Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

July 6, 2020

Oldays (Japan) Reissue #1: THE GANTS, “Road Runner”

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 12:36 am
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gants oldays

(note: The Japanese label OLDAYS has been doing CD exact reissues (usually with extra tracks) of 1960’s albums in beautiful cardboard mini-LP sleeves for a number of years now, hundreds of them. Some of these, particularly those in the “60’s Garage Rockin” series, are important collections that really fill a gap, so I’m going to be looking at some of these in future weeks. They can be found for as low as $15 or so. As I understand it, Japan has a relatively simple 50-year Public Domain policy regarding recorded works, so technically all of the material on these albums is PD in Japan. The good news is that the sound quality is usually excellent (not always, though), as it should be since these are clearly taken from other CD’s in most cases. If you are expecting a needle-drop of a rare Mono version of a classic album, you’re going to be let down, no matter what the back cover or obi strip says. A few of their releases are actually new creations where no comparable album previously existed, as with the Eddie and The Showmen/Eddie Bertrand album I recently reviewed for Ugly Things. Let’s start with a collection that is wall-to-wall excellence for the 60’s garage-band fan, a 30-tracker from Mississippi’s GANTS….)

THE GANTS

Road Runner

Oldays Records, Japan, ODR 6763, cardboard mini-LP sleeve CD

released in January 2019 (probably sourced from other CD’s)

1 Road Runner
2 Stormy Weather
3 Gloria
4 Six Days In May
5 You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away
6 The House Of The Rising Sun
7 Bad Boy
8 My Baby Don’t Care
9 Never Go Right
10 Out Of Sight
11 Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
12 I Don’t Want To See Her Again
Bonus Tracks
13 What’s Your Name
14 Another Chance
15 Little Boy Sad
16 (You Can’t Blow) Smoke Rings
17 Crackin’ Up
18 Dr. Feelgood
19 I Want Your Lovin’
20 Spoonful Of Sugar
21 I Wonder
22 Rain
23 I’m A Snake
24 You Better Run
25 Somebody Please
26 Oh Yeah
27 Dance Last Night
28 Greener Days
29 Drifter’s Sunrise
30 Just A Good Show

all songs originally released on the Gants’ 3 LP’s (ROAD RUNNER, GANTS AGAIN, and GANTS GALORE) and various singles for Liberty Records, 1965-1967

The Gants are SID HERRING, JOHNNY SANDERS, VINCE MONTGOMERY, DON WOOD.

Here’s a nice newspaper story about the band around the time a public marker was put up in the band’s hometown of Greenwood, Mississippi, and it’s NOT hidden behind a paywall, for once….

https://www.clarionledger.com/story/life/mslife/2018/04/27/gants-get-their-music-marker/558437002/

oldays logo

The Gants were the ultimate example of the 60’s garage-band who put out a record on a local label (their first single, “Road Runner” / “My Baby Don’t Care” on Statue Records) that made noise in the band’s home area, causing it to be picked up by a nationally distributed label—-in this case, Los Angeles-based Liberty Records—-which then led to a string of singles and multiple albums on that larger label, and a good-sized body of excellent work that’s not hard to find today.

Their first album, ROAD RUNNER, was recorded in Nashville with producer Hurshel Wiginton, acclaimed studio vocalist and bass voice in the legendary Nashville Edition, who was featured extensively on the Hee-Haw TV series. Wiginton as a producer totally “got” what 60’s garage-band rock and roll was about, perhaps because he was surrounded by so much basic-format rockabilly as an Alabama native. On the Gants’ 3 LP’s and their singles (except for two, near the end of their run), we basically had the core Gants only—–singer/rhythm guitarist (Sid Herring), lead guitar, bass, drums, and everyone on vocal harmonies (a few tracks had an added keyboard also). They had a twangy sound. The second and third albums, GANTS AGAIN and GANTS GALORE, though produced by Dallas Smith (presumably at Liberty’s home-base in Los Angeles—Smith was best-known for Liberty artists such as Bobby Vee, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and the pre-Allman Brothers ‘Hour Glass’), pretty much kept the successful formula: energetic, stripped-down rock and roll by the quartet, with a mix of tempos, covers of a number of songs from various sources mixed with songs Liberty had the publishing to mixed with Herring originals.

The music on those 3 albums has not really dated as it is timeless small-group rock and roll without any pretensions—-well-played, well-sung, cleanly recorded without any studio trickery or layers of overdubbed frosting (which Smith had a tendency to do with some of the other artists he worked with). The band simply delivered the goods. Of course, Sid Herring’s vague resemblance to Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits probably did not hurt the band’s teen-female appeal, and Herring was also a man who could sing in a number of styles with ease, which allowed the band to adapt material from British groups, tin pan alley, Bo Diddley, or Liberty songwriters with equal ease. Herring also contributed some classic songs of his own such as “My Baby Don’t Care” and the amazing “(You Can’t Blow) Smoke Rings.”

gants pic

The final three songs on this 30-track Oldays collection come from their last two 45’s, from 1967, and show producer Smith and arranger David Gates (pre-Bread) moving the group into a kind of a sunshine pop vein, though from fifty paces they still sound like the Gants. The core identity of The Gants was as a rootsy frat-rock quartet with a twangy rock and roll sound that showed the influence of the British Invasion, but on a rootsy, gutsy Mississippi level, straightforward and without pretensions.

The Gants have been fortunate re-issue wise….during the LP era there was a fine compilation on Bam-Caruso (UK), and then CD’s on RPM and Sundazed that compiled the majority of their output on a single disc. The Gants are a band that benefit from getting 30 straight tracks in a row–you both hear multiple examples of what they are very good at (the Bo Diddley rockers, the covers of others’ hits such as “You Better Run” or “Rain” or “Gloria”) and realize their ability to play in a number of styles while remaining instantly recognizable as The Gants. A popular live band throughout the South, they had to be able to play in various tempos for the dancers, to play their own singles, and to play recognizable hits in order to keep those audiences excited and wanting the band back in a few months—-their records capture that mix perfectly. Considering that you get 30 tracks here in a beautiful heavy cardboard mini-LP sleeve replicating their ROAD RUNNER album, this seems like an essential purchase….the one Gants album you should own, and yes, you should own a Gants album. I’ve had the 3 LP’s since the late 70’s and they  have never been far from my turntable.

gants smoke rings

==============================================

Gants leader Sid Herring was also in an interesting group in the early 70’s called WATCHPOCKET, who recorded in Memphis for Steve Cropper’s TMI label. I stumbled across this album, noticed Herring’s name, and assumed it was the same man. I’m glad I did. It’s first rate Southern country-soul, most of the material is written or co-written by Herring, he’s reunited with Gants drummer Don Taylor Wood, and Steve Cropper’s guitar is all over the album. There are also two singles under Herring’s name from this period, and I assume they are from a similar pool of musicians. Some label should license all of this material and put it on one CD…the album, the non-lp side of Watchpocket, and the two Sid Herring singles. Ace Records or Grapefruit Records or Real Gone Music would be excellent labels to take on such a project.

You can read about that material here:

http://badcatrecords.com/BadCat/WATCHPOCKET.htm

gants marker

Public marker honoring THE GANTS in their hometown of Greenwood, Mississippi, reads “They were Mississippi’s Beatles”….yes, they were, and Mississippi’s Stones and Mississippi’s Standells and Mississippi’s Paul Revere And The Raiders and Mississippi’s Yardbirds and Mississippi’s Dave Clark Five! Prior to COVID-19, I would get over to Mississippi every few years, so I’ll make a point of visiting Greenwood and checking out this marker and the general vibe of the town. If it produced the Gants, it’s got to be of interest. I’ve been in many a Mississippi town, but not Greenwood.

============================================

And as thanks for reading this far, here is the entire WATCHPOCKET album for your listening pleasure!

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