Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Bangers...

from Soul 45

R&B came of age in the fifties. It was the rhythm of the streets, and double entendre was the way a romp in the sack was depicted on wax and in the live acts.

Bullmoose Jackson released his "Big Ten Inch Record" in 1952, and Dinah Washington sang about her "Big Long Sliding Thing" in 1954. That same year, the Toppers came out with a song that would burn up Pittsburgh airwaves a decade later with a cover of its innuendo-laden "(I Love To Play Your Piano) Baby, Let Me Bang Your Box."

And don't think that these were just novelty songs. They became integral parts of R&B acts' live shows, and were covered endlessly. "Baby Let Me Bang Your Box" was no different, and was recorded by legit bands, like the Toppers and Billy Ward and the Dominoes.

It was last done, as far as we can tell, by Daddy Cool Ross Wilson in 2000, and was a track on John Water's "A Dirty Shame" soundtrack in 2004. The tune was a staple of local party bands from coast-to-coast in the early 1960s.

In the summer of 1965, the Banger's version hit the Steel City. It was followed a year later by a Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts cover, both doing well in the Pittsburgh market, gleefully spun by its rowdy R&B jocks, who were then still somewhat in control of the playlist, and more importantly, at the hops.

Doug Clark was quite a performer. The Hot Nuts were from Chapel Hill, NC, and hit the clubs and college circuit with a risque song list and act, capped by their biggest hit, "Hot Nuts." Their albums were released on the Gross Label, formed solely for Clark and the band.

It was a subsidiary of Jubilee, which wanted the cash but not the notoriety generated by the Hot Nuts and their raunchy tunes, although it did stoop to releasing "Baby Let Me Bang Your Box" on Jubilee 45-5536. Heck, it was the label that released the original Topper's vinyl. Money over morality.

(Gross went bankrupt in 1969 after releasing nine Clark LP's, effectively skimming all the money for Jubilee and cutting the Hot Nuts out of any future royalties. Ain't show biz grand?)

They were said to perform at frat houses wearing nothing but fur-covered jocks, a forerunner of the thong, we suppose. The group was supposedly the model for the "Animal House" band, and in fact, Clark said the greatest disappointment of his career was not landing the movie role for his troupe.

But the Banger's track was Pittsburgh's favorite. Some say it was a record released by Clark incognito to skirt Jubilee, but the versions are discernibly different, and the Hot Nuts cover came a year after the Bangers.

The Banger's record was released on the R&B Label, #65-101. The 101 would indicate that it's the first (and maybe only) release, and the label (see the photo) says it's from the LP "Baby, Let Me Bang Your Box." It was distributed by Tulsa's Hit City USA.

It's still a hot disk on the collector's market, with prices ranging from $20-$300 on the web. As you may imagine, there are a zillion bootlegs out there, too, along with several anthologies that included the song.

But that's where Old Mon Music's trail runs cold. We can't sniff out any dope on the Bangers, their label, or distributor beyond the record info.

So today, instead of us giving you the story, we're counting on you to tell us the tale of one of Pittsburgh's biggest underground hits, joining the Arondies "69" and Ronnie Haig's "Don't You Hear Me Calling, Baby?" on parent's hit lists all over the region in the early-to-mid sixties.

If any of our dear readers know about the band, please give us a yell so we can share the story. We're sure it's a good one.

"Baby Let Me Bang Your Box" - the Bangers

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