A cover of Duane Eddy's 1959 rock 'n' roll hit Forty Miles of Bad Road may seem an odd choice for an up-and-coming jazz guitarist to record, but that's the case here with Cal Collins's 1968 recording.
Collins (1933-2001) was still a decade away from recording his highly-regarded albums for the Concord Jazz label when he made this single. Forty Miles of Bad Road was the "B" side of the 45, but the "A" side was also interesting -- a medley of the standard Peg O' My Heart, which dates from Ziegfeld Follies of 1913, and Santo and Johnny's Sleepwalk (1959). Hopefully we'll get to that side in a future post.
Collins was based in Cincinnati and the single was recorded for the Airtown label, based in Richmond, Ind., about an hour's drive northwest of the Ohio city. Airtown was owned by saxophonist and bandleader Tommy Wills, whose style resembled that of the more well-known, Memphis-based Ace Cannon who had played with Bill Black's Combo before registering the hit single Tuff in 1962. Wills may well have had a lot to do with choosing the tunes and the arrangements on Collins's single. This is certainly a funky take on Forty Miles, as you can hear below.
Forty Miles of Bad Road
This single was Cal Collins's only recording for Airtown, a label which lasted for barely two years after it was established in 1967. The label released only 45s, no LPs, and those seemed to be designed mainly for jukebox and radio play rather than retail sales.
For contrast here's Duane Eddy and the Rebels miming to the original 1959 recording of Forty Miles in a performance on the Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show hosted by Dick Clark.