Instrumental – What you say?

HO2It’s a specialty in Rock and Roll. And a fairly rare one. There’s a tune, but no lyrics. It’s sounds okay. What the hell, roll the tape. Or, the band or the producer or the producer’s wife is adamant. Somehow, it actually gets released.

The Happy Organ – Dave “Baby” Cortez

The reasons are lost in the dim light of the past, but we can speculate. The band had someone’s brother in it. It was a complete accident, not to say, mistake. The tapes got mixed up. The dog ate the playlist.

bookert3   Green Onions – Booker T and the MGs

Or, it just happened to drive everyone crazy. The tune had everything, it had it all – the sound, the intention, the performance, the feel, the hook. It was an act of God. Who knows? And, when it works, it can exist in the ether with the best of them. It needs no clever lyric, no teen angel, no brown sugar, no blue moon. It’s just a bunch of guys playing and rocking out.

huhg2   Grazin’ In The Grass – Hugh Masekela

Of course, there’s a continuum. On one end, there’s The Happy Organ, which, somehow, was a number one hit in 1959, and on the other, something really special like Honky Tonk, Grazing in the Grass, or Embryonic Journey. For every great instrumental, there are fifty or a hundred or a thousand that went nowhere, got on everyone’s nerves, and sunk into oblivion. The Happy Organ? It has something. I mean, it does sound happy and has that guitar break, but Number One?

doggett1  Honky Tonk Pt. 2 – Bill Doggett

In the early days of rock and roll, the electric guitar was so unusual (and you could play it so loud) that there were a bunch of guys twanging it up, instrumentalists all –Duane Eddy (The Big Twanger), Santo and Johnny, Lonnie Mack, Johnny and the Hurricanes, Link Wray, and others. But for the most part, instrumental tunes, or the ones that made the charts, were not that common.

deddy3   Rebel Rouser – Duane Eddy

Sure, people were dancing all the time, but it was only natural that they’d want to sing along. Especially, while listening to the radio in the car, trying to get away from their parents.

A lot of these catchy numbers make you wonder how many times they can repeat the same riff without being embarrassed or when, oh, when, the whole experience will mercifully be over. But some of them – Holy Cow!

champs2Tequila – The Champs












About Ted Ringer

I am a writer, artist, and listener. Great music is everywhere and has no limits. Some of it is well-orchestrated and some is short and sweet. It can spring out of a moment of deep feeling or result from long periods of development. Music is communication, inspiration, and a million other things. This blog wants to share the wealth and keep toes tapping.
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2 Responses to Instrumental – What you say?

  1. David says:

    Hi Ted
    We met last year at Mary’s. Instrumentals were also very popular on this side of the pond. A group called the Shadows who originally backed English Rocker Cliff Richard had some very big guitar hits. I loved Duane Eddy who I saw on a bill he shared with Bobby Darin. I also loved the different sound of Johnny and the Hurricanes and another group you don’t mention namely the Ventures. Walk Don’t Run was a favourite as well as Gloriously named Perfidia.
    Best wishes

  2. Kit Tennis says:

    It’s 9:00 am and what do I want? Tequila!!!

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