John Drendall, B.A. Thrower and Friends “Papa Never Let Me Sing The Blues”

Papa

There are enough good vanity pressings from the late 60s – mid 70s that make record collecting a rewarding interest.  The really good ones (the Bachs, the Rising Storm, Wilson McKinley, Relatively Clean Rivers et al) are far and few between.  Most of these records, while musically very good, are overpriced because so few quantities were initially pressed.  Please be warned though, most private press albums are average at best – I’ve been disappointed many, many times.  So naturally, when I bought the Riverman Music version (a Singpore cd reissue) of John Drendall, B.A. Thrower and Friends’ Papa Never Let Me Sing The Blues I was somewhat unsure of its quality, in other words, a skeptic.

Deacon Productions released 100 copies of Papa in 1971/1972.  Both John Drendall (vocals/guitar) and B.A. Thrower (bass guitar/electric guitar/organ) lived on the campus of Michigan University in Lansing.  The two eventually moved into a suburban house with a spacious garage.  This garage was turned into a studio where the group practiced hours on end.  Eventually Drendall and Thrower found a studio in Kalamazoo that would record their experiments.  Friends Tommy “Stiff Finger Eddie” Caruso (slide guitar), Mike “Elmo” Skory (keyboards), Vern “The Bopper” Albaugh (flute), Nelson Wood (harp), Jimmie Spillane (backgrounds), and Ross Maxwell (bells and anything else) add many valuable contributions to the album.  The music is very fine Americana, a true undiscovered gem that needs to be heard by more music fans.

The performances on Papa sparkle with a true level of professionalism.  Drendall, Thrower and their “Friends” are all excellent musicians, the songwriting is stellar, and the production sounds top notch – on par with a major label rock group.   Those of you who enjoyed Euphoria (the Texas country-rock group), Crazy Horse, and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere era Neil Young will fall for this record in a big way.  One of the songs on Papa, “Old Man Gibbs,” sounds like an early Neil Young number in that it’s a great rootsy rocker with stoned electric guitar work and burnt out lyrics.  The album opener, “Cold Nite in August,” stands out as the album’s most blues oriented cut,  6+ minutes of laid back country-blues that’s well worth hearing.  Other highlights are the title track and “Get Too Heavy,” both acoustic gems that feature solid guitar picking and in the case of the latter, good, close harmonies.  Even the psychedelic numbers, “Black River Lady” and “I Feel” are fabulous mood music that conjures up a spacey atmosphere more in line with the late 60s.  My favorite tracks are the nifty country-rocker “Bye Bye Mr. Jones,” with its amusing group dialogue and the great “Throw Off Your Troubled Past.”  This last number features frantic guitar work (the guitarist really shreds up the fretboard on this one) and busy percussion; it’s really a treat to hear these last two numbers.  The album as a whole is uniformly strong and a must hear; not a bad cut on this LP.

So once again, Papa is a very accomplished work that should have been reissued years ago.  There’s been plenty of great reissues in 2009 but Papa is one of the best I’ve heard so far.

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“Get Too Heavy”

:D CD Reissue | 2009 | Riverman | amazon ]
:) Vinyl | 1972 | Deacon | ebay? ]


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13 Comments.

  • Anne Baker

    This is astonishingly good. What a great find!!! You have such great taste.

  • Steve

    Wow! Excellant music.

  • Hal Meissner

    B.A. (Brad) Thrower is a retired GM data base analyst / media specialist who now operates a successful photography business out of Davison, Michigan. He is a true artist in photography as well as music. Check out his website at bradthrower.com. Brad Thrower’s Bluewater Photography shot my daughter’s wedding as well as several custom prints that never fail to wow visitors to our home.

    Papa may have never let him sing the blues, but he sure did let him take pictures!

  • Louder than Milk

    Just got the CD and was most impressed at first listen. Great post on such a rare and little talked about curio.

  • lorna

    john drendall is still doing music in florida –
    here’s the website:

    http://www.damion.biz

  • Maryooski

    Actually, Lorna is wrong. John Drendall is not still doing music in Florida. He lives and works in HOUSTON. The last time he was in Florida is when he and another friend came and stayed at our house in Port Saint Lucie two years ago. John is an INCREDIBLE talent and, considering his level of expertise, he is the most unpretentious human performer you’ll ever meet!

  • Damion has just completed 6th CD Steamy Night in Texas and it is great!! Damion is John Drendall, Sid Seymour and DD Dunham. P.S. DD played all drums and percussion plus background vocals on the Papa album. Damion has been together over 30 years and the music has never been better!!

  • Anonymous

    The “PAPA” album was the birth of DAMION { after the Herman Hesse book Demien ). Drendall, Seymour and Dunham have traveled the world playing their verious versions of original and cover tunes. Check them out at http://www.Damion.biz…... A national treasure.

  • Jerry

    What a hoot to come upon this album… I knew these guys back in the day. They never, ever came off as typical ego-based musicians… just a group of pals doing what they did best. John plays his ass off on that guitar and sings his heart out. They did a lot of white-boy blues back then – but if you closed your eyes they could have been as black as the dudes from the Mississippi Delta… John is truly a first-rate musical talent. Dick Dunham was one of the best drummers around and a damn fine vocalist in his own right – yet he never seemed to get the credit that he had coming. I really didn’t know B.A. Thrower very well… he kept a pretty low profile -a behind-the-scenes guy… and he played everything – guitar, organ, bass… not a center stage superstar on anything, but a dependable Steady-Eddie kinda guy on everything he turned his hand to… I’m glad to see these guys are mostly still together after all this time… The Deacon Jones song is about John’s bulldog that was killed by a car right in front of John’s house in Michigan… no kiddin’! Rock on!!

  • It is wonderful to find this website and the reviews of “Papa Never Let Me Sing The Blues”. I was there before it’s conception, and I remember lovingly the bulldog mentioned above. I was one of a very few but privileged of the groupies who knew one member of the band or other and got to hang around as long as we embroidered their shirt tabs. I remember when this album was cut and hand-delivered to a privileged few record racks and I am a rare but blessed owner of one. As long as I had a turntable, this record was playing. I have managed to get my hands on their concurrent CDs following this era, and they just keep getting better and better. Their latest release, Steamy Night In Texas, contains a cut I will not believe isn’t going to be a #1 single, “In The Morning”. It’s a climax to epitomize all the hard honesty and emotional catharses of John, Dick and Sid over these long 30 years. The “Papa” album represents the best of an era we all knew and loved, grew and flourished from and of which we will hold in highest esteem near and dear to our hearts forever. Long live Damion!!

  • Jason @ Rising Storm….

    Have you ever listened to the 6 cd’s by Damion at CD Baby ?? These are the same guys who worked on the ” Papa Never Let Me Sing The Blues ” Definitely worth a listen. World’s biggest secret!!! http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/damion1

    thanks again for your wonderful 2009 review of best re-issues of 2009,

    DD

  • More music from the folks who brought you ” Papa Never Let Me Sing the Blues ” !!!

    “Steamy Night in Texas” http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/damion1

    “Take Me Home” http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/damion12

    “Rock on Old Man” http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/damion16

    “Unfinished Bidness” http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/damion14

    “Sneeken Around” http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/damion13

    “Damion” http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/damion15

    “Papa Never Let Me Sing the Blues” http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/johndrendallbathrowerfri

    thanks!!

    DD

  • Ann (Dingwall) Wittbrodt

    I was fortunate to be John Drendall’s roommate in Lansing when this wonderful group of musicians rehearsed nightly in the basement. I remember their many gigs around the mid-Michigan area and I still have the blue album. I have amazing memories of John, Dick, and the other characters of those days. They are truly gift musicians and I’m so happy they have been making music all these years.

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