Friday Five: Dom Flemons

Juli Thanki | July 18th, 2014

Songster Dom Flemons rose to prominence in the American roots music scene as a founding member of The Carolina Chocolate Drops, where his charismatic stage presence was backed with an extensive knowledge of music history — nearly everyone who attended a Chocolate Drops concert left at the end of the evening having learned something new. Flemons, who left the group in 2013, displays the full spectrum of that knowledge on his fine new solo record, Prospect Hill (out July 22), which includes elements of folk, ragtime, blues, prewar jazz, and early rock and roll.

He’s currently preparing for a UK tour, which kicks off in London on July 23, but he took some time to tell us about a few of his myriad musical influences.

Phil Ochs – “Crucifixion,” 1965 Demo

This song by singer-songwriter Phil Ochs gave me a whole new understanding of what could be done with songwriting.  He is one of my biggest influences.  This song tackles many of the issues that we deal with in a capitalist society. It talks about the way we build up heroes and then we destroy them only to praise them as martyrs.


Muddy Waters at 1960 Newport Jazz Festival playlist

The documentary The History of Rock ‘N Roll got me into a lot of old music.  One episode focused on early blues and they had a clip of Muddy Waters doing “I Got My Mojo Working” from the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival.  I searched high and low for this video for years.  It’s still available through Stefan Grossman’s guitar workshop.  Nevertheless, I found a playlist that has all of the Newport Jazz Festival footage of Muddy Waters.


Paradise in Harlem (1939)

I found this movie on YouTube several years ago.  This movie showcases black vaudeville in a very comprehensive way. It has comedians, classic blues singers, husband-and-wife teams, and blackface performers who are black. Just watch for yourself and see! It features Mamie Smith and Lucky Millinder.


How “Sh-Boom” Originated (The Chords)

I have always been a fan of old doo-wop.  Every once in a while, I get into a big doo-wop frenzy and need to listen to it for hours.  One fortunate day, I found this video.  This is a short documentary about the song “Sh-Boom” originated by the doo-wop group the Chords.  I have loved this song for years and it amazed me to hear the creators of this song talk about the references to local ideas and culture.  It’s really a “pop” folk song if you really think about it.  Enjoy!


They Hit a Blue Note

This six part YouTube documentary will absolutely blow your mind. It was found in the early ‘50s by Frederic Ramsey, Jr.  He did his research with a Guggenheim Grant.  Not only did he film this documentary, he also photographed his trip and made it into a book, Been Here and Gone, and released a ten-record set on Folkways called Music from the South.

The Music from the South record set features everyone you see in the video.  Check it out on Spotify!  Ramsey also recorded another record from that trip by the musician Cat-Iron that is also amazing (Koerner, Ray, and Glover fans will know Cat-Iron’s signature song, “Jimmy Bell,” which Dave Ray played.)


Take care, folks!



  1. bob
    July 18, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Although I knew that the original version of “Sh-Boom” was by the Chords, I enjoyed listening to the story behind the song. Thanks. I have the 45 for the second recording of “Sh-Boom” by the Crew-Cuts on Mercury Records. The song is from 1954 and the oldest 45 in my collection.

    Like Mr. Flemons, I still enjoy listening to my old Doo-Wop music. There is no new doo-wop. My suggestion made just over 5 years ago to bring back doo-wop has gone nowhere. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Maybe I’ll check out this new Flemons album.

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