Before he became Patti Smith’s lead guitarist, Lenny Kaye compiled the 2 album set, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era. Released in 1972, the two-LP set covered American garage rock and psychedelia from the years 1965-1968 and was a major influence on punk rock. Rhino Records reissued an expanded version of the set in 1998, with 118 tracks in total. I’m profiling and rating each of these 118 tracks, working backwards.
Track 47/118: Little Black Egg by The Nightcrawlers
Release Date: 1965
From: Daytona Beach, Florida
Aphoristic Rating: 6/10
THE LITTLE BLACK EGG – The Nightcrawlers [2:44]
(Michael Stone/Chuck Conlon)
Personnel/CHUCK CONLON: vocals, bass * ROBBIE ROUSE: vocals * SYLVAN WELLS: lead guitar * PETE THOMASON: guitar * TOM RUGER: drums
Produced by LEE HAZEN
Recorded in Daytona Beach, FL
Lee single #1012 (8/65); Kapp single #K-709 (11/65); Kapp single #K-110 (11/66); Pop #85
The Nightcrawlers were formed in Daytona Beach. If ‘The Little Black Egg’ is any indication, they display little in the way of British influences, instead sounding like they enjoyed The Byrds with harmonies and folk-rock guitar.
Running at almost 3 minutes, and built around a nice but overused guitar riff, ‘Little Black Egg’ is a rare Nugget that outstays its welcome.
The music blog A Bit Like You interviewed Nightcrawlers’ guitarist Sylvan Wells in 2013 about the song. Since the blog’s largely inactive, I’ve reproduced part of the interview here about the origins of ‘Little Black Egg’ and the band’s friendly rival with Daytona Beach’s other 1960s band.
There was only one other band in the town then and they became our friendly, but serious competition. They were much better musicians than we were, but we were writing our own material, largely because we were not good enough to learn to play most of the material on the radio. We were friends, but rivals. I learned a lot (and needed it) from their very sharing, lead guitar player.
In any event, our two bands were invited to open for The Beach Boys at our local ball park the Saturday night before Easter (1965). This was a big deal to us; our first chance to play with a major act. That Saturday afternoon, both Daytona Beach bands set up their equipment on opposite sides of the main stage. We laughed and nervously joked around most of the afternoon. We ultimately decided, together, that we would end our respective openings with both bands taking their respective stages and alternating verses to Ray Charles’ “What I Say.” It was going to be fun!
In the meantime, we had written a catchy guitar lick for a song that our lyricist and singer, Chuck Conlon, was told to make about Easter. We would introduce it that night as being written specially for the Easter concert. He came up with lyrics for “The Little Black Egg.” The lyrics had absolutely nothing to do with Easter (or anything else for that matter). Collectively, the band did not think much of the song; rather, we figured it would be a throwaway just for The Beach Boys’ Easter concert.
That night we were introduced and played for the first time “The Little Black Egg.” The crowd loved it! To say we were shocked would have been an understatement! In spite of our ambivalence for the song, it became the band’s signature. We had other singles, but nothing approached [the success of] “The Little Black Egg.” And the song has had enormous staying power. There are countless YouTube videos of people performing it. As I write this almost forty-eight years later, “The Little Black Egg” has been covered by over thirty groups, including Tommy James, The Music Explosion, The Cars, and countless others (including one cover in Mandarin Chinese!). We certainly never expected it!
Oh, the other band that opened with us that night? Back then they were called The Escorts (Maynard Portwood, Van Harrison, and Gregg and Duane Allman). You know them today as The Allman Brothers Band.Sylvan Wells, A Little Bit You and Me blog
The Nightcrawlers were popular enough to enjoy a film – Cracking The Egg: The Untold Story of The Nightcrawlers – and a 20-song retrospective album.
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