Don and Dewey

TrackSingle / Album
Jungle HopSpecialty 599
Leavin' It All Up To YouSpecialty 610
Good MorningJungle Hop
JustineSpecialty 631
Bim BamSpecialty 631
Farmer JohnSpecialty 659
Pink ChampagneJungle Hop
Kill MeFidelity 3018
Don't Ever Leave Me (Don't Make Me Cry)Rush 1003
Get Your HatSpecialty 691

Don & Dewey photo 1

Don Harris & Dewey Terry

 

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Don & Dewey playlist

 

Contributor: Dave Stephens

THE STORY OF A SONG

Mmm, Farmer John
I’m in love with your daughter
Whoa – oa – oah, the one!
With the champagne eyes

Don & Dewey’s sixth disc, Farmer John was released in February 1959. It was one of their best so far; riffing brass set the mood from the start and continued to supply the responses to the harmonised vocal lines from D&D with the drummer – who was probably Earl Palmer but the liner notes to Jungle Hop, a compilation of the boys’ Specialty sides, states that the personnel for the session held on 20th January 1959 which produced the record weren’t known – pushing the whole thing along with an urgent latin rhythm and then there was that interjected “Look At Him” from one of the pair, possibly as a nod to the Coasters, plus a fine tenor solo (probably from Plas Johnson but with that proviso of course). All in all, quite a record.

It didn’t sell. Or, at least, not enough to make any impression on the charts. But it did have an effect on Don & Dewey’s peers or would-be peers. There was a version of the number released by Carl and the Commanders in August 1961 (with all release dates coming from 45cat) which was probably too late to be called a real ‘cover’. It hasn’t left much of a trace and I did have a job finding it on YouTube. The next to arrive – this list being based on Wiki and SecondHandSongs – was the one from the Searchers on Meet The Searchers in August ’63. This version showed evidence of the guys having heard the Carl & Co. take but it had added miles per hour plus some of that special Searchers magic.

Quiet then ensued on the ‘Farmer’ front until the early months of ’64 when manager Billy Cardenas of the Chicano garage band, the Premiers from East Los Angeles, persuaded the boys to record the song. According to Wiki, Cardenas had had this moment of inspiration after the success of the Kingsmen with Louie Louie. In order to ram the message home, the boys conjured up a hybrid Farmer John which didn’t exactly hide its admiration for Louie Louie. Somewhat amazingly, it worked, and the Premiers got themselves a #19 Hot 100 chart showing. Even more amazingly, the writing credits still showed (Terry, Harris) aka Dewey and Don with no sign of Richard Berry, author of Louie Louie or the Premiers or their manager! One just hopes the royalties got through to Dewey & Don; such things weren’t guaranteed in those days.

Although the impression given is that the record was cut live, in fact it was recorded in a studio with background party noises from female members of the Chevelles car club plus others who’d been invited in and who contributed the ‘live’ atmospherics.

The story didn’t stop there. Within the weeks and months that followed, versions appeared in Denmark from the Defenders, in Finland from Antti (Andy) Einiö and The Islanders and in Sweden from the Hep Stars with more still to come. But listen to any of those and you’ll note that they’re all based on the Searchers version; the speed and the lack of the Louie Louie/La Bamba/Twist And Shout chords are the two giveaways. Bear in mind this was 1964 through to 1965 when Merseybeat conquered the world.

It didn’t stop there. Both the Searchers minor rearrangement and the Premiers more significantly changed version of the song continued to be cut by a variety of artists. SecondHandSongs date the Neil Young & Crazy Horse version to 19th September 1990. That ultra precise dating comes from the release of the album Ragged Glory in which his first official recording of the song was contained. However, we’re told that that was far from the first time he’d played it; the song was a regular in gigs from Neil’s first stable band, the Squires (with the “stable” coming from Wiki), back in his Winnipeg days. This is the official Farmer John from the NeilYoungChannel:

And, according to the Young biography “Shakey” written by Jimmy McDonough, Farmer John was something of an inspiration to Neil, reference page 107:

“It was at the Fort William 4-D, playing the trash-rock hit Farmer John that Young first got gone on a guitar. ‘Not much of a tune, but we made it happen,’ says Edmundsen. ‘We kept that song goin’ for ten minutes. People just never wanted it to end.’ For the first time Neil fused with his guitar in a way that was transcendental. ‘We just went nuts, Kenny, Bill and I,’ Young told John Einarson. ‘That’s when I started to realise I had the capacity to lose my mind playing music, not just playing the song and being cool.’”

So, the girl with the champagne eyes travelled a bit and became an American CLASSIC in the process, or to slightly paraphrase my writing in “RocknRoll”, a record which sits high in North American rock mythology.

 

AND THERE WERE MORE

On the other side of Farmer John there was another song with the writing credits (Terry, Harris). The song was entitled Big Boy Pete, and once again it had a whiff of the Coasters aided and strongly abetted by Leiber & Stoller. I’m inclined to think that it was a mistake for the Specialty arranger to give it a kind of good time big band setting. Maybe he – and he would have been one of Sonny Bono, Harold Battiste or label owner Art Rupe himself according to those liner notes – felt that adopting the full Coasters styling would have been a step too far.

These are the opening lyrics …

Woo, the joint was a jumpin’ on the corner
Down on a honky tonk street
When all of a sudden up drove a Cadillac
And out stepped a cat named Pete

… and this is the record:

And this is where it gets interesting. There were quite a few other doo wop groups in L.A., and one of them, the Olympics who’d already had some success, selected (or someone else at the label or in their management selected) Big Boy Pete to record. They had no qualms about sounding like the Coasters. After all they’d done it with Western Movies and it didn’t seem to do any harm; it was their biggest record to date, so why not do it again. So they did. And this was it:

While the results weren’t earth-shattering, they weren’t bad: #10 in the R&B Chart and #50 in the Hot100. (And this is my Olympics Topper.)

SecondHandSongs lists eight further versions of Big Boy Pete including one from the Righteous Brothers (whose name will crop up again). They don’t mention the Grateful Dead who did occasionally perform the number, with some of those performances having been captured by YouTube uploaders. This one is the earliest I found; from November 1966.

But the Big Boy Pete story hadn’t quite finished. Under the heading, The Jolly Green Giant, the Wikipedia writer states:

“The Jolly Green Giant is a song written by Lynn Easton, Don Harris, and Dewey Terry and performed by The Kingsmen. It reached #1 on the Canadian Chart, #4 on the U.S. Pop Chart, and #25 on the U.S. R&B chart in 1965. It was featured on their 1965 album The Kingsmen Volume 3. The song was based on Green Giant’s mascot the Jolly Green Giant. The single originally only credited Easton as the writer, but Harris and Terry were later added when it was determined the song was a re-write of The Olympics song Big Boy Pete.”

It’s a shame that the writer attributes the song incorrectly in the final sentence. This is the record.

“Were all of Don & Dewey’s records imitations of the Coasters?” and “Did they ever surpass Farmer John?” are questions the reader might ask. The answer to the first is a resounding “NO” – Farmer John / Big Boy Pete was something of an exception, but to the second, it’s an affirmative: in my humble opinion, they already had, two releases earlier with Justine, another song with composing credits listed as (Harris, Terry). Two things hit you within the first few bars of this record: the calling out of the title by the two leads sequentially in a crude form of call and response, and the really down-and-dirty guitar work possibly from multiple players – Billy Vera, the man who wrote those liner notes I’ve been referring to, lists Melvyn Jaye Glass, René Hall and Dewey Terry himself as being the guitarists for this session with Don Harris on bass (and judging by later work Dewey isn’t such an unlikely candidate for main axe wielder). And yes. Plas Johnson (fine solo) and Earl Palmer were present and correct on this one. It’s probably this record, more than any other in their slim portfolio which caused me to open my Amazon review of Jungle Hop (which also appears in my book “Rock’n’Roll”) with:

“Don & Dewey are rock’n’roll’s best kept secret. At their best they were like two Little Richards, screaming an’ a’wailing like two tom cats. Even when not quite at their best they put out oodles of energy often coupled with a lowdown sound that was matched by very very few. Their problem was that they didn’t have any hits. But if I can take a positive from that, at least it meant that no one attempted to soften their sound with girlie choruses and banks of violins, so their legacy remains pristine in its rawness and immediacy.”

According to SecondHandSongs there were seventeen covers/versions of Justine but we can probably round that up to twenty. The Righteous Brothers released it as the opener to an album entitled This Is New in ’65, round about the time they twigged that big ballads were their raison d’être rather than copied rockers (and they were just as active as Pat Boone in that field in their early days). The Blasters were a later band to have a crack at the number. While I can’t place hand on heart and say that I’ve listened to all seventeen versions, I think I can safely say that none of them captured the vitality of D&D’s singing or the rawness of the instrumental work, (to paraphrase myself again) sounding like two Link Wrays.

There has to be one other question: “Didn’t they ever do ballads?” to which the answer is “Yes”. Specialty single #2 coupled Leavin’ It All Up To You with Jelly Bean and yes, both were from (Harris, Terry). You might know the A-side from the Texas/Louisiana Dale & Grace version which hit the majestic height of numero uno in the Hot 100 in ’63 (and is now fondly looked back on as a cornerstone of swamp pop) or the Donny & Marie Osmond take in ’74 which got to #4 in the Hot 100, #2 in the UK and registered in several other national charts as well. There were plenty more including Sonny & Cher, Tom Jones with Tanya Tucker and, yes, the Righteous Brothers again, and it’s noticeable that the easy listening aspects of the song have seemed to increase over the years. You couldn’t accuse the original of pandering to such tastes; with agonised melisma in the middle eight, it was a bluesy ballad which neatly epitomised doo wop some way on the path to soul as far back as 1957.

I’m leavin’ it all up to you oh oh
You decide what you’re gonna do
Now do you want my love?
Or are we through?

(and the trick is knowing where to leave gaps)

 

WHEN DID THAT FIDDLE FIRST APPEAR?

There are probably more readers who know the name Don “Sugarcane” Harris than those who are aware of Don & Dewey. Sugarcane Harris belatedly became famous for playing electric violin, not on the Blessed Bob’s Desolation Row but on the equally Blessed Frank’s 1969 album, Hot Rats. He featured on two of the six numbers it contained: Gumbo Variations and Willie The Pimp (with Captain Beefheart on vocal in case there’s anyone who doesn’t know):

I was curious as to when that violin first appeared on record (and whether it had shown up on any with the “Don & Dewey” credit). A brief visit to 45cat told me that a record entitled Fiddlin’ The Blues / Slummin’ from Don and Dewey was released on the Spot label in August 1959 (and a click on each title confirms that both are violin-led 12 bar blues with the A-side taken at medium tempo and the flip slowing things down somewhat). Which clears that up you might think but you’d be wrong. Have a look at the detailed entry for the single and you’ll see under the sub-heading “Notes”, a line that states “First issued in 1956” which theme is taken forward by the commentators under “Comments And Reviews”.

The clearest narrative on the 1956 issue of the single can be found in Marv Goldberg’s excellent R&B Notebook on The Squires/Don & Dewey which is based on interviews with Dewey Terry and Chester Pipkin (of the Squires). Marv introduces record label owner John Criner and goes on to say:

“Criner had a couple of little labels (Shade and Spot), and these are where the first “Don And Dewey” recordings appeared. They were both issued in May 1956, but I’m not sure which was first. Miss Sue and My Heart Is Aching were vocals released on Shade, while Slummin’ and Fiddlin’ The Blues were instrumentals. Don Harris (as Don Bowman subsequently called himself; Chester thinks that “Harris” was his real name) played the electric violin and guitar; Dewey Terry played piano and overdubbed bass. These records did poorly, mostly because Criner didn’t know how to successfully market them.”

So the question has been answered but, yes, another Don & Dewy (it got spelled like that!) record featuring Don’s violin did see release on the Rush label in 1962. Once again both sides – Soul Motion / Stretchin’ Out – were instrumentals which rather prompts another question: did they record any vocal tracks with violin?

To which the answer is in the affirmative but only one track was cut and it didn’t see release at the time. The track came from a session held on 12th November 1959 with H.B. Barnum on the piano. An instrumental, Jump Awhile was issued (on the Specialty subsidiary label, Fidelity), credited to Don and Dewey with the flip, H. B. Boogie credited to Barnum. Not issued at the time was the other track cut: Pink Champagne which eventually showed its face in 1974 on the compilation album They’re Rockin’ˈtil Midnight, Rollin’ˈtil Dawn. THIS was the one which featured Don’s violin, as is immediately obvious from the opening notes.

A mighty good record in my book, standing up well against the fine original from fellow Specialty artist Joe Liggins (and his Honeydrippers). SecondHandSongs lists eighteen other covers of Pink Champagne, one of which was the version from Georgie Fame which was celebrated in his Toppermost and appeared on his second album, Fame At Last.

 

THE REST

Nine Specialty sessions were held for Don & Dewey. Eight of these took place in the period January 1957 to November 1959, with the final one occurring on 27th March 1964. The gap reflects the retirement from the music business of Specialty founder, Art Rupe, due to his disgust with payola; he briefly returned in 1964. The main D&D period i.e. up to November 1959 yielded six singles plus two on Specialty subsidiary, Fidelity. The “Rupe Return” resulted in two singles only from the entire range of Specialty artists: D&D’s Get Your Hat / Annie Lee and Little Richard’s Bama Lama Bama Loo / Annie Is Back. I would assume that it was the temptation to see if he could mastermind the returns of both Richard (to chart glory after his religious sojourn) and Don & Dewey (to some form of belated recognition) that brought Art Rupe back, albeit briefly into the recording studio.

In terms of the second of those targets, the verdict has to be that Rupe failed but that’s not a critique of the record. Get Your Hat might not have had much of the originality of those earlier Specialty records being solidly based on the riff that had launched a thousand (or more) R&B and rock and roll records, but that forceful delivery was still present as was the Dewey Terry rotgut guitar which slashed across the overdubbed horns to pleasing effect.

Cut during the same session as Get Your Hat but left in the can was Mammer-Jammer which, with different lyrics, could have been seen as driving up-tempo blues of the kind that was popular in Texas, with riffing brass and prominent guitar.

And, while the earlier Specialty offerings might not have had quite such an aura of ‘classic’ about them as the three Top Tenners I covered in my opening paras, they were still head and shoulders above most other records being issued to compete with the Chuck Berry’s and Little Richard’s which were getting the attention at the time.

Jungle Hop came from their first Specialty session and if there was ever a statement of intent, this was it. Neither the title nor the content would have got past the censor in today’s PC world.

From the same session, A Little Love was a dry run for the duet-cum-call & response style of Justine while the unissued (as a single) Hey Thelma was more bluesy in style featuring some fine guitar work.

Another “unissued” track but from the boys second session gets the nod from me. Good Morning was more subdued than their better-known offerings but what it might have lost in the in-your-face department it gained in the intricacy of the vocals, the unplugged style of backing plus the excellent lead guitar work

Bim Bam, on the other hand, was full force gale D&D, with Dewey’s hammered piano work echoing some of Little Richard’s Specialty discs. Elsewhere there’s a return for the gibberish lyrical style which had featured so strongly on Jungle Hop but what really nudged me into selection was the 24 bar Plas Johnson solo. The cream on the top, maybe.

I’ve already mentioned the first of the two Fidelity releases which, curiously appeared to share artists with D&D on one side and H.B. Barnum on the other. The second coupled an A-side, Little Sally Walker which came as close as D&D ever came to easy listening with a flip, Kill Me, a complete contrast in that it might have come from early James Brown territory. The Dewey Terry vocal – I’m guessing it’s him – harks back to Brown tracks like Please, Please, Please and Why Does Everything Happen To Me. As the track progresses, the band works up a head of steam too with not one but two guitars competing with the brass. Didn’t do anything of course, but that was the D&D story.

Post Specialty, producer Sonny Bono took the guys to the Rush label where they gave us Soul Motion / Stretchin’ Out plus the pairing of Don’t Ever Leave Me (Don’t Make Me Cry) c/w Heartattack. Almost all those comments I made about Kill Me could bear repetition about the A-side: slow soul but this time with a femme chorus and, most unusually, a 2/3 rhythm on a two chord structure. The vocal is all solo with zero interplay between the pair and my suspicion is that Don takes the first verse followed by Dewey but I could be wrong. It’s the kind of thing that we’d be inclined to call deep soul these days. This record could have been the stepping stone to a bigger market, but once again, that didn’t happen.

(For anyone curious as to why the clip appears on the Highland label, I can say that the same owner was responsible for both labels so presumably he had his reasons for the swift rerelease since both are given the date 1963 by 45cat.)

It’s been something of a habit of mine to dig out one or more tributes to the artist in question – and often not a lot of digging has been required – in order to close out a Toppermost on said artist. In the case of Don & Dewey I didn’t find much outside obituaries:

“Don Harris was part of the influential rock’n’roll duo Don and Dewey.” (The Independent)

“Dewey Terry … was one half of the pioneering rock’n’roll duo Don & Dewey.” (The Guardian)

I drew a blank with the usual suspects in terms of rock journalists on the net but then I remembered the grandaddy of them all, Charlie Gillett and my well-thumbed “The Sound Of The City”. He didn’t let me down. (Has Charlie ever let me down?) In a para on Art Rupe and Specialty Records I found the following sentence which is worth quoting in full:

“Apart from the records of Little Richard, he had produced an incredible country rock record, Lights Out by Jerry Byrne which was one of the most convincing expressions of violence in rock ‘n’ roll, and several fine but unsuccessful records by rock ‘n’ roll’s best duo, Don and Dewey.”

“Rock ‘n’ roll’s best duo, Don and Dewey”

I’ll go with that.

 

 

FOOTNOTES

1. Don Bowman (later changed to Harris) and Dewey Terry were both born in Pasadena, California in 1938 and 1937 respectively. Both were interested in music and gained proficiency on multiple instruments in their teens, Don on guitar, harmonica (in one report I’ve read) and classical violin, and Dewey on guitar and piano. They both joined a vocal group, the Squires, which was operating out of their high school, Dewey as a founder member and Don, slightly later. The first record from the group was Lucy Lou / A Dream Come True on the local Kicks label in late 1954. In terms of hits, the Squires’ main claim to fame was the doo wop ballad Cindy (or on some records “Sindy”) which made #2 in the L.A. Cashbox Chart in July, ‘55. Possibly of more interest to the reader is the flip, Do-Be-Do-Be-Wop-Wop wherein Don takes the lead vocal according to Marv Goldberg – see below – and on which an embryonic version of the D&D Specialty sound can be heard. Under the name of the Blue Jays, the Squires also cut versions of hit records of the day which were released in EP format for the label Dig This Record. Some of these tracks are on YouTube including a version of Pledging My Love with Don on lead (well that’s what Marv says).

I’ve already made mention of Marv Goldberg and his R&B Notebook on The Squires/Don & Dewey which can’t be beaten in terms of info on D&D and their parent group. One short para in the article covers the rationale behind the split of Don & Dewey from the Squires:

“The Squires rehearsed at the house of Effie Smith (whom they’d backed up on Guiding Angel) and her husband John Criner (soon to become road manager of the Valiants and then manager of the Olympics). One day, Effie and John heard Dewey Terry and Don Bowman singing a duet and enticed them to record that way, meaning there’d only be a two-way split of any money, not a six-way.”

Marv goes on to say that it was Robert “Bumps” Blackwell, A&R Manager for Specialty who took the boys to the label after their initial records organised by John Criner had made waves locally.

Don & Dewey’s recording career as a duo effectively disappeared after the Rush and Highland singles covered in the main text. They kept going as a stage act after their record career ground to a halt. According to The Guardian (as documented in its Dewey Terry obit.), they had a five year engagement at The Dunes in Las Vegas and, as already mentioned they worked within Little Richard’s stage band in the mid-sixties. They also performed within the Johnny Otis Show; one suspects that their multi-instrumental skills were quite an attraction to potential “employers”.

The separation into two solo careers was probably sparked by Frank Zappa’s usage of Don on Hot Rats. It is believed to be Johnny Otis who introduced Frank to Don; there’s a story that Frank was turned on to the Harris violin sound by the Soul Motion single but it’s also hardly a secret that he had a big soft spot for the doo wop music of the late fifties and early sixties.

Don’s ‘second career’ was so extensive, incorporating a host of solo albums, further work with Zappa and the Mothers, long involvement with the John Mayall band and a wide range of other collaborations, that I decided that attempting to do justice to it within this Toppermost just wasn’t possible and I strongly hope that another writer opts to pick up the baton for the Sugarcane man.

Just one more sentence about Don: in my Little Richard Toppermost I include reference to the version of Richard’s song Directly From My Heart To You which appears in Frank and the Mothers Of Inventions’ 1970 album Weasels Ripped My Flesh with “Richard’s erstwhile sparring partner, Don “Sugarcane” Harris on lead vocal and excellent anguished violin”.

While the Don Harris career is the one that has brought all the plaudits, Dewey Terry’s solo existence majoring on his Guitar Slim styled guitar shouldn’t be totally ignored. He cut an album and several singles for the Tumbleweed label in the seventies and continued touring both in the U.S. and in Europe (and also Tahiti where he maintained a high level of popularity). To give an idea of the Terry sound, Do On My Feet (What I Did In The Street) was one of those singles. Every now and again, the duo reunited for gigs on the oldies circuit.

Don Harris died in December 1999. After keeping the D&D name going with new accompanists, Dewey Terry died in May 2003.

2. The germination for the Farmer John single that we know (and love, at least on my part) was slow. According to the liner notes for Jungle Hop, Dewey Terry went into the studio on 21st October 1957 with several of the session guys but without Don Harris. A version of Farmer John appeared which got labelled ‘take 1’ but didn’t see release and differed dramatically from the version that did see release but didn’t get cut until 20th January 1959. Not only did ‘take 1’ miss Don’s vocal contribution, it was also considerably slower, had a different melody line and extra lyrics which didn’t appear on the more minimalist release version.

3. Those who have familiarity with the earlier part of the Bob Dylan’s career are likely to be aware of the number Motorpsycho Nitemare (from 1964’s Another Side Of Bob Dylan) wherein the narrator requests an overnight stay from a farmer who agrees to the request but with two conditions: that he (narrator Bob) had to stay away from the farmer’s daughter and that in the morning, he must milk the cows. While the Wiki writer draws comparisons to the films Psycho and La Dolce Vita, I do wonder whether Bob might also have been drawing from his extensive knowledge of American pop music; the D&D original of Farmer John was released in ’59 but the Premiers’ cover came out in March ’64 while Another Side was cut in June that year.

4. The 1978 version of I’m Leaving It All Up To You from Freddy Fender perhaps epitomised the song in pub singalong mode complete with pedal steel, violins and lots of ladies, but Freddy’s personality was such that he could carry it off.

5. The presence of a lass called Annie on the flip of Little Richard’s Bama Lama Bama Loo and Don & Dewey’s Get Your Hat plus the presence of Don & Dewey in the Richard stage band during this timeframe (which included a visit to the UK in 1964), prompted me to wonder whether the two ‘late’ sessions for the respective artists were held simultaneously or on consecutive days and whether the backing session team was the same or similar for the respective sessions. The answers came via the PragueFrank discography for Richard. They were negative on the first two queries- the Richard session was held on 1st May 1964 – but partially positive on Richard’s backing team for that session: Don (bass) and Dewey (guitar) were present as was Glen Willings, a guitarist who was also present on the D&D 27th March session.

PragueFrank also tells us that Don and Dewey were in the Richard session team for at least half of the tracks which would see release in the album Little Richard Is Back in August 1964. Jimi Hendrix was also present for some of the sessions.

6. The band It’s A Beautiful Day numbered violinist David LaFlamme within their ranks. The opening track on the band’s second album, Marrying Maiden, was an instrumental written by LaFlamme entitled Don And Dewey.

7. Coincidentally two totally different groups called The Squires appear in the Don and Dewey story (and whether Neil Young was aware of the earlier Squires when his Squires started out, I know not). 45cat lists eighteen different Squires and one would imagine that that number could easily be doubled to cover those groups who never got into a recording studio.

8. Youtube isn’t exactly blessed with live clips of Don and Dewey. In fact, there’s a grand total of one, which is perhaps a reflection of the sad lack of attention they’ve been given. The venue is Cozy’s Bar & Grill, 14058 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, L.A. and the date is 1999, “just a few months before we lost the one and only Don “Sugarcane” Harris”. They’re on form and that violin is flying.

The song is Farmer John.

The memorial for Dewey Terry who died four years later, was held at Cozy’s Bar & Grill.

 

With the champagne eyes …

 

 

Don “Sugarcane” Harris (1938-1999)

Dewey Terry (1937-2003)

 

Don & Dewey discography at 45cat

The Squires/Don & Dewey – Marv Goldberg’s R&B Notebooks

Don & Dewey biography (AllMusic)

Dave Stephens is the author of two books on popular music. His first, “RocknRoll”, is described by one reviewer as “probably the most useful single source of information on 50s & 60s music I’ve come across”. Dave followed this up with “London Rocks” in 2016, an analysis of the early years of the London (American) record label in the UK. You can follow him on Twitter

TopperPost #1,015

3 Comments

  1. Andrew Shields
    Mar 25, 2022

    An excellent Toppermost as always. ‘Farmer John’ – which I didn’t know before now – is such a great record. Had an idea that it might be based on an older song (blues or folk) but doesn’t seem to be. Thanks again.

  2. Cal Taylor
    Apr 3, 2022

    Great, informative and comprehensive article, Dave.
    Don and Dewey were a vibrant, talented and underrated duo who deserved a lot more kudos than they ever achieved in their own name. They were top musicians, vocalists and songwriters. The success that other artists had, including chart-toppers, with cover versions of the duo’s material was phenomenal. I won’t list them all again as they are more than well covered in this excellent Toppermost.
    Personally, I think one of the things that worked against the duo was the fact that they were a duo and duos never seemed to get the same attention as solo artists or (to a lesser extent) groups, who record labels found easier to promote.
    I did find just one more live clip of Don and Dewey on YouTube. It looks like a jam session (probably late 1990’s) they did with other other artists doing older blues material. 

  3. Dave Stephens
    Apr 3, 2022

    Andrew & Cal, thanks very much for those very fine words. It might interest you to know I picked up something which illustrated some of the wide appeal of Don & Dewey only this morning. As I think you’re both aware I exchange mails on a semi-regular basis with Chester Crill, the ex-Kaleidoscope musician. Something he’d said in his latest mail prompted me to dig into the best-by-far (and absolutely massive) on-line biography/diary of the band – key in Bruno Ceriotti if you want it. I was about a third into it and suddenly picked up a mention of Chester and Chris Darrow, another Kaleidoscope member and multi-instrumentalist like Chester (and one who would become a pioneer of country rock), broke into a Don & Dewey song. This is two white guys who were reared in Southern California probably not a million miles from Pasadena where Don & Dewey went to school and started out on their career. And yet if you’d listened to the first Kaleidoscope album you wouldn’t have heard a hint of Don & Dewey. Or maybe you would. Perhaps I should try again. It’s a small world.
    And thanks for that clip Cal. I think it illustrates my point that while Don Harris achieved post D&D fame, Dewey Terry should have gotten a share too.

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