I just finished reading an amazing novel by Robert Gordon called It Came From Memphis. It is a raw, unadulterated account of how the southern white and black cultures in Memphis circa 1950's meshed to create passionate, free-spirited art that inspired legions of like-minded artistic geniuses. Consummate delta musicians such as Furry Lewis, Johnny Woods and Aretha Franklin joined forces with the maverick recording engineers of the day, such as Jim Dickinson, John Fry, Sam Phillips and Don Nix, to produce some of the greatest musical treasures ever pressed on wax. Since reading this book, I have been inspired to research the myriad of producers, musicians, deejays and other eccentric folks who made Memphis such a special place. Here is the first entry in this series of obscure and eccentric musicians who came from Memphis.
Tav Falco & the Panther Burns: Bourgeois Blues
From: Behind the Magnolia Curtain [Rough Trade, 1981]
Tav Falco & the Panther Burns: Drop the Mask
From: Drop Your Mask 7" [New Rose, 1987]
Gus Nelson, an early member of the Memphis Dream Carnival's theater troupe, was first introduced to the world as his alter ego- Tav Falco during the show dubbed as The Tennessee Waltz. He asked Jim Dickinson if he could perform a song in between sets, and the music he played could best be described as primal rockabilly country blues. He played the old Leadbelly standard Beourgeois Blues, but he started blowing a police whistle in the middle of the song, laid the guitar down between two stools and started ripping into the guitar with the chainsaw like a wild banshee on crack. The crowd was in utter chaos, screaming and carrying on like they had just experienced sheer terror. One person in the crowd was particularly impressed with Tav's performance. It turned out to be Alex Chilton, the lead singer and songwriter of Big Star, who was in attendance and liked what he witnessed. Chilton approached Tav about starting a band, and Tav Falco and the Panther Burns was born. The Panther Burns name was taken from a legendary plantation in the Mississippi delta.
This psychobilly style is an amalgamation of delta-blues standards mixed with The Cramps' macabre sense of humor and the hiccup-style rockabilly vocals of Charlie Feathers. This was the world's introduction to the unpredictable sounds and antics of Tav Falco, but he continues to release awe-inspiring rockabilly punk albums 28 years after the bands inception. I am featuring the studio version of the track called Bourgeois Blues which can be found on Tav's 1981 debut entitled Behind the Magnolia Curtain. I am also featuring a track called Drop Your Mask which can be found on the Drop your Mask 7 inch. You can buy Behind the Magnolia Curtain online by following the link. The 7" is out-of-print, but you can find a live version of Drop Your Mask on Midnight in Memphis and a newer version on Deep in the Shadows. Enjoy, and let me know what you think!