Everybody say it with me now: Cleveland Rocks! With Series 2 of Platters du Cuyahoga, Smog Veil Records is shining a light on the hotbed of blues-based garage rock that was Cleveland, Ohio in the 1960s.
The Schwartz Fox Blues Crusade: Sunday Morning Revival (1967), which hits streets on November 18th and is paired with extensive liner notes and vintage photos, was recorded in the spring of ’67 and features Glenn Schwartz, Jimmy Fox, and Tom Kriss– three of the then five members of the James Gang—on lead guitar, drums and bass, as well as Bill “Mr. Stress” Miller on vocals/blues harp, Mike Sands on piano and Rich Kriss, Tom Kriss’ older brother, on guitar/vocals. Looking back, this record marks a crucial moment for the band; by the end of the year, Schwartz would head for California and join Pacific Gas & Electric, and Joe Walsh would take the place in the James Gang.
Today, Elmore is premiering “99,” a track from Sunday Morning Revival. Drummer Jim Fox notes of the track, “”99″ is such a classic song with universal lyrics that are timeless. “She wanted $100 and I only had but $99.” Ain’t that the story of life!!”
It’s a short but blistering track, driven by Schwartz’ gravelly croon. The slightly lo-fi quality bristles with youthful energy, evoking a strong sense of time and place, and clocking in at just two and a half minutes, the band winds you up and leaves you begging for more.
Give “99” a spin below, and shop Smog Veil and learn more about the Platters du Cuyahoga series via their website. Read below for some interesting background on the track!
Nick Blakey who both researched and wrote the extensive liner notes for The Schwartz Fox Blues Crusade: Sunday Morning Revival (1967) shared with Elmore:
“Long before Jay-Z had “99 Problems,” the number 99 came up frequently in the blues. On disc, we can look to Julius Daniel’s “Ninety-Nine Year Blues” (an early example of what has come to be known as “Piedmont Blues”) recorded and released on Victor in 1927 and covered much later by Hot Tuna on their 1972 album Burgers. Jimmie “The Singing Brakeman” Rodgers (whom this author considers to be, much like Hank Williams and Dock Boggs, to be as close to true white blues as one can get) recorded a song of the same name in 1932 which seems to have been heavily inspired by Daniels’ song, though perhaps Rodgers was inspired by a traditional song that had influenced Daniels as well.
Louisiana-based bluesman Blind Joe Reynolds recorded a completely different song in 1929 called “99 Blues” that was released on Paramount in 1930, and in 1951 Jimmy Nelson brought out the R&B classic “T-99” apparently referring to Texas Highway SH99 which became US 377 in 1968.
Sonny Boy Williamson II (aka Alec Miller aka Rice Miller) recorded his own “99” in 1957 which was first released as the B-side of “Born Blind” on Chess in 1958 and later on the LP Down And Out Blues in 1959. The Schwartz-Fox Blues Crusade featuring Mr. Stress stay pretty faithful to the Sonny Boy original though they do give it some hearty Yardbirds-like rave-up energy, with some particularly fiery guitar work from Glenn Schwartz and strong, muscular drumming from Jimmy Fox. Bill “Mr. Stress” Miller’s harmonica solo also stays pretty true to the Chicago blues tradition, with nods to both Sonny Boy Williamson II as well as Little Walter.
Had they been on a bill together, these guys most certainly would have given the Paul Butterfield Blues Band a run for their money.”