Tongue and Groove

Tongue and Groove

If you read too much 1960s rock history by the “experts,” you just might think that Grace Slick and Janis Joplin were the only two women who lived in the Haight-Ashbury district during San Francisco’s psychedelic golden age. Such narrow-mindedness diminishes the importance of fringe (but no less important) figures such as Lynne Hughes, who had been around before the scene even really came into existence. And what more could you want in a woman? She possessed a great deal of talent, had a lovely singing voice, could play decent guitar, knew the songbooks of several important prewar blues singers…and did I mention that she was stunningly beautiful?

Lynne Hughes

After growing up in the Pacific Northwest and being part of Seattle’s folk scene in the early 1960s, Hughes relocated to the Bay Area and became friends with Chandler Laughlin and the characters who would eventually establish the legendary Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada. This, in turn, led to her becoming an occasional member of the Charlatans with whom she often performed and handled lead vocal duties on two songs during their ill-fated recording sessions for Kama Sutra. She acknowledged that the time spent with them broadened her knowledge of blues artists like Robert Johnson, which considerably expanded her repertory.

Lynne Hughes

Formed toward the end of the 1960s, Tongue and Groove was an interesting blues-rock outfit that was in some respects an offshoot of the Charlatans in that it included Hughes and that band’s original piano player (and one the first Haight-Ashbury scenesters) Mike Ferguson, who also did the album’s cover artwork. The group was completed by competent guitarist Randy Lewis, and they recorded their eponymous LP with a host of session musicians, apparently including Charlatans bassist Richard Olsen on some tracks. Dismissed as “fair” by some, Tongue and Groove is certainly no masterpiece, but for those who like West Coast rock with a strong roots influence, this is still mighty fine and definitely worth a listen. Admittedly, the cuts where Ferguson is lead singer – “Mailman’s Sack,” “The Shadow Knows” (which is actually better than the version he did with the Charlatans), “Motorhead Baby,” and “Fallin’ Apart” (written by one-time Charlatans bandmate Dan Hicks) – are inferior what with his comparatively flat vocals, although the musicianship of the instrumentalists does not necessarily suffer on any of these. If nothing else, “Sack” can be enjoyed as a studio mini-jam, for example. However, the tracks with Hughes at the helm are absolutely superb and evidence that white musicians can occasionally do some wonderful things when reinterpreting the blues. “Devil” is a gender-inverted cover of Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman” and imaginatively reworks the arrangement used for her earlier version recorded with The Charlatans in 1966. “Come on in My Kitchen” features considerably different lyrics than Robert Johnson’s original as well as some heavenly dobro from James Burton. “Cherry Ball” seems to be based on Mance Lipscomb’s rendition of this song, and the consensus among most critics is that this is the album’s best performance. I’d have to agree, especially when one considers Hughes’ sultry vocals, Lewis’ ringing guitar lines, Ferguson’s barrelhouse-derived piano fills, and the rhythm section’s snappy time signatures. This is white blues at its best. “Sidetrack” is another revisitation of a piece previously done with the Charlatans, this time a big band interpretation of a Jimmy Rodgers tune where the horn section actually adds to the performance instead of detracting from it. “Duncan & Brady” is a nice take on the old cowboy song that apparently had been a staple in Hughes’ sets at the Red Dog, while “Rocks for My Pillow” may have been something she had learned from Brownie McGhee during her coffeehouse singing days.

Hughes went on to do an album under her own name, Freeway Gypsy, as well as becoming a vocalist for Stoneground, although Tongue and Groove and her work with the Charlatans remain her career high points.

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Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

    From the 1969 album Tongue and Groove (featuring Lynne Hughes)
    Tongue and Groove

  • Cherry Ball
  • Devil
  • Kingdom of Heaven
  • Motorhead Baby
  • Sidetrack
  • The Shadow Knows
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