Thursday, December 23, 2010

Singles 45's & Under: Tobin Mathews Orchestra - "Ruby Duby Du"

Ah yes, another one of my 45’s.

You can tell it’s mine, because (again) I’ve indentified it as such with a childish handwritten “Todd” right under the publishing information.

I do this sort of thing with cars, electronics, and furniture, but it never seems to have the same results.

“Ruby Duby Du” is performed by the Tobin Mathews “Orchestra” (more on this later) and the label states that it’s from the movie Key Witness, both of which my parents have no recollection of.

Neither Mom or Dad could identify where this record came from and neither one ever recalled going to a movie called Key Witness, the only reason I could think of why you would even buy this single.

Thanks to the internets, I’ve learned a few things about this record-and the story is intriguing.

First of all, Key Witness was a movie-evidently an overacted drama about a witness to a gang killing….1960 style-that featured none other than the late Dennis Hopper. It also features Johnny “I Can See Clearly Now” Nash in a role. The plot sounded good enough for me to include it on my Netflix queue, but I’m not holding out for a stunning piece of work.

“Ruby Duby Du” is the theme music to the movie, but from what I understand, it is a different version that the Tobin Mathews’ version.

The version here is an original pressing from Chief Records, a small label out of Chicago that asked a bunch of local musicians to re-do the song. The head of Chief Records then put together a “front-man” by calling up a local guy and asking him if he wanted to be in a band to support the labels up-and-coming hit single. The label head named the fellow “Tobin Matthews” after simply lifting the first and middle name from his own son.

Willy Henson was a guitarist from Calumet, Illinois. By the time “Ruby Duby Du” hit number 30 on the Billboard charts, he was better known as Tobin Mathews. Although Henson…er, Mathews…was well known around the Chicago scene, he didn’t play a note on the song.
I find this fascinating-a label decides to record a cover version, and after it’s recorded they decide to build a band around the session performance.

Henson had enough talent and good looks to eventually parlay the “Ruby Duby Du” gig into a couple of contracts with Warner Brothers and Columbia records.

Henson/Mathews has his own blog where he’s cataloged some of his rock music stories and photographs from his past.

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