I liked Tom Rush’s voice and guitar playing, but even more than his musicianship I have to thank him for introducing me to a well-curated selection of classic rock ‘n’ roll songs. More than anyone else in the folk revival, Rush showcased a deep knowledge and genuine affection for early rock ‘n’ roll, performing not only hits like Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love” — which I first heard by him, in a live performance, before hearing either his or Bo’s recordings — but also relative obscurities like Buddy Holly’s “Love’s Made a Fool of You” and the Coasters’ “When She Wants Good Lovin’.”
In 1966, as a generation of folksingers was busily “going electric,” Rush joined the pack, but not by going the Dylan or Byrds (or Fariña, or name your poison) route, cutting what we’d now call “singer-songwriter” material with electric backing. Instead, he made an album that included a side of rock ‘n’ roll oldies, with Al Kooper producing and playing lead guitar. The songs were from an interesting mix of sources, played in a Rush’s relaxed, personal style, and in retrospect sound a lot less dated than all but a handful of the folk-rock emanations of his peers.
That remains my favorite of Tom’s records — it has Eric Von Schmidt’s “Joshua Gone Barbados” on the acoustic second side, which is great, but I rarely listened past that track, while playing side one over and over and learning several of the songs, including “Money, Honey.” I might even have to credit this with inspiring me to buy a Drifters’ greatest hits album a couple of years later — the first Drifters, with Clyde McPhatter singing lead, not the later group that recorded “Under the Boardwalk” and “Save the Last Dance for Me.”
The original Drifters were one of the great vocal groups, transcending anything I would call doo-wop. McPhatter had already established his reputation with the Dominoes, and is one of a handful of singers (along with Dinah Washington, Ray Charles, and Sam Cooke) who pioneered the secular adaptation of hard-edged gospel vocals that became known as “soul.” His hits with the Drifters included “Such a Night,” “Whatcha Gonna Do,” and their matchless version of “White Christmas,” as well as “Money, Honey,” and he went on to do some fine records on his own. Unfortunately, those later efforts never reached the peaks he had scaled with the Dominoes and Drifters, and he began a long slide into depression and died in 1972, all but forgotten except by hardcore vocal group fans.
For what it’s worth, this song was also recorded by a guy named Elvis, who did a pretty good version… but the Drifters’ is definitive.