Monday, February 09, 2015

The Caveman and the Congolese


I surely wish I had more records on the Caveman label, or indeed, that there were more records released on the label to be had. Every one of the ones I've heard has been memorable, and today's record is no exception.

This record also features a singer who went by the name of Rod Barton, and a previous posting of a Barton record resulted in one of the high points of my song-poem collecting life - a couple of phone conversations with the man who sang under that name. He looked me up, based on information on this site, and cold-called me. It was great to talk with someone who was there, and his infectious enthusiasm for those days was great, too.

He quite strongly insisted that no one was being taken or scammed on the records he sang on, calling them demos - and a glance at the records he was one doesn't discount that as a possibility: today's record and the other Barton discs in my collection may well be more of the vanity variety than true song-poems. At this distance, it's hard to say.

Barton's song here, sung with a group dubbed "The Congolese", is called "The Congo Song". When I was a kid, the bedroom my brother and I shared featured an enormous piece of wallpaper on one wall which featured an equally immense map of the Earth. It had been put in by the previous owners, from whom our parents bought the home in 1961, so it featured the Belgian Congo.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I remember some of what I learned of the changes that took place in Africa in the 1960's, including the many different places where European colonists were thrown out, including the Congo, but my specific knowledge of the conflicts in this particular nation is sparse, indeed. And a glance at Wikipedia shows that it will take more time than I have now to correct that gap in my knowledge. But it does look like this record probably was written around the time of those conflicts - the late 1950's or just into 1960, most likely (the reference to keeping out commies helps here, too).

All that said, the lyrical conceit taken here is wholly obnoxious and offensive from a 2015 perspective, what with the mock African accent and the references to African sounding names (although perhaps the lyric is referencing actual people - I dunno). If you can get past that, which is a tall order, the track sounds pretty fun, with rockabilly piano, guitar and bass, although oddly, no drums. And Rod Barton was a greatly enjoyable singer, too.

Update, 2/23/15: A correspondent has let me know that the names in the song are real people! Charles Edward Rogers writes:

The names are indeed of real people: Patrice Lumumba, who led the Congo independence movement and was the free country's first president; Mobuto Sese Seko, who took control from Lumumba (accused of being a communist) in a coup; Moise Tshombe, who led the state of Katanga in secession from the independent Congo; and Albert Kalonji, who led another secession in the state of South Kasai.

Here's the song!



The flip side is by Jeff Samson and the Western Band and is titled "Weary River". Like "The Congo Song", it was written by Ned Williams, and both sides slide up into the correct speed for some reason, like they were mastered off of another disc that had to be brought up to speed.

This is a pretty standard issue country number, with some nice, closely miked violin, and sweet piano on the bridge.




3 comments:

Darryl Bullock said...

Hi Bob,

I've another Jeff Samson 45, on Golden-Glow, a label that also put out a Jimmy Drake (Nervous Norvus) 45:
Golden-Glow 45-900: Jeff Samson with Linbrask Trio – My Eyes are Full of You (William E Robison)/Drake Morgan with Linbrask Trio – Cowboy Jim (Pete Harris). The Montrose, California-based company isn't listed at AS-PMA but is clearly a song-poem/vanity hybrid like Caveman.

Timmy said...

I dig.

Charles Edward Rogers said...

The names are indeed of real people: Patrice Lumumba, who led the Congo independence movement and was the free country's first president; Mobuto Sese Seko, who took control from Lumumba (accused of being a communist) in a coup; Moise Tshombe, who led the state of Katanga in secession from the independent Congo; and Albert Kalonji, who led another secession in the state of South Kasai. (Thanks, vague recollections of college history and Wikipedia!)