Freddie Morgan

Bunch-A-Banjos

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Freddie Morgan, the goofy-looking banjo player in various bands led by Spike Jones, didn't make his recording debut as a leader until after his former boss' death in 1965, just a few short years before Morgan himself died in 1970. One can understand why he was one of Jones' best paid musicians, after hearing him in this brief LP of Dixieland arrangements of everything from oldies ("I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover") to 1950s pop songs ("Mister Sandman") to jazz standards (the ballad "The Very Thought of You"), as well as a salute to his late boss ("Cocktails for Two"). The music can be compared to the Dixieland records released under Spike Jones' name in the late-'50s and early-'60s; the humor is subtle in a campy, musical way without the heavy reliance on the goofy vocals favored in the heydays of Spike Jones & His City Slickers. Morgan overdubs as many as six banjo parts (on "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," back when it was still associated with banjo player Nick Lucas, before Tiny Tim debuted on television playing it on ukulele); he also plays an electric banjo (which sounds sort of like a soft electric guitar). Morgan wrote "Hey, Mr. Banjo" and "A Bunch of Banjos." Arranger Julian Lee kept almost all of the pieces clocked at under two-and-a-half minutes. The tuba player, bassist, and drummer are unidentified, though it doesn't matter, since Morgan is essentially the only soloist. This long-unavailable LP will likely be of interest to those familiar with Morgan's contributions to Spike Jones' recordings; it's too bad there wasn't anything approaching the humor of one of Jones' videos, with Morgan dressed as Joseph Stalin playing a wild Dixieland arrangement of "The Volga Boatman" with Jones & Company!

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