venerdì 26 novembre 2010

Big Daddy, eight musicians prisoner for 24 years in Laos.

It was August 1959, and the Los Angeles-based musical group known as Big Daddy had finally wangled a recording contract. Their manager, wanting to give the waxing as much of a push as possible, got the band booked on a USO tour of Southeast Asia, hoping for some positive publicity. Unfortunately, the United States had no military involvement in Southeast Asia in 1959, or so the official story said, and therefore the publicity value of the tour would have turned out to be nil - had the band come back at all, which it hadn't. Given up for dead after their vehicle was found mired in quicksand, the band spent the next twenty-four years in the custody of Laotian revolutionaries. Rock and roll musicians being at least as unpopular with the U.S. government and its official radio service as were the Communists, the Laotians more or less adopted Big Daddy as Fellow Travelers. The war, of course, went on, and during the Sixties and Seventies, returning US troops told tales of an American band being held captive. Special Forces were eventually able to piece together the story, and after the usual interminable delays, a rescue attempt was mounted in 1983, under the guise of a British motion-picture production. Finally back in the States, Big Daddy agonized about that first recording session they had missed. Of course, during the intervening years, their record company, like so many little diskeries, had folded, and worried that the band might become a burden to the taxpayers, government officials brought in some sheet music and arranged a recording session at Camp David. The sessions were startling; although the band still had its chops, having been allowed to play by their captors all those years, the cultural isolation of northern Laos meant that Big Daddy had heard virtually none of the last two decades' worth of popular music, which meant that their recordings of Seventies and Eighties material, all that could be found in the nearest sheet-music store, were perforce arranged for Fifties performance styles. The record, of course, was unreleasable, so naturally it fell to Rhino Records to release it.

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