09 November 2013

Only in Oz (13): Duke Baxter - Everybody Knows Matilda (1969)

Another in my series of posts about tracks that were more popular in Australia than in their countries of origin. See also: Only in Melbourne.

13. Duke Baxter - Everybody Knows Matilda
(Duke Baxter) Produced & arranged by Tony Harris
USA 1969 

VMC single (USA) #740.
VMC single (Canada) #740.
Festival single (Australia) #FK-3201

Australian charts: #17 Melbourne (Ryan), #13 Melbourne (Guest), #27 Brisbane, #14 Perth, #35 Go-set magazine (#44 Australia)

Duke Baxter has been something of a mystery man, but (in collaboration with  Erik Bluhm at West Coast Fog) I've established that he is James Blake, a Canadian also known as Dudley F. Baxter.

BMI's Repertoire Search will lead you to a list of 69 Duke Baxter compositions. An identical list is also found under Dudley F. Baxter, Dudley Ford Baxter, and James Blake.

More recently, James has posted  to YouTube some of his Duke Baxter songs that were recorded for an unreleased album. Using the YouTube alias Jim Shaman, he writes:
Maybe some people want to know what happened to Duke Baxter. Did he just vanish or did he keep writing songs? I am that guy after a few incarnations or iterations.

In the US, Everybody Knows Matilda [YouTube] made it to #52 on Billboard, and it was on the Cash Box chart for seven weeks, peaking at #69. In Canada it spent three weeks on the RPM100 chart, peaking at #58.

Matilda appears on some US radio station charts at ARSA. This really tells us only that it was on the playlists of at least twelve North America stations; and that out of that random sample KJRB Spokane WA (#18) and KFRC San Francisco CA (#19) rated it most highly.

So let's say that Matilda probably did better on pop stations in Melbourne and Perth than in Spokane and SF, and better than on Billboard and Cash Box. Not quite Only in Oz, but going by online comments about the song it's fondly remembered by Australians, a bit of a lost oldie down here. I hate to repeat rumour and hearsay, but one YouTube poster suggests that many American listeners believe the record is Australian (it isn't): perhaps they associate "Matilda" with Australia and, who knows, the name might have struck a chord with listeners down here.

There was an Everybody Knows Matilda album that yielded three singles including the title track.

Duke Baxter appears at West Coast Fog as a paragraph in a long and detailed story about Tony Harris, the producer & arranger of Everybody Knows Matilda. I urge you to read the whole story, which is embellished with numerous label shots and printed ephemera. Harris was active as producer, writer, arranger and performer from 1963 till 1969. His name appears as a credit on Princess, Triumph, Dee Gee and VMC labels. West Coast Fog also goes into some film music written by Harris, partly in association with his father, producer Jack H. Harris.

After the VMC album and singles, there is a further Duke Baxter single on Mercury from 1970, Absolute Zero/Wings Of Love, then in 1977 an album on AVG , My Ship Is Coming In.

West Coast Fog also discusses Baxter's work on singles by The Rob Roys (1966) and Revelation (1968 and n.d.).

The Rob Roys' single on Accent #AC 1312 was Do You Girl? / Yes I Do. This label shot of the A-side at YouTube credits Baxter with writing, arranging and A&R.

There were two late-60s singles by Revelation with the participation of Duke Baxter (and, in one case, of Mike Post!):
1. Revelation - Cotton Candy Weekend (Duke Baxter - Kerry Hatch)/Wait And See (Duke Baxter - Kerry Hatch) Single on Music Factory #412, Prod. Mike Post, Arr. Mike Post, Kerry Hatch
2. Revelation, featuring Duke Baxter and Kerry Hatch - Kiss Your Mind Goodbye (Duke Baxter)/Dorplegank (Duke Baxter) Single on Combine #45-12 Arr. Duke Baxter

It seems likely (as West Coast Fog suggests) that Kerry Hatch, Baxter's collaborator on the Music factory single, is the future Oingo Boingo bassist.

There are a few Duke Baxter clips at YouTube, most of them for Matilda (no live action, though). See discogs for sleeve and label shots (click on More images). Searching eBay can throw up a range of Baxter's singles and albums; even if you don't buy it's a good source of label or sleeve shots. 45cat.com has some Duke Baxter label shots and other data; it also lists the Rob Roy single, and both Revelation singles, with a label shot of Kiss Your Mind Goodbye (embedded here).

Chart positions from Gavin Ryan's Australian chart books and Tom Guest's Melbourne chart book [Tom's email].

Duke Baxter discography


Everybody Knows Matilda (1969) VMC Records #VS 138
Side 1
Everybody Knows Matilda
I Ain't No Schoolboy
Crosstown Woman
Mississippi Gentry
Pretty Heavy
Side 2:
Static Interference
Superstition Bend
53rd Card In The Deck
No Tell Motel
Don't Hurt Us
John Q. Citizen

My Ship Is Coming In (1977) AVI Records #AVL6024
Side 1:
California Rose
Sweet Sincerity*
Don't Forget How To Dream
My Ship Is Coming In
Dandy Sandy
Baby Let Me Walk Next To You
Side 2:
Dizzy Lizzy
One More Heart Beat Down The Line
Alice May*
Some Day Soon
Thank You

Everybody Knows Matilda / I Ain’t No School Boy (1969) VMC #740
Superstition Bend / Crosstown Woman VMC (1969) VMC #749
John Q. Citizen / Don’t Hurt Us VMC (1969) #V750
Absolute Zero / Wings Of Love (1970) MERCURY #73107

3. SINGLE BY THE ROB ROYS (Duke Baxter writing, arranging, A&R)
Do You Girl? / Yes I Do* (1966) Accent #AC 1213

4. SINGLES BY REVELATION (Duke Baxter writing, co-writing, arranging or performing)
Cotton Candy Weekend*  / Wait And See* (1968) Music Factory #412,
Kiss Your Mind Goodbye / Dorplegank (n.d.) Combine #45-12

All compositions by Duke Baxter except *
Cotton Candy Weekend (Duke Baxter & Kerry Hatch)
Wait And See (Duke Baxter & Kerry Hatch)
Sweet Sincerity, Alice May, and Yes I Do are not listed in Duke Baxter's repertoire at BMI but could well be his.