“Here's a tune they’ve
been buying up big on every record machine for the past three months.
Nearly every band and singer in the country has taken a crack at it. But
here’s the famous Goodman
sextet’s version of it — South of the Border.”
Goodman quips; Hampton: “Hi-Ho, Silver.”
South of the Border had just been published earlier in the
year, a country-pop Hollywood ditty with a Latinish-rhythm bridge,
especially written for a popular western movie of the same name so it’s
understandable why this particular song came to be played on the “Camel
Caravan” show. The sextet seems to have taken it with a bit of a
light-hearted attitude right off with the spoken introduction on this radio
broadcast. Certainly one would not have anticipated boogie (!) riffs upon the
statement of the melody – but they did it. Somehow, they made it work
well – brilliantly, actually. Sure beats the syrupy movie version.
Domino later did the song using his usual New Orleans R&B rhythm. Sam
Cooke’s version was not nearly as good as might be expected from him –
cloying strings, but he’s not suited for it anyway (whereas Moonlight in Vermont
suited him to a tee). Slim Whitman’s is not
all that bad, specially compared to his Indian Love Call (WMD in “Mars Attacks”).
Our favorite pop singer, Nat Cole, was only okay with it. Willie Nelson does
it full justice though. Sinatra, another favorite pop singer, sang it
really well, with Nelson Riddle’s help; his buddy, Dean Martin, yet another
favorite, kinda parodies himself on this one. Cline was her dependable self. Then there’s Chuck Berry’s
soft, uniquely reworded rendition. This is just not the best song ever
written but, if done right, a good one.
I must say, our Charles makes this song and the sextet (horsey/Tiroleanish clarinet
trills aside) sound awfully good. There are no CC solos here: there are
chords on the intro, boogie riffs twice, straight melody on the bridge albeit employing his inimitable
approach, more chords on the tag with a four-note, south-of-the-border conclusion;
other than an appreciable vibes solo (vacuous hi-yo exclamation aside) where the rhythm-guitar chording is very prominent, the whole thing is mostly
melody – but ya gotta love Charles’ contribution. Some of those chords on
the coda may remind you of his accompaniment to Lionel Hampton’s vocal a
couple of months earlier on One Sweet Letter. A year and a bit later,
he would again record extensive boogie riffs on Celestial Express, on acoustic guitar. This aircheck
wasn’t commercially released until 1997, on Jazz Band.