Nuggets: Tobacco Road by Blues Magoos

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 20/118: Tobacco Road by Blues Magoos
Release Year: 1966
From: The Bronx, New York
Aphoristic Rating: 8/10

TOBACCO ROAD – Blues Magoos [4:30]
(John D. Loudermilk)
Personnel/RALPH SCALA: vocals, organ * RONNIE GILBERT: vocals, bass * MIKE ESPOSITO: lead guitar * EMIL “PEPPY” THIELHELM: guitar, vocals * GEOFF DAKING: drums
Recorded in New York, NY
Mercury single #72590 (6/66)

The Blues Magoos were formed in 1964, originally known as The Trenchcoats. Playing in clubs around Greenwich Village, they changed their name to the Bloos Magoos, before settling on the final spelling. They marketed themselves as a psychedelic band – their debut is titled Psychedelic Lollipop. But there’s plenty of garage band in their DNA as well.

On their second single, they covered John D Loudermilk’s ‘Tobacco Road’. It tells of Loudermilk growing up in Durham, North Carolina. It was covered by many bands in the 1960s, including Lou Rawls, Jefferson Airplane, and Rare Earth.

I’m often dismissive of the blues tunes on Nuggets, but this one works well – there’s a great hook at the end of the chorus where the instruments drop out. The organ and guitar interplay in the instrumental freakout isn’t virtuoso, but it’s engaging – not unlike something Pink Floyd on Piper from the Gates of Dawn.

The Blues Magoos’ best-known song is their third single, ‘We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet’, their first release for Mercury Records. It reached #5 on the Billboard Charts.

The Blues Magoos stuck around long enough to record six albums, including a 2014 reunion album, Psychedelic Resurrection. Emil “Peppy” Thielhelm (aka “Peppy” Castro) was the band’s only constant member. He later joined the cast of Hair and scored a top 40 hit in 1981 with ‘Breaking Away’, with his new band Balance.

Amazingly, for a 1960s band, the Blue Magoos’ original lineup was all alive until February 2024, when bassist Ronnie Gilbert passed away.

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  1. I just did a dog walk listening to Easter and I have to say (as I always do) the guitar on Babelogue into Rock And Roll is some of the best playing on any record ever. And as for Till Victory. Space Monkey. What a player

    • Horses is the Smith album I know really well, but I do have her other 70s records too. Is it worth going further – I think there are quite big gaps after that?

  2. Halfway decent song. I remember reading a pulp fiction book by the same name years ago. I remember We Ain’t Got Nothin Yet and it still sounds good.

    • It’s an evocative title – I can see why it was reused.

      I would have assumed I wouldn’t like a band with Blues in their name, but they were good.

  3. I don’t believe I had heard the Blues Magoos’ rendition of “Tobacco Road” – not bad! I also agree with your the instrumental part has an early early Pink Floyd/Syd Barrett vibe. I knew “We Ain’t Got Nothing Yet.” It sounds like Deep Purple borrowed from it for their song “Black Night”!

    • Wikipedia says:
      The Vox Continental organ riff, which also appeared in Liverpool Five’s “She’s Mine” (in the same year)[4] was closely based on guitarist James Burton’s riff to Ricky Nelson’s 1962 rock recording of the old George Gershwin standard “Summertime”,[5] which also inspired Deep Purple’s 1970 hit song “Black Night”.[6]

    • I didn’t know he covered it – although I guess I don’t really know his solo stuff.

  4. This song has been covered a lot but I love this version. I’m listening through headphones and it’s terrific sounding as well. They were a tight band.

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