Artist: Frijid Pink

The House of the Rising Sun – Frijid Pink

Frijid Pink is a Detroit area hard rock/blues band formed in 1967.  The initial line-up of the band included drummer Richard Stevers, guitarist Gary Ray Thompson, bassist Tom Harris, lead singer Tom Beaudry (aka:Kelly Green), and later added Larry Zelanka as off-staff keyboardist.

Frijid Pink was formed when members of the Detroit Vibrations Stevers and Harris were joined by guitarist Gary Ray Thompson, (who convinced Vibrations’ manager Clyde Stevers (Richard’s father) that he was a better candidate for a guitarist), and singer Tom Beaudry, who later took the stage name Kelly Green. They spent their first two years touring throughout the Southeast Michigan/Detroit area and eventually signed with Parrot Records. Their first two singles, “Tell Me Why” and “Drivin’ Blues” (both released in 1969). failed to attract much attention, but their third 1969 effort, a distorted guitar-driven rendition of “House of the Rising Sun,” reached the Top Ten on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in winter 1970. This disc sold over one million copies, thereby receiving a gold disc. The song was literally a “filler,” using up time at the end of a recording session. A big hit in the U.S. (topping at #7 in February 1970), it became an even bigger hit in Europe. The band was so popular in their native Detroit area that a fledgling Led Zeppelin (who were just then getting started from the remnants of The Yardbirds) opened for them at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom. Frijid Pink often shared billing with the likes of the MC5, The Stooges, The Amboy Dukes and others.

Another version of the band (featuring no original or past members) formed in 2001. They recorded one album, Inner Heat, which was set for release in 2002, but was pulled by the record label, Dynasty Records. In 2005 another lineup formed featuring most of the original members; drummer Stevers had succeeded in getting bassist Tom Harris and vocalist Tom Beaudry together with guitarist Steve Dansby (from a late 1970’s line-up of Cactus) and keyboardist Larin Michaels. In late 2006, after a failed attempt to once again reunite the original members, Stevers began auditioning other musicians for the reformation of Frijid Pink. This new lineup has recorded an album and continues to play club dates and public functions in the southeast Michigan area.

The House of the Rising Sun

The House of the Rising Sun” is a folk song from the United States. Also called “House of the Rising Sun” or occasionally “Rising Sun Blues“, it tells of a life gone wrong in New Orleans. The most successful commercial version was recorded by the English rock group The Animals in 1964, which was a number one hit in the United States, United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland and Canada.

Like many classic folk ballads, the authorship of “The House of the Rising Sun” is unknown. Some musicologists believe it is based on the tradition of broadside ballads such as the “Unfortunate Rake” of the 18th century which were taken to America by early settlers. Many of these had the theme of “if only” and after a period of evolution, they emerge as American songs like “Streets of Laredo”.

Alan Price of The Animals has claimed that the song was originally a sixteenth-century English folk song about a Soho brothel, and that English emigrants took the song to America where it was adapted to its later New Orleans setting.

The oldest known existing recording is by Appalachian artists Clarence Ashley and Gwen Foster and was made in 1933. Ashley said he had learned it from his grandfather, Enoch Ashley. Alger “Texas” Alexander’s “The Risin’ Sun,” recorded in 1928, is sometimes mentioned as the first recording, but is a completely different song.

The song might have been lost to obscurity had it not been collected by folklorist Alan Lomax, who, along with his father, was a curator of the Archive of American Folk Song for the Library of Congress. On an expedition with his wife to eastern Kentucky Lomax set up his recording equipment in Middlesborough, Kentucky in the house of a singer and activist called Tilman Cadle. On September 15, 1937 he recorded a performance by Georgia Turner, the 16 year-old daughter of a local miner. He called it “The Risin’ Sun Blues.” Lomax later recorded a different version sung by Bert Martin and a third sung by Daw Henson, both eastern Kentucky singers. In his 1941 songbook Our Singing Country, Lomax credits the lyrics to Turner, with reference to Martin’s version. According to his later writing, the melody bears similarities to the traditional English ballad “Matty Groves.”

Roy Acuff, who recorded the song on November 3, 1938, may have learned the song from Clarence Ashley, with whom he sometimes performed. In 1941, Woody Guthrie recorded a version. A recording made in 1947 by Josh White, who is also credited with having written new words and music that have subsequently been popularized in the versions made by many other later artists, was released by Mercury Records in 1950. In late 1948 Lead Belly recorded a version called “In New Orleans” in the sessions that later became the album Lead Belly’s Last Sessions (1994, Smithsonian Folkways). In 1957 Glenn Yarbrough recorded the song for Elektra Records. The song is also credited to Ronnie Gilbert on one of The Weavers albums with Pete Seeger that was released in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Frankie Laine recorded the song then titled “New Orleans” on his 1959 album Balladeer. Joan Baez recorded it in 1960 on her eponymous debut album, and has included it in her live set list, frequently including the song in her concerts throughout her career. In 1960 Miriam Makeba recorded the song on her eponymous RCA album.

In late 1961, Bob Dylan recorded the song for his first album, Bob Dylan, released in March 1962. Dylan claims a writer’s credit for the song. In an interview on the documentary No Direction Home, Dave Van Ronk said that he was intending to record it at that time, and that Dylan copied his version. He recorded it himself soon thereafter on Just Dave Van Ronk.

“I had learned it sometime in the 1950s, from a recording by Hally Wood, the Texas singer and collector, who had got it from an Alan Lomax field recording by a Kentucky woman named Georgia Turner. I put a different spin on it by altering the chords and using a bass line that descended in half steps-a common enough progression in jazz, but unusual among folksingers. By the early 1960s, the song had become one of my signature pieces, and I could hardly get off the stage without doing it.” -Dave Van Ronk

Nina Simone recorded her first version on Nina at the Village Gate in 1962. Later versions include the 1965 recording in Colombia by Los Speakers in Spanish called “La casa del sol naciente”, which was also the title of their second album. They earned a silver record (for sales of over 15,000 copies). The Chambers Brothers recorded a version on “Feelin’ The Blues”, released on VAULT records. Much later, English rock band Muse recorded a version for the War Child charity.

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There is a house in New Orleans
they call it Rising Sun.
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
and God
I know I’m one.

My mother was a tailor
sewed my new blue jeans
my father was a gamblin’ man
down in New Orleans.

Now the only thing a gambler needs
is a suitcase and a trunk.
And the only time he’ll be satisfied
is when he’s all a drunk.

Oh ! mother tell your children
not to do what I have done
spend your lives in sin and misery
in the House of the Rising sun.

Well I’ve got one foot on the platform
the other foot on the train.
I’m going back to New Orleans
to wear that ball and chain.

There is a house in New Orleans
they call it Rising Sun.
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
and God
I know I’m one.

  • Audio from the 1970 album, Frijid Pink:

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