Two Jaggers And A Pianist
:: Elsie & Gene Jaggers - The Train Song ::
:: Elsie & Gene Jaggers - Hilo March ::
Here's a nifty little single I found awhile back. It appears to be a private pressing on Angelus Records, an obscure label out of Glendale, CA, featuring some glorious steel guitar playing by a woman named Elsie Jaggers, accompanied by her husband on ukulele, Reverend Gene Jaggers, and pianist, Janice Dernier. There's no real info on the sleeve, just a PO Box to order more sacred and Hawaiian recordings from this couple. From the look of it, I'm guessing this came out sometime in the 1970's or possibly the late sixties.
There's really not much info out there on Elsie Jaggers, other than that she was a student of Sol Ho'opi'i, often considered to be the "King of the Steel Guitar." Sol came to San Francisco as a teenager in 1919, a stowaway from Hawaii, birthplace of the novel idea of pressing and sliding a metal bar against guitar strings. Sometime in the 1920's he developed different tunings for the electric lap steel guitar, which allowed for more complex chords and sophisticated melodies than previously utilized. Soon both he and his music were appearing in Hollywood films, and his recordings began to spread out and inspire other musicians. Unfortunately, the good tunes coming out of this guy were not to last - in the late 1930's he became a born-again Christian and dedicated himself to evangelism. Musical appearances became sporadic and religious in nature from that point forward, because, you know the deal - God hates those hot, jazzy numbers and will condemn you to eternal damnation in the fiery pits of hell for listening or playing it. As the Robot's good friend, Russell, once exasperatingly exclaimed when denied buying a six-pack in Texas on a Sunday, "Those goddamned Christians ruin everything!"
Anyway, if you'd like to check out Sol Ho'opi'i's music, Rounder Records has done a nice job of compiling a good assortment of his recordings. While writing, I came across an offer which has me absolutely salivating. A friend of Sol's, and steel guitar recording artist himself, Bud Tutmarc, has a nine-disc collection of Sol Ho'opi'i public performances, private parties and jam sessions that have never officially been released for $75. Check out the sound samples that are provided, and then have fun trying to exercise some self restraint and not click that paypal button.
Anyway, back to the Elsie & Gene Jagger single. Both songs have sort of a ragtime Hawaiian feel that lend them some upbeat pep and bounce. "The Train Song" is meant to be a religious ditty - see the train riding on up to that shining city in the sky on the record's front cover? The song's subtitle, printed on the label, reads, "Life's Railway to Heaven." Make sure to listen for the steel produced sounds of a chicken squawk and a cow's "moo" just prior to the song's end - I suppose just outside those pearly gates there lies a farm, and we'll all be greeted by its animals.