Halloween Haunts 2013: Halloween Hootenanny! By Greg McWhorter
Enter the Crypt of Forgotten Screamers!
WwwwAAaaaRRrrrrGGgghhHHHh!!!!! It’s Halloween time again and that means you must have something appropriate spinning on the turntable, ‘natch. I don’t know about you, but I like to get my holiday discs out for aural pleasure to match the feeling of the season. Halloween is the best time to do this with all the great rock’n’roll themed spooks and howls. For this article, I decided to dig deep and unearth some forgotten Halloween oriented discs that you might want to give another spin. I’ve left out all the big names and well-known records like “Monster Mash,” and the like, and instead have decided to cast an evil-eye on the unknowns. I’ve also broken this down into several genres: Instro, Rock’n’Roll, Doo-Wop, Funk, and a special category called the “Forgettables”.
These are the spooky sounds sans voice. No fake Elvis or Dracula voices here. Just hell-bent guitar strummin’ and maybe the odd sound effect or two.
THE GIGOLO’S “Night Creature” Daynite Records, 1960s
Wow! Nice Arizona rockabilly monster bopper here. Sounds like Duane Eddy meets Johnny and the Hurricanes with lots or whooping and yelling going on. Upbeat and a little light on the scare factor, but just enough twang and screams to keep you motivated.
THE MADMEN “Haunted” Cloister Records, 1963
Nice demented spoken intro sends this monster wax into orbit with some light guitar and sax work (not a bopper), but wait…maniacal laughs abound throughout and this thing plays a bit like a walk through a madhouse with some organ intertwined for a downer effect. Screams too! Scott Engel had a hand in this so you know it’s cool. Too bad it’s rare as hell…
THE MOONTREKKERS “Night of the Vampire” Parlophone Records, 1961
Occult dabbling record producer and murderer, Joe Meek, produced this ultra-creepy piece of wax that drips with howling wind and screams and the sound of a coffin lid opening and twangy-reverb drenched guitar and…and…and it’s amazing! You need this and it’s pretty cheap and easy to find too! It was officially banned by the BBC in England so you know it’s gotta be great!
THE MOTIVATIONS “The Birds” Pride Records, 1966
SoCal ultra-surfabilly monster shindig here! You need this if you don’t already have this one in your clutches. Reverb drenched mo’fo with crazy screeching bird calls! This drives me nuts every time I hear it! Forget Halloween, Instro records don’t get much better than this. Blow your speakers! Price tag has been getting hefty on this one for good reason.
THE MYSTERIONS “Transylvania” Warwick Records, 1960
Nice light guitar rocker with drums and some faint organ for effect. Doesn’t sound too spooky, but a nice workout all the same.
RENE HALL ORCHESTRA “Night Fright” Castil Records,
Some pretty creepy guitar, organ, and sax here. Nice. Like the sounds from a swingin’ monster’s bachelor pad. Thudding bass line. A bit upbeat, but still has a nice creep factor. Some creeps on eBay try to get a lot for this, but it can be had cheap if you look around.
THE ROCKING GHOSTS “Ghost Walk” Metronome (Europe)/Mod(U.S. subdivision of Smash), 1965
Okay. Another lightly creepy sounding rocker here. This guys were from Denmark and were heavily into The Shadows, Ventures, and Cliff Richards. It shows in their instro tune here…like the Shadows tryin’ to be scary…which reminds me of Charlie Brown being scary. Light on the spook factor, but a cheap and easy disc to find.
Over-sized critters and lycanthropy abound here! No Godzilla to save Tokyo, just fiendish creatures out for blood and maybe some Halloween candy.
A mid-tempo rockabilly rocker that doesn’t really fit with Halloween ‘cause this story is more about a girl that looks like King Kong. You see, the singer goes out with his buddies and they all hook up with different girls, but our hero is left with the one they all call King Kong. The date is going okay until all the dudes start kissin’ their honeys and our hero says he gets swallowed by King Kong…which doesn’t sound too bad if a girl will do that on a first date, but he adds that he feels like Jonah stuck inside the whale! This is one freaky BIG girl!
BIG “T” TYLER “King Kong” Aladdin Records, 1957
This R&B foot stomper is strictly about King Kong runnin’ amok through the jungle; chasin’ a girl who he takes to the EmpireStateBuilding and his fate is sealed. Great drums, sax, piano provide a fast rhythm. A real winner. Better run people, King Kong is coming!
BOB REGAN “Tarantula” Challenge Records, 1964
Instro workout here. Travis Wammack-style string bending here with some distortion. A real mover. Not too scary, but still fun for any Halloween party.
Another instro, but a creepy slow and moody one. Good ghost town guitar with some echo-laden sax laying down some haunting riffage here. Again, not too scary, but a party people pleaser on a dark night.
JOE JOHNSON “Gila Monster” Cascade Records, 1959
The Giant Gila Monster is on the prowl! This record starts with a scream and moves from there with some killer guitar and poundin’ piano. Everyone is running from the monster, but the singer still has his wits enough to crack a joke about his wife looking like the monster. In the end, a brave child asks the Gila Monster why he’s creepin’ about and gets an answer that no one was counting on. Caution: there are two different pressings of this platter. Make sure you get the one with the tuff guitar break instead of the wimpier piano break version.
Gruff vocals start us off with the singer’s admission that he was watching the Khoutek comet when all of a sudden he saw a Purple People Eater! Crazy spaceship sounds, screaming metal and funk guitar riffs and the growling singer keep this from being a straight send up of the old classic. Pretty exciting remake overall. Tough as coffin nails to find especially since this disc comes to us from the back hills of Kentucky. Drunk hillbillies talking about aliens eating people…reminds me of talking to winos on the streets of San Bernardino…too scary!
These creepy discs feature voices telling stories or lamenting tragedies with a rockin’ band behind them.
BARON DAEMON AND THE VAMPIRES “The Transylvania Twist” / “Ghost Guitars” WNYS-TV, 1963
Ultra coolness here. One of the nest of the teen dance-style songs with plenty of kickin’ guitar work and a Baron Daemon himself doin’ the vocal duties. Nice uptempo rocker with girl back-up vocals. Baron Daemon was a horror host out of Syracuse, New York. Essential Halloween fun here! Grind baby, grind!
CONNOISSURS “Count Macabre” M-P Records, 1960s
R&B flavored guitar workout with a prominent lead vocal that is telling us about a girl in her grave. Nice sax and guitar work. Apparently Count Macabre was a TV horror host and this record was a TV tie-in. Decent effort, but Baron Daemon kicks Count Macabre’s butt in the groovin’ department.
JIMMY CROSS “I Want My Baby Back” Tollie Records, 1965
Okay, not exactly a Halloween record, but boy is the sentiment there. A nicely narrated mellow rocker about a girl who gets in a car accident and literally goes to pieces. Taking a nod from Ed Gein, he tries to stay with his girl, even into the grave. Nice sound effects make this a truly hair-rising tale in the EC Comics style.
COUNT LORRY AND THE BITERS “Frankenstein Stomp” Dragon Records, 1965
Slow dance floor ditty with Supremes-style back up vocals. Lead vocal is by a Dracula imitator and there are some growls and groans throughout. A tough record to find and prices have been skyrocketing as the Northern Soul creeps seem to be into it. It’s not worth the long green to me though.
CURTIS AND THE CREEPERS “The Thing pt.1 & pt.2” Dauntless/Audio Fidelity Records, 1960s
Yet another R&B teen dancer, but this one has some cutting guitar work like a demented Link Wray during his tenure with Bunker Hill. Has harmonica and piano work too, but don’t let that bug you, the vocals and lyrics are demented enough to keep you groovin’ with your baby while the song name checks a pantheon of monsters.
BILLY DeMARCO AND COUNT DRACULA “Drac’s Back” Keefo Records, 1960s
Much like the Count Lorry, this is a teen dance floor number with another Dracula imitator and more girl-group back up vocals. Better spooky sound effects than the Lorry disc and it even name checks Vampira!
LEE ROSS “The Mummy’s Bracelet” Ray Records, 1958
One of my top faves. I can’t get this out of my head at Halloween time! Slow-paced rockabilly guitar with reverb effects (like on the Mummy’s voice). Great little story-song. Great use of effects. Tough as coffin nails to find!
TONY AND THE MONSTROSITIES “Igor’s Party” Crypt Records, 1962
Another fave rave! A nice super cool dance floor workout with more girl-group back-up vocals, but here we have words and vocals by that legendary rockabilly cat himself, Sammy “Pink Cadillac” Masters. Nice story about Igor and his trying to get a band together. The label on the Crypt version is my hands down winner in the cool looking label contest. Later, and just as rare, reissue on the Indigo label is boring.
JIMMY WHITE “Mummy Drag” VisCoJon Records, 1960s
Nice R&B workout with a mummy theme. My copy came on blue vinyl and I think they are all that way. Another tough and uncomped disc. Not essential, but still a fun Halloween R&B record.
Essentially black vocal groups doin’ their thang and taking no prisoners as they let out some howls for Halloween!
THE CASTLE KINGS “You Can Get Him Frankenstein” Atlantic Records, 1961
I know some will say that this is not “forgotten”, but it sure ain’t being played much these days Cletus so shuddap already! Great uptempo, bordering on rockin’, romp about our hero – Frankenstein! Save my girl from Dracula Frank! We know you can do it! Fast and frantic and in my top spot of vocal shouters with poundin’ drums and some mean piano and horn too. A must have.
DEL-VIKINGS “The Voodoo Man” Mercury Records, 1958
Straight doo-wopper here. Nothing too clever and sounds a bit sappy for a voodoo-themed record. I probably should have put this in the “Forgettables” section, but then all the Doo Wop geriatrics out there would probably send me a mojo hand…
THE DUPONTS “Screamin’ Ball (at Dracula Hall)” Roulette Records, 1958
Nice laid back doo-wop stylings with a little R&B piano tinkling away and tons of special effects. Nice story here about the monsters getting together and having a dance party of their very own. This is actually a very nice piece of wicked wax and one that you oughtta get. It’s cheap and easy, the way I like ‘em.
THE JOHNSON BROTHERS “Zombie Lou” Valor Records, 1958
Upbeat doo-wopper with horns and some decent guitar work that is rockin’…go figure! Okay dancer about the narrator’s girlfriend who has been zombified and looks horrible when they go out, but she has the power to hypnotize. No wonder he keeps taking her out every time I play this record, he’s been hypnotized!
Funky monsters dancing to the sounds of special effects and organs.
COUNT GREGORE AND THE TRANSYLVANIANS “Theme From Nightmare” Creative Broadcast Inc., late 1960s
Is it funk or not? Organs, special effects, scream. Some guitar. Light funk spookness? Not important, but obscure and interesting. This was the theme for Count Gregore’s Nightmare show in Oklahoma. The Count is a horror host that got his break in 1958 and is still showing up at conventions to this day!
CHUCK OSBOURNE “Frankenstein pt.1 & pt.2” Hittsburgh Records, 1975
Total funk onslaught with redneck Wrestler-guy growling vocals. Odd enough that I can’t part with it. Maybe that should tell you that it’s worth a listen. I can’t figure this one out! Help!
These records are best left buried, unless you are a true horror-disc completist.
DUKE LLOYD “Daddy Bird” Surf Records, 1958
This disc has the subtitle “From the Picture Frankenstein’s Daughter,” but that is where the coolness ends. This disc might be a decent teen rocker to some, but to my uptempo ears, this thing should remain in the land of dead records since it has no scare factor at all.
BOB BAIN “Experiment In Terror” and “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” Radiant Records, 1962
What we have here is actually two different singles from the same year. I won’t tell you which movies these tunes are from. I hope you can figure that out for yourself. Plodding and moody soft guitar noodling. Like as if Lawrence Welk was forced to play guitar. Not for me. Some of you Liberace and string lovers might dig these singles up for a few bucks though.
ZOMBIES and VOODOO
Who’s that sluggishly ambling through the woods? How come bullets or good lookin’ babes don’t stop him from getting his creep on? Oh…He’s the walking dead!
Here we have a nice mid-paced instro workout with heavy downbeat guitar and some haunting sax. Not a crazed rave up, but something that you can swear a zombie would shuffle to. I could see this working well in a horror film penned by Tarantino.
THE JOHNSON BROTHERS “Zombie Lou” Valor Records, 1959
Part Doo-Wop, part rocker, but all-good! This nifty-fifty rocker has the bro’s doing vocals over some spirited guitar licks including a nice break. Subject is how Zombie Lou and the singer go out on dates and she looks a fright, but it’s alright ‘cause she hypnotizes her man to get him to take her out every night for his stroll with the undead gal. Equal opportunity here. I think I dated Zombie Lou once and let me tell you, girls like Zombie Lou are scary beyond all known science!
Bongo beatin’ beatniks pound out this slow lament about partying with zombies in a haunted house. There’s a cool narrated intro/outro, screams, and even a wolf howl, but this record is pure camp novelty. Relentless bongos and wailin’ sax keep this movin’ at an okay clip, but this one is definitely for the meek. C’mon…Cha Cha dancing zombies? Sounds like someone dug up ol’ Merv Griffin or Lawrence Welk. How scary is that?
DEL-VIKINGS “The Voodoo Man” Mercury Records, 1958
A bit too doo-woppy to be too scary with the slick chick backup vocals, but the deep baritone of the singer makes up somewhat. He’s gonna cast a spell on you after making a potion using some flesh, and the girls warn about his spell, but what then? He says he’s gonna kiss a girl…okay, but not too fiendish. I don’t even practice voodoo and I can think of a million other things to do with a chick once I’ve cast my spell on her. I think the Del-Vikings need to take a tip from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Now that is one voodoo man that knows what to do with an enchanted woman…just ask one of his fifty or so kids!
If you’re making a midnight pact with Lucifer, here are some toons that will spice up the occasion. What can be scarier than talkin’ trash with the Lord of Flies?
LENNY DAVIS “Satan’s Got You (By The Hand)” Do-Ra-Me Records, 1961
Mellow guitar rocker about a guy who’s talking trash about a girl that is in league with the devil and is leaving a trail of men and their broken hearts behind her. The singer warns her that the devil may be the only man that is a real match for her. Not too spooky, but sounds like this girl is a real monster.
A band went and did it…they created theme music for the devil! Quick paced instro guitar workout with some wailin’ sax thrown in. Has a pretty groovy uptempo sound. Not spooky, but almost like an ad jingle to join in on the devil’s fun.
Wow! Super guitar fuzz-drenched funk rocker. Our hero says he knows the devil must be in his woman since the devil is not in him. He commands the devil to leave his woman and set her free. He talks about being the ‘love exorcist’ and screams “Get the Hell out of my woman!” and you actually hear the devil scream back! Yowza! Fuzz and demonic voices…crazy disc! Might only exist as promo copies. Same label that debuted Captain and Tennille. Theirs was Joyce 101 and this is Joyce 102.
Well, that’s all for this time kiddies. More screams next year! I have a lot for fiendish wax to buzz your ears with, but you will have to be patient and wait for the next season of the witch!
(Originally published in Record Collector News October 2011 & 2012.)
GREG MCWHORTER is a pop-culture historian and teacher who resides in Southern California. Since the 1980s, he has worked for newspapers, radio, television, and film. He has been a guest speaker at several universities and the San Diego Comic-Con. Today, McWhorter owns a highly acclaimed record label that specializes in vintage punk rock. He is also the host of a cable TV show titled Rock ‘n’ Roll High School 101. Since 1985, McWhorter has been writing nonfiction music-related articles for print and has recently turned to writing crime and horror fiction. McWhorter’s stories have appeared in several anthologies and magazines. He has published work with EC Comics, James Ward Kirk Publishing, Scarlett River Press, Rorshoq Books, A Raven Above Press, Schlock! Press, Source Point Press, Horrified Press, eFiction Publishing, as well as forthcoming stories for Static Movement, Phrenic Press, and 13Horror, amongst others. He is a member of the Horror Writer’s Association and recently had a poem featured on their webpage. You can follow him at: http://gregmcwhorter.blogspot.com