Sandy Nelson - Sock It To 'Em J.B.
The Teen Beat-er
Sandy Nelson is a name that should be immediately familiar to collectors of 60’s LPs. If they haven’t heard his music, they’ve certainly seen one of his 30 or so LPs listed on an LP inner sleeve at some point. Nelson, who was born in California in 1938 was working as a session drummer by the mid-50’s. In 1959 he had his first chart hit with the instrumental ‘Teen Beat’. His records featured his drums prominently (no surprise there...) and weren’t too far from the surf sounds of the day (also no surprise as Nelson had started in a band with Bruce Johnston, of Bruce & Terry and later the Beach Boys). He had his last top 40 hit in 1962, but managed to continue cranking out a virtual flood of albums through the 60’s for the Imperial label. The vast majority of these (as with most “rock” instrumental albums) were uninspired (at one point he recorded/released 8 albums in an 18 month period), but he did manage to hit the spot a few times. The few albums I have by Nelson are late 60’s sessions that leaned heavily on soul/funk covers (‘Boogaloo Beat’ includes some nice tracks, featuring Nelson and – as was the case with most of his albums – top session players). Today’s track is especially interesting. ‘Sock It To ‘Em J.B.’ was originally recorded by one of my fave 60’s soul outfits, Rex Garvin & The Mighty Cravers. Their version was released on the Like label, then Atlantic and again on Atlantic in Europe (and covered years later by the Specials). Despite the multiple issues (and it’s obvious high quality) the tune never charted. I’m especially curious as to where Nelson got his hands on the track. Nelson recorded the tune for the LP “Beat That #!!@* Drum” in 1966. Unlike a later LP like ‘Boogaloo Beat’, “Beat That #!!@* Drum” contained a wide variety of contemporary covers, running the gamut from the Yardbirds, Donovan, Bobby Hebb, the Lovin’ Spoonful, as well as Mr. Garvin and his Mighty Cravers, all big hits, which as I said before, ‘Sock It To ‘Em J.B.’ was not. As I said before, despite a prolific output that would suggest assembly-line levels of quality, Nelson’s work is not entirely without merit. This is especially true in the case of his covers of soul tunes. The bands he recorded with were seasoned pros, and if there was ever a genre that lent itself to high energy, drum-heavy covers, soul it. This is especially true with his cover of ‘Sock It To ‘Em J.B.’. Opening with pounding drums (who wasn’t expecting that???), the battle is soon joined by wailing sax, guitar and organ. As Nelson was an “instrumental” artists, the classic James Bond-related shout-outs from the Garvin version are gone, replaced by brief drum solos, but the overall quality of the record is quite high. I supposed I shouldn’t be all that surprised by this. Los Angeles was no only infested with great session musicians, but it was also a hotbed of instrumental rock in the early to mid-60’s, from the whole surf scene, to exploito groups like the Hollywood Persuaders (Drums-a-Go-Go). As Nelson himself came up with some of the major players of the surf/hot rod scene, hadn’t yet hit 30, and – I’ll assume – took some pride in his work, cuts like ‘Sock It To ‘Em J.B.’ are marked by real enthusiasm, managing to exceed expectations. On a related note, this record was produced by Lee Young. If my information is correct, this is the brother of jazz legend Lester Young. Lee Young was a jazz and session drummer in Los Angeles from the 40’s onward and through the 1960’s worked as a West coast A&R man for a number of labels