Bongos!




Bongos were the instrument in the post-war years, after the Age of Ukulele but before guitar took over. At least in California, if you were a hip teen you worked on cars and played bongos. Bongos had a big advocate in Les Baxter, one of many orchestra leaders who worked with prolific session-percussionist Larry Bunker. (Baxter even "fires" Bunker for winning a bongo showdown with the leader in the television special "Music of the Sixties.") Another intriguing bongophile is Don Ralke, who besides his own bongo-pop LPs provided the music behind two of the most incredible albums ever: those by William Shatner and Edd "Kookie" Byrnes.

Bongos are a naturally hip instrument, associated as they are with jazz and Latin. One memorable scene from "Bell, Book, and Candle" has Kim Novak complaining about the incessant bongos in her witches' and warlocks' beatnik nightclub. Bongos are used in movies to evoke the wild and the primitive. Drums convey both the controlled suspense of the chase and the fury of the attack or surprise encounter.

Mimicking the left and right channels of stereophonic sound, bongos are proudly featured in many stereo-demonstration LPs on the Command and Time labels. Also there are fine moments in bongo-instruction albums. The best bongo albums are not old pop, however. Jazz, latin, African, crime, and even the rare bongo-rock album or two have greater examples.

Buying: Not all strictly pop-bongo records are so great, but collect them just for the humor of it, the madness, the Beatitude.



[Partly] Pop Bongo LPs

Rating
-Les Baxter (especially Skins! & Teen Drums)
6Jack "Bongo" Burger: Let's Play Bongos; HIFI R-803 (instruction; w/booklet; mono only)
7Jack "Bongo" Burger: The End on Bongos; HIFI SR-804 (bongos/Latin jazz/exotica/Yiddish-Latin; reissued w/jacket photo from "Jazz Erotica"--HIFI R-604)
7Jack Burger: Let's Play Congas; HIFI SR-809 (congas/bongos/instruction/Latin jazz)
Jack Burger: Progressive Bongo Instruction; Phonic JB-1001 (instruction)
-Jack Costanzo
7Syd Dale/Andrew Arvin: Modern Beat Music/Period Music with a Beat; Sam Fox SF-1015 (production; mod soul/crime/bongo/mid-east)
7The Cliff Davis Sextet: Discotheque A-Go-Go for the "In" Crowd; Epic LN-24173 (mod soul/twist/bongo)
4Manolo Escobas: Bossa Nova Volume 2; Palace M-740 ("Bongo Man")
3Irving Fields Trio: Bagels & Bongos; Decca DL-78856
7"Haji Baba": Crazy Bongo; Modern MLP-7025 (bongo bop/Afro-Cuban/Latin jazz/flute/bongo; probably Don Ralke w/Buddy Collette)
8Henry Mancini: Touch of Evil ST; Varese Sarabande/Citadel CT-7016; 1980/1958 (complete version, replacing Citadel CT-6015, 1977; Challenge CHL-615, 1960; and Challenge CHL-602; 1959)
4Hugo Montenegro: Bongos & Brass; Time S-2014 (Montenegro & Mayhem & other reissues)
8Rolley Polley: Mad Drums; Capitol ST-1454 (bongo/bongo bop/bongo rock/percussion/Latin jazz; "Rolley Polley" pseudonym for Pepe Dominguin)
6Bob Rosengarden & Phil Kraus: Like--Bongos!; Time S-2025
7Don Ralke: Bongo Madness; Crown CLP-5019 (bongo bop/Afro-Cuban/Latin jazz/flute/bongo; w/Jack Burger, Buddy Collette, Don Tosti, Tom Wofford; United-Superior US-7801)
6Don Ralke: But You've Never Heard Gershwin with Bongos; Warner Bros. WS-1360; 1960
8Don Ralke: The Savage & the Sensuous--Bongos; Warner Bros. WS-1398; 1960 (w/Carlos Vidal, Modesto Duran, Earl Palmer...)
6Willie Rodriguez w/Chuck Sagle & his Orchestra: Anyone Can Play Bongos; Epic BN-583 (instruction/Latin jazz)
6Wout Steenhuis: Guitars for Girl Friday; Columbia/EMI Studio 2 TWO-156 ("Blue Grotto")
7Peter Thomas/E.A. Quelle/R. Wilhelm: Crime Backgrounds; CBS Records EZ Cue EZQ-165 (production; crime/bongo)
5Sam Ulano's Latin Rhythms; Lane LP-139; 1956 (kit & timbales instruction)
6Sam Ulano: Follow the Leader Bongos; Lane LP-143 (bongo instruction)
6Albert Van Dam: The Crazy Horse Saloon of Paris; United Artists UNS-15503/UN-14503; 1966 (mod/bongo)
7Larry Wilcox & his Orchestra: Hot Rod Jazz--Tuff Saxes & Twangy Guitars; CBS/Columbia CS-8947 (hot rod/mod/Mexicali/bongo/spy/samba/jazz)
8Various: Wild Stereo Drums; Capitol ST-1553 (compilation; essential cuts from Pepe Dominguin/Rolley Polley: Mad Drums, Les Baxter's Teen Drums, Dick Harrell: Drums & More Drums)
8Uncredited: New Original TV Themes--Green Hornet--Tarzan--The Man from U.N.C.L.E.; Cameo/Wyncote SW-9173 ("Jungle Bongo")


Pop Bongo 45s

Rating
8[The Voices & Instruments of] Rod Derret: Bongo Train/The Kiwi Train; (bongo/beatnik/New Zealand; B-side live/narrated)
8Arch Hall, Jr.: Konga Joe/Monkey in My Hat Band; Signature 12014 (exotic rock/hot rod/bongo rock)
7Dick Hyman w/Sam (the Man) Taylor: I'll Get By/Congo Mombo; MGM K-12404 (B-side bongo rock/R&B w/organ)


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