This week, “Locals Pick Locals” returns with a few more nuggets from Michigan’s back catalog of amazing — and sometimes strange — music. From ‘90s alt-rock to primitive old gospel records, here’s a few records worth digging around for.
Rich Tupica (Turn it Down! writer, “Inzane Michigan” co-host)
Pick: Slim Gaillard “Baked Beans and a Bottle of Beer”
Blue-Chip Records is a Lansing mystery that needs to be uncovered. During the late-’50s, this locally based label pressed up a few 45 rpms, including 1958’s “Baked Beans and a Bottle of Beer” by the legendary Slim Gaillard, aka McVouty. The jazzy singer is also a bit of a mystery. He claims to have been born in Santa Clara, Cuba — while others say he was born in Detroit. If he was indeed born in Michigan, it might explain his connection to Lansing’s own Blue-Chip Records. Bulee “Slim” Gaillard (Jan. 9, 1911 – Feb. 26, 1991), emerged in the late-’30s with oddball hits like “Flat Foot Floogie (with a Floy Floy)” and “Cement Mixer (Put-Ti-Put-Ti).”
Gaillard was known for his ability to lean into comedic word play — he also constructed his own language called “Vout-o-Reenee” and he even made a dictionary for it. During the 1940s, he spent time serving as a World War II bomber pilot in the Pacific. Though, after he returned to civilian life, he picked up his music career and was eventually performing alongside the likes of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Gaillard’s “Baked Beans and a Bottle of Beer” is only one of the many upbeat rollicking R&B tunes in his cannon, the multi-instrumentalist played through the ’80s at festivals across the globe. Check out his remarkable catalog of swing, bop and jive gems, and also be sure to contact City Pulse if you have any clue as to how this mysterious musician wound up on a Capital City imprint.
Steve Butts (Local music aficionado)
Pick: Big Blue Couch “Slaine” from the “So This is East Lansing!” compilation
Not many bands had the audacity to be featured in a comic book series about a metaphysically powerful Big Blue Couch (at least without sounding pretentious and hopelessly dull), but this ’90s Lansing area band did it.
Big Blue Couch were like a lot of bands that played college campuses during the ’90s, they were certainly influenced by hardcore punk and metal, but also ’70s arena rock and nearly everything before Nirvana. These guys played tirelessly at campus and community events, keg parties and at The Small Planet, alongside of a roster of popular bands.
They also benefited from having an all ages venue called Ruskin’s Reef on Lake Lansing — an under-appreciated component of Lansing ’90s music. (Side note: Today, the absence of local all-ages venues and house parties has been detrimental to the scene.)
Back in their day, Big Blue Couch worked hard and they played hard — always with smiles on their faces and a mildly self-deprecating sense of humor. For an intro, check out their song “Slaine” from the 1993 “So This is East Lansing!” compilation via Yikes! Records. Other bands on it include Verve Pipe, Wally Pleasant and The dt’s.
John Olson (Musician, Wolf Eyes, “Inzane Michigan” co-host)
Pick: Ambassadors Quartet “Singing His Praises” Monotone LP.
Headquartered in Lansing proper, this vocal/reed instrument harmony squad sure can lay out a strange sonic landscape. This is a weird one. Beyond that, how can they do LP after LP in “this style” and have not a single hook creeping? That has to be a world record for … something. Yeah, they have tunes and intense sodden harmonies in the grooves, but can you hum one? You can’t. But please, never let that stop your band from putting out phenomenal homemade, non-commercial local cultural gems like this. EVER. If you seek these records, trust me, they are waiting quietly somewhere — brooding in the shadows. Incredible damage — Lansing style. Monotone Studios greatness.