Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Ham & Scram

Ham & Scram
11" x 8.5", watercolor, pen on paper, 2014
Today's painting hardly qualifies as such. The base of it is a pen and pencil sketch copied from one of two images on the sleeve of a strange record by Ham & Scram called Country Comedy. Then the drawing was abused—soaked, stained, balled up— until the point it started to fall apart. At that point, to salvage what I could, I glued the drawing onto a black and white xerox copy of Barbara Kruger's Your Gaze Hits the Side of My Face (and called it a day). The story of the record, and the top 100 song taken from it—the traditional murder ballad Pretty Polly—is an interesting one. I bought the record at a thrift store (a junky one at that) in 2012. It was only a dollar but I almost didn't get it. My hope for this record after investigating the cover was low. The full title reads Country Comedy, Songs & Frolic by Ham & Scram, featuring Buzz Busby. I expected to hear backwoods slapstick humor and I was worried that such a well loved yet ominous folk ballad as Pretty Polly, would be totally butchered by such irreverent looking characters on the cover. I was wrong, totally wrong, their Pretty Polly is in fact one of the most intriguing versions I've heard of the song, and the  record as a whole easily falls into the A category of American traditional music. The moral of the story: Don't judge a book by its cover. On Musical Thrift Store Treasures, a blog I used to write, I did a little entry on the duo accompanied by an mp3 file of Pretty Polly. Viral is too big a word, but the blog exploded in October of 2012. In a few days hundreds of people visited the site and in another few days, I was urged—for reasons still unbeknownst to me, plagiarism I suppose—to take the song down. Ham & Scram are Pete Pike and Buzz Busby from Washington, DC. Guitar player Pete Pike from Virginia is mainly known for his association with the mandolin player Buzz Busby, who is an established name in the history of Bluegrass music. Bernarr Busbice was born in 1933 in Louisiana and among his credits is the formation of the popular group The Country Gentleman in 1957. But after the successful decade of the 1950s, Busby's career went downhill due to his "growing fondness of alcohol and drugs". After a term in jail he only occasionally performed and recorded. He died of heart failure in 2003. And such is the information I retrieved on line. Interesting to note here that Buzz Busby does not have a Wikipedia page in English, but the German version does. There's no mention that Buzz Busby ever performed, or even visited Germany, but apparently his song Rock and Roll Fever, was something of a hit there: "Im Bereich des Rockabilly ist Busby vor allem durch seine Single Rock and Roll Fever bekannt geworden."

1 comment:

  1. Just found this LP today in.. you guessed it.. a Goodwill store. Can't wait to give it a spin. About a decade ago I had the pleasure of meeting Buzz' brother Wayne Busbice who alas is also no longer with us.. a true gentleman who had several fine records himself. Did not know that Pete Pike was the other half of Ham and Scram.