both Ben Webster in the 40’s and Ahmad Jamal in the 50”s. Chick’s version features his most distinctive guitar work and at mid-song
arranger Rob Muncy abruptly yanks the whole party into a Cuban dance hall. In 1956 Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk pt. 1 & 2” filled the dance floor of every juke joint. Chick used to play this one with Ace Cannon’s group and on parts 3 and 4 swallows the song whole. That a rooster emerges in part 4 should wake up a few people. “Aura Lee” - juke box hit? Okay, I concede that they didn’t have juke boxes in 1861. However a certain someone from Memphis added lyrics and went to #1 with it in 1956. Its also the name of his first movie. Chick’s loving and tender guitar version didn’t need lyrics and its resulting publishing fee. The musical acompaniment suggests a whole new musical category … Hillbilly Lounge Music. It could open doors. Which brings me to the Ides of March very big hit of 1970, “I’m Your Vehicle”. I always hated this song. A pompous vocalist, the world’s most grating guitar break and radio overplay … who could ask for less. I begged Chick not to do this one. He sent me out for pizza and went to work. When I got back I heard David Aker’s evil, ogling vocals and Panzer”s butt swinging bass line and decided to go out for more pizza. In the end we have a creepy, cautionary masterpiece with more grease than both meat pizzas combined. At least I was the only one who noticed the date that day. It was March 15th. It was pure coincidence, and it is true! Santo and Johnny’s instrumental “Sleep Walk” spent two weeks at #1 in 1959 and is one of the most recognizable melodies of all time. There are probably 100 versions of this already, but not with Lynni Thorne’s lyrics and singing. Lynni’s vocals have such innocence and conviction that I think Sun Ra would have liked it. And Chick rides it out with more passion than ever before. Ra would have like that too. In 1955 “Only You” was the first big hit by the Platters and a slow, throbbing make-out song. With Chick Hall and the Mustangs it’s … ah … well, lets shag, Baby! This bouncy beach treatment ought to go to #1 on the Carolina coast charts and Skip Mahoney’s vocals could shatter Rupaul’s eardrums. Can you French kiss and do the electric slide at the same time? Try it. “Oh! Lady Be Good” was big for Ella on the jazz jukes and Chick’s deceptively cheerful instrumental has plenty of hot licks throughout. Studio Engineer Tom Mindte flew through a light-fingered mandolin solo while keeping his toes twirling on the control board, perhaps still enthused by the previous song. “(You Aint the) Bossa Me” was written by Chick and he can play bossa. It is our bonus song on this CD and, please note, the 8-track tape of this album will not contain it. And who knows. Maybe it will be a juke box hit if bossa nova and juke boxes ever come back. Hey, maybe the music business will even come back. Our country closer is Don Gibson’s beautiful ballad “Sweet Dreams” with Chick’s daughter Rachel singing and teaming up with dad on the guitar duets. If I was a record company exec I would sign the whole family. Grandpaw would have liked that.

Joe Lee
Joe’s Record Paradise
8216 Georgia Avenue • Silver Spring, MD 20910


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