Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mabel Franklin "Let's Do The Wiggle" / "Dream I Had Last Night" (Ritzy, 1965)
Jonathan Toubin's NY Night Train Party Platter

You may recall the pair of Sister Mable Franklin’s pulverizing Kangaroo gospel sides I put up here last year? ( This hot wax from seven years in the future finds the formerly pious gospel-shouting Sister Mable Franklin throwing her vocal flames into the most secular of blues! This one was laid down at drummer Ivory Lee Semien's studio on the Fifth Ward;s tough corner of Lyons and Jensen * - an intersection that grew so violent that it was referred to as “Pearl Harbor” by the end of the 1970s.

Apparently the second and last release on Houston’s obscure Ritzy imprint, Mabel’s take on the current dance craze trend doesn’t sound like a 1965 record and is so timeless that could’ve been from anywhere deep in the post-1948 Lightnin’ Hopkins “Katie Mae” Houston blues scene. But just because what your hearing is from a strong tradition doesn’t mean what you’re hearing isn’t an exquisite example of fresh and unique post-war Bayou City blues. Franklin’s windy wailing, growling, and shouting finds its ideal accompaniment in the raw elegance of drummer C.W. Thornton (Big Mama’s brother!) and the expressive, imaginative, and downright wild guitar heroics of Texas blues legend D.C. Bender. These sparse but loud and very present recordings make for two Texas’ most exciting blues sides.

Bender and Franklin teamed up again with Ivory Lee in 1967 with “Lucille Leave My Man Alone” / “Unhappy Woman” (Ivory, 1967)

Mabel Franklin and D.C. Bender were regular attractions in the colorful and prolific 1960s/1970s Fifth Ward club scene. Here’s Mike Leadbetter's action-packed 1967 account of a typical Bender/Ivory Lee band’s set at George’s on Cavalcade for “Blues Unlimited” (Aug 1967):

“George’s is a large, wild, tough beer joint and we sat as close to the band as we could. Ivory had told me that D.C. could sing, drink beer and play guitar all at once and this I had to see. To the hypnotic beat of “Boogie Chillen”, D.C. tipped back his head and, somehow, by clenching an open bottle between his teeth (broken), and by shouting out of the corner of his mouth did the impossible. Due to too much booze, D.C.;s voice is now little more than a hoarse cry, but his weird guitar playing, relying heavily on tremolo effects, is quite something as are his gymnastics. Laying down a pounding, rock rhythm behind D.C. were Big H. WIlliamson bass, Earl Gilliam on organ and Ivory beating beautifully on drums. All the musicians took turns to sing and by 9.30 most of the customers were hip shaking round the tables. There was no room to dance, but everyone stood up, shook all over and yelled. One couple, far gone, had a noisy if futile attempt to make love, half on a table and half on a chair, behind Tom’s head.”

Other than the Kangaroo sides, Sister Mabel Franklin had another early gospel record “How Many Years”/“All Over the World" on Franklin Records. In addition to the two 1960s Bender collaboration 45s, her mid-tempo soul burner “Come on and Go” turned up on Collectibles’ 1991 “Soul of Texas Blues Women: Good 'Ol Texas 60s Soul and Blues” collection. And a live recording of her belting “Wiggle Wiggle” on the Fifth Ward’s historic thoroughfare Lyons Avenue appears on Sunnyland Records’ 1970s compilation “Gulf Coast Blues” alongside D.C. Bender, Rockin’ Sidney, Silas Hogan, and other greats (somebody was kind enough to upload the entire lp here There's also a 45 bootleg of this floating around recently...

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