Monday, 11 February 2013
Bogard Brothers - Street Corner Rock (c1961)
For the next couple of posts I want to focus on some EPs starting with this amazing issue by the Bogard Brothers. The title, Street Corner Jazz, is quite misleading... "Street Corner Rock" would probably be more appropriate!
You may recognise some of these tunes from Pat Conte's classic cassette, Flying Rock, posted at the Hound Blog. Conte's compilation sourced from his extensive collection of 78 rpms, featured a blend of mostly South African rock-derived kwela and jive, from 1950 to 1962. His cassette included four tracks by the Bogard Brothers, three of which can be found on this EP including the title track Flying Rock. Conte also included their raucous interpretation of Buddy Holly's That Will Be the Day on the cassette. Sadly that tune is absent from this EP which makes me wonder if his four tracks may have been sourced from the original 78 rpms. Oh, She's There is the track included on this EP that is absent from his cassette.
Coming out of Rupert Bopape's stable at EMI, the Bogard Brothers appear to be a quartet from Alexandra Township in Johannesburg. Three of the tracks are penned by Finish Mohamed and the fourth by Lawrence Motau, while the first also credits Isaac Nkosi (surely not Zacks) and Rupert Bopape. In the track That Will be the Day, the vocalist calls out to the other band members as "Finish, Tiny and Joey". Interestingly, Conte in his liner notes suggests that it is Finish Mohamed leading Black Mambazo on their track After Muchacha. Black Mambazo (not LBM) also hailed from Alexandra.
Stylistically, while rock was marginally adopted by some black musicians in South Africa in the late 1950s, the principle focus was on jazz, jive and (that short-lived commercial competitor to rock) kwela. Reasons for this are well outlined in Charles Hamm's essay "Rock 'n Roll in a Very Strange Society" in his book Putting Popular Music in its Place. According to Hamm, while executives at record companies in South Africa made a decision in the mid 1950s to market rock 'n roll to the black population through a sampling of international hits on 78 rpm, they failed to included any by black artists: Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino and so on. White artists such as Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Pat Boone were widely available, adopted, collected and reviewed in the black press.
"Though Todd Matshikiza reported in his review of "Rock Around the Clock" (Drum, July 1956) that 'nobody has done the rock around here yet', within a matter of months various non-white South Africans were emulating this music. Many new releases by local performers were identified, in advertisements or reviews, as being examples of indigenous rock 'n roll." (Hamm)
Hamm goes on to explain that by 1958 many blacks were turning away from rock 'n roll just as it was peaking for whites. "The black press rarely reviewed rock 'n roll discs after 1957, and mostly to make disparaging comments." In many respects, Hamm suggests, rock in South Africa became identified as a "white" music. "By contrast, five years later when the twist came to South Africa, it was identified from the beginning with Chubby Checker and quickly became immensely popular amongst blacks". (Hamm)
Interestingly 1958 also happened to be the same year that Spokes Mashiyane exchanged his flute for a saxophone in recording the hit Big Joe Special which introduced the ever popular sax-jive. Which leads to Hamm's third point and main thesis in that, in his view, it is mbaqanga that becomes the dominant style in the 1960s and in many ways became an equivalent for rock 'n roll within the black community. (Hamm)
Perhaps this might partially explain the use of the term "jazz" in the EP title "Street Corner Jazz" rather than rock...?
Hamm, in his many examples of black South African artists adopting rock elements, does mention a 78 rpm recording by the Bogard Brothers, Red River Rock (JP 669) which I estimate was issued in 1961. To my ear, the style of rock on Street Corner Jazz sounds like it comes from the late 1950s, but my sense is that the EP was issued somewhere around 1961 or 1962.
Street Corner Jazz
HMV (EYJ 8)
1) I'm in Love
2) Oh, She's There
3) Flying Rock
4) She Keeps on Knocking