Photo of album cover taken by author

History in a record bin

One of the joys of rummaging through record bins — vinyl, that is — is that you come across things you have never heard of and would never find easily on CD or MP3. These finds offer glimpses of time gone by — sometimes, indeed, history.

Welcome to the world of Antal Kocze, “King of the gypsies”, and his band.*

The 10-inch album pictured above appears to have been cut in 1954. At the time, Kocze was the main draw in a place called the Monseigneur Bar in Vienna. …

Photo by Jeremy Gaunt

James, Duke of York

The city and state of New York are not, as might be imagined, named for the northern English cathedral city of York. They are named for James Stuart, future king of England and one of only eight people who have held the royal title of Duke of York since the 14th century.

He was a slaver — and arguably the catalyst for the explosion in transatlantic slaving that saw upwards of 12 million Africans kidnapped from their homes and shipped to the Americas.

James (1633 to 1701) is better known to history as King James II, the last Catholic monarch…

One of Britain’s best lets it rip with new album “These Wheels”

Papa George by Jeremy Gaunt

Anyone who loves blues and has been hanging around in London for the last few decades will probably have come across Papa George. He’s not a household name outside aficionados — particularly when you add the surname Papanicola — but nonetheless, he is one of the best bluesmen in Britain.

Whether it’s hammering out blues-rock with buddies in noted club venues such as the Ram Jam and the Bulls Head or picking away in a more toned-down fashion to entertain monied diners in an Oxfordshire pub, George can…

An unheralded vinyl from 1968 is one of the most influential ablums ever

When I was “challenged” on Facebook some time ago to come up with the albums that had most influenced me, there was no question but that The Rock Machine Turns You On would be high up on the list. I bought it in my teens and played it to death; it helped cement my fanaticism for music.

Released in 1968, the album — vinyl, of course — was remarkable on three levels. First, it only cost 75 pence (around $1) which at the time made it one…

Next time you are near Waterloo, spare a thought for a reluctant 1960s star

I had not thought about the Singing Nun for years, although occasionally that tune did get stuck in my head — the earworm that goes: Dominique, a-nique, -nique, -nique. So imagine my rather twisted musical joy at having the convent of the Missionary Dominican Sisters of Our Lady of Fichermont (above) being pointed out to me on a visit to Belgium.

It is in the beautiful countryside near Waterloo (where Wellington and Blucher gave Napoleon his comeuppance), a battlefield that any history buff worth his or her salt should visit.

The story to be told from the convent is sad…

Photo by Jeremy Gaunt

How Bob Marley turned me on to reggae

Usually, it takes a few songs for me to decide whether I like an artist. There have been exceptions — The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Simon & Garfunkel all got me quickly. But it is only Bob Marley who got me at the first notes.

The scene was a student dance at The University of Surrey in 1974. The DJ put on Marley’s “Natty Dread” album. First track: “Lively Up Yourself”. Three bass notes and a “wooo” and I dumped the young woman I was dancing with to ask the DJ who the…

©Jeremy Gaunt

A few years ago, the splendid No Depression roots-music website asked readers to list some of the top Americana albums so that they could pass them on to a radio station that was compiling a greatest 600 albums of all time thing. I offered up a few ideas and then, as I was heading out to a friend’s for the evening, slapped together a sample of 10 songs based on my own music collection. Below you will find my rather rushed selection.

Americana is not the easiest thing to define in part because it encompasses so many different things. …

© Jeremy Gaunt

The task before my music group was tricky: come up with rock/blues/pop/jazz tracks that reference Easter and the crucifixion in some direct or tenuous way but are not Christian songs (eg hymns or gospel).

The idea (as with Passover) was to induct them into our musical hall of fame. The winners are:

“Sympathy for the Devil” — The Rolling Stones — I was round when Jesus Christ had his moment doubt and shame

“Calvary Cross” — Richard Thompson — Everything you do/Everything you do/
You do for me

“The Cross” — Prince — Ghettos to the left of us/Flowers…

© Jeremy Gaunt

A landmark recording session across the Virginia-Tennessee border kicked it all off

Claiming that your town is the birthplace of a genre of music as big as country seems a bit risky. But the U.S. town of Bristol (in Virginia/Tennessee, explanation later) does have some justification.

In 1927, Ralph Peer of The Victor Recording Machine Company showed up with a mobile unit, invited locals from the area into town, and recorded them in what is now known as The Bristol Sessions. It marked the public debut of The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, among others.

© Jeremy Gaunt

A 1920s song called for blood in the streets

The killing of George Floyd triggered a huge outpouring of anger across the world, primarily through the Black Lives Matter movement. But it is worth noting from a historical standpoint that while certainly hitting a new high, such justifiable fury has been around for centuries, not the least in Black American roots music.

A case in point is a quite remarkable track thought to be first recorded in the early 1920s by Josie Miles, a relatively obscure blues singer from Summerville, South Carolina. …

Jeremy Gaunt

Music writer, historian, reviewer and broadcaster

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store