Thursday, July 10, 2008

Boss Tracks, Double Shot (of my baby's love), The Swingin' Medallions

I first became familiar with the Swingin’ Medallions when I bought the Rhino Nuggets boxed set, a continuation of the infamous ’75 double LP with liner notes by Lenny Kaye, guitar player for the Patti Smith group. The box was filled with one-hit wonders and obscure R&R trail blazers I had never heard off. Though I’ve owned the box for years now, I can still dive back into it and uncover a new find. It’s like a treasure chest which contents never looses it shine. One of the 45s that jumped out immediately like a big sparkling sapphire was “Double Shot (of my baby’s love)” by the Swingin’ Medallions. With its rousing slightly out of tune organ and swaggering harmonies it seemed like the perfect embodiment of the R&R party the band sang off. Like most bands featured on the box the details on their back ground were scant, but for years the Medallions remained an alluring mystery. A few weeks back I was lucky enough to stumble across the original 45, or so I thought, on Smash. Intrigued I looked to see if I could find out more. The Internet provided little except for an official website. The Medallions were still out there, living up the parties of the South! Though only featuring John McElrath of the original medallions. I decided to seek him out and he was kind enough to grant me an interview over the phone to clear up a thing or two on this ever appealing R&R smash.

The Medallions first formed in Greenwood South Carolina area, where they all met in college. With a thick and relaxed southern drawl John remembers today “None of us were rich, so we had to make a little money to support our schooling”. With that in mind the boys formed the Medallions, playing on the weekends, studying during the week. With eight members the band was pretty much self contained, “Believe it or not, “ John told me, “we had five horn players. I played key bass [on the organ] so we did away with the bass, we didn’t have a string base.” The R&R army of eight played all over area, taking the frat houses by storm. As John relates today, their main sources of inspiration were R&B acts like James Brown & the Famous Flames, Otis Redding and Sam & Dave. “As a matter of fact Double Shot didn’t even portray that,” John advises, “the recording didn’t have horns on it”.

Originally the single was a cheaply recorded affair the Medallions put out on their own label, For Sale, with only a thousand copies printed. John remembers that they intended to sell the 45 at shows, never expecting the recording would be a hit one day. But with the help of Dave Roddy of WFEN Radio, the 45 became a hit in the South in a matter of weeks. At that point Smash records stepped in and started courting the boys with a recording contract. With a sure hit all Smash had to do was print the copies of the master tape, or so they thought. Big as the record was down South, in the North it didn’t get any play on the radio because the band had the audacity to sing “Woke up this morning, my head hurt so bad, the worst hangover I ever had”. To make the single more radio friendly it had to be re-cut, dropping the hangover line. “You can imagine today they probably wouldn’t even have looked at that, “ John laughed at the other side of the line.

The record became a million seller after that. John responds amused when I suggest that at one point they were bigger than the Stones down South. Though he denies that level of popularity, he does have fond memories of touring the South from frat house to frat house. “Those were some of the best parties, ” he remembers, adding “we only toured nation wide in ’66, when Double Shot was big, after that it was back to school.” The band never got to cash in on the success of the single. Returning to school turned out to be a conscious decision on the part of the medallions. Their success had gotten them to play a gig for Frank Sinatra’s daughter Tina, on her wedding. After the show Frank showed interest in singing them on his Reprise records. The band declined, “You remember that was the Vietnam era,” John explains today, “Not going back to school would probably have split us up because of the draft”. One way of avoiding being drafted was to stay in college and keep your grades up. Who knows what might have happened if the times were different.

School or no school the Swinging Medallions still keep going today, even bringing all the original members back on stage for a reunion from time to time. The current live band still manages to thrill quite a few crowds with acrobatics by their horn section. Anybody who has paid attention to music these days can only conclude that the music on the Nugget box is alive and kicking though bands like the White Stripes. With modest pride John confesses today “I’m real pickle with the fact that the people still remember us.” They might even have had a hand in kick starting the career of a certain Bruce Springsteen. John remembers that Bruce saw their show in Pittsburgh when he was young. “He’s been real complimentary on the band through his career,” John relates “I guess [after he saw us] he figured if we could do it, anybody could do it”

Double Shot (of my baby's love), The Swingin' Medallions

Available on Anthologythrough Amazon or through ebay

Bruce Springsteen

MP3 File


8 comments:

Alicia said...

Ooh, I love that song! Nice to see it mentioned here.

I just stumbled across your blog a few days ago - great stuff!

Mission Man said...

Bruce's version of that from that Notre Dame show is one of my favorite of his covers! Thanks, Alex!

Anonymous said...

The Boss opened his first concert in Charleston since 1978 this past Saturday night with "Double Shot" when the Boss asked the sold out crowd if they wanted to hear some "beach music" he went to work and finished the show with "Twist & Shout" which is about as close to a "beach music" tune as the beatles could get, the Boss is the Boss for a reason, he just rocks!

Anonymous said...

Hello Bruce:

I am the deejay that played Double Shot first. The radio station was WSGN, in Birmingham, AL, rather than the one stated in your blog. I have a picture with the group on the very first Medallion Monday and would be happy to send it to you. My email is: ruddledave@aol.com.

A complete history of the Swingin' Medallions can be found in Greg Haynes' book: The Hey Baby Days of Beach Music. Also, under the features page that I (Dave Roddy)wrote for: Birminghamrewound.com

PS. There will be a huge dinner in Greenwood, SC, on September 12, honoring John McElrath at the Civic Center. His friends are organizing a scholorship in his name for Lander University. I am looking forward to the evening.

Dave "ROckin" Roddy
WSGN Good-Guy, through the sixties

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for putting this song on your blog. This is a song I remember my dad listening to when I was growing up. Thanks again!!

Paul said...

My brother,[Jimmy Perkins]played for the Medallions,[He is third from left on the album cover]. He played sax and doubled on bass guitar.A few yrs.later,I joined them,playing drums.It was a dream come true,and A total BLAST to perform with the band,and to perform alongside my bro. I saw Bruce in 1975 at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta,and was instantly HOOKED! DUUH! The third time I saw Bruce[Born in the USA],I was looking at the concert program. I came across Bruce's profile,and among his musical influences were the Swingin' Medallions! I about fell off my seat! At another show, I took an old Medallion sweatshirt with me.I ran to the stage and threw it onstage. Little Steve Van Zant caught it and held it up for all to see,then ran backstage to the dressing room.And after the last encore,they played Double Shot.

SoulBoogieAlex said...

Thanks for the comment Paul,

Do you remember which show it was when Bruce came back for the extra encore?

Paul said...

I`m trying to think of a show I attended where Bruce DIDN`T do at least two encores. Every show I saw was so awesome, that no one wanted to let go of that moment. People were screaming BROOOOOCE!!! including me.I was thinking they were saying BOOOO! Then I caught on.He`s coming to Greensboro NC on May 2.I`d give anything to see him one more time.I`ve been a musician for over 40 years, and i`ve Never been so inspired by an artist of his magnitude and passion. I wish i could just talk to Bruce Springsteen just one time. Boy, that`d be somethin` else. We have a lot in common i`m sure. Thanx for reading this.and keep in touch,ok? Paul B. Perkins