Billy Edd Wheeler

Memories of America/Ode to the Little Brown Shack out Back

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The Kingston Trio introduced Billy Edd Wheeler to most of the world through their hit recordings of his songs "The Reverend Mr. Black" and "Desert Pete." In fact, the Kingston Trio recorded about half of the songs on Wheeler's album Memories of America/Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back, and trio leader John Stewart almost certainly patterned his first solo album after Wheeler's distinctive country-folk style and use of a female duet partner. Memories of America... is a tour de force with wall-to-wall classic songs, including Wheeler's own versions of "The Reverend Mr. Black," "Jackson," "Coal Tattoo," and "Desert Pete." "Sister Sara" is a rewrite of "The Reverend Mr. Black" that couches its feminist message in a Christian narrative and "Winter Sky" is a complex, minor key beauty that must have made a strong impression on Stewart. The novelty song "Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back" was the album's hit; decades of shock humor have dulled the outrageousness of a song about outhouses, but many listeners still remember it fondly. Wheeler's most popular album is hard to find today, and is an important piece of work deserving of reissue.