Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The Very Best Of Outlaw Country -Various Artists


The Very Best Of Outlaw Country -Various Artists (Sony Legacy)


With country music in the prime of life in the 60's, with pop success boistering the coffers of country singers across the land, something started to brew down in Texas. Willie Nelson had returned to the Lone Star state, disallusioned at the Nashville conveyor belt. By the 70's he was back home, cutting what he wanted. The sound was coming from the man in jeans not the man in the suit. Whilst his buddy Waylon Jennings stayed in Music City he was ditching the vocals choruses and dancing to his own beat. The term Outlaw was coined and after that pretty much ever guitar picker with a beard and long hair was branded and added to the movement. Whilst it's easy to blanket cover them all under the one heading, there was actually more than one umbrella. Some of it was southern-rock, some was country-rock and some was pure country music but with more hair. This collection highlights the different styles and covers the 70's, 80's, 90's and 00's, and is a delight from start to finish.


Obviously there's a few Willie and Waylon songs and they're top drawer. From the good-ole-boy school of country we get Charlie Daniels' glorious high-stepper, The South's Gonna Do It Again and Hank Williams Jr. and All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight. Billy Joe Shaver's, I Been To Georgia On A Fast Train, is great although I prefered his 90's remake complete with late son Eddie. From the "Wanted" and of the Outlaw concept we get the prison-bound bad boys, Johnny Paycheck and his classic Take This Job And Shove It and David Allan Coe's brilliant You Never Even Called Me By My Name with the hilarious perfect last verse.


There's some cracking southern rock items in the form of Ramblin' Man by the Allmans, Georgia Satellites' Keep Your Hands To Yourself, Flirtin' With Disaster by Molly Hatchet and the kings of the genre, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Gimme Three Steps. There's a trio of women who all kick ass, Jessi Colter (not always my favouriter singer) with Why You Been Gone So Long, Tanya Tucker with the catchy Texas (When I Die) and from more recent times, Gretchen Wilson and the barroom baller, Here For The Party. Others of more recent vintage are Steve Earle and Travis Tritt and Shooter Jennings who holds his own with one of his best, 4th of July. If you just listen to the music and don't get bugged out by whether a particular song is "Outlaw" music or not, you'll love it. To me, outlaw is more about the attitude than the music, and for that, every song here passes the test.

George Jones - Burn Your Playhouse Down: The Unreleased Duets


George Jones - Burn Your Playhouse Down: The Unreleased Duets Bandit Records


01 You And Me And Time (With Georgette Jones)
02 The Window Up Above (With Leon Russell)
03 She Once Lived Here (With Ricky Skaggs)
04 Rockin' Years (With Dolly Parton)
05 Burn Your Playhouse Down (With Keith Richards)
06 Selfishness In Man (With Vince Gill)
07 Tavern Choir (With Jim Lauderdale)
08 I Always Get It Right With You (With Shelby Lynne)
09 When The Grass Grows Over Me (With Mark Chesnutt)
10 I Always Get Lucky With You (With Mark Knopfler)
11 You're Still On My Mind (With Marty Stuart)
12 Lovin' You, Lovin' Me (With Tammy Wynette)


As you might guess from the subtitle, Burn Your Playhouse Down is a collection of unreleased duets between George Jones and a range of star guests. The album ranges from the mid 70's to the present day but most of the dozen tracks here were rejects from the Bradley Barns Sessions in the early 90's. Fans might find the opening and closing tracks the most intriguing, as they're a couple of special family moments. The closer is a recently discovered 1977 duet with wife of the time, Tammy Wynette. Whilst it doesn't measure up to their biggies, it's interesting nonetheless. One of their most productive moments of this time saw the birth of their only daughter, Georgette. As a country singer you couldn't come from better stock and she shows she's more than capable of living up to the billing with the great opener, You And Me And Time. It's pure country music and at times she sounds a bit like her mum - don't get me wrong, she has her own voice and I like it.


The rest of the album is a roller coaster of highs and lows. Mark Chesnutt is a class act and him and George sound like kindred spirits on When The Grass Grows Over Me. In the same category you can place the shamefully underrated Shelby Lynne who matches the Possum on I Always Get It Right With You. Tavern Choir with Jim Lauderdale sounds like it came from the late 70's and is another gem. When Bradley barns CD came out in 1994 my favourite cuts were Good Year For The Roses with Alan Jackson and One Woman Man with Marty Stuart. Well that partnership is the best one here as well. You're Still On My Mind sees George reaching all the notes he can. Marty Stuart always seems to get the best of out others in these type of projects. I wonder if it's because they appreciate his scholarly knowledge of the music and want to prove themselves to him.


I was left fairly cold by the duets with Ricky Skaggs and Vince Gill - their talent is obviously unquestionable but the material isn't the best. Leon Russell's vocal on The Window Up Above denied me hearing George because I had to press the skip button. He nearly makes Van Morrison sound good. The Mark Knopfler track is good, George knows his way around this song, but MK's vocals are really up to it. I'd prefer it if he played more guitar and left the singing to the Master. Surprise package has to be the title track with Keith Richards. Two smoky vocalists having fun, I wonder how much whiskey was downed in the process. Special mention as well to the cover picture from the mid-70s. It's a wonderful study of the man. Some go for the flat-top look of the early days, personally I love this look.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Shaky's Occasional Bootleg Series - No.1


Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two "Guest Star" Radio Show - 1959


1. Intro - 2. Country Boy - 3. Chat with Johnny - 4. Don't Take Your Guns to Town - 5. Buy Saving Bonds Spot - 6. Swing Low Sweet Chariot - 7. Outro


I'm not sure of the origins of this or whether any of it has been released before, but I'm pretty sure that the show as a whole hasn't seen the light of day before. A transcribed feature presented by the Treasury Department for the United States Savings Bonds, the show dates from 1959 and comes in astonishing sound quality. How some of this stuff becomes available and with such clarity is hard to comprehend. The beauty of this little gem, apart from the short running time, is that because of the sound quality, it's a pleasure to listen to, not just an historically important recording.


The CD kicks off with deejay Lou Crosby introducing the houseband Buzz Adlum and his Orchestra and "today, starring Johnny Cash", as Buzz and the band play merrily in the background. Johnny and the Tennessee Two kick of with an on-the-money reading of his Sun recording Country Boy. They are at their pure and basic best, boom-chicka-booming like only this trio could. This really could have been a studio outtake such is the quality of both the music and the sound. Johnny and Marshall Grant are as tight as a gnat's snatch, the perfect boom-chicka-boom rhythm section - well, they did invent it after all. Luther rings away in Country Boy, superb as always, especially the opening jangles! His guitar is blunt and the notes sullen in Don't Take Your Guns To Town, totally appropriate to the songs lyrics. The sparse arrangement gives the song a better feeling than the Columbia single in my opinion.


Between the two songs Johnny tells his life story to date, summing it up in a couple of sentences. He joked that he and the Tennessee Two bugged everyone in Memphis until someone would listen to them. Crosby informs us that there are more than 40 million Americans with Savings Bonds before asking Johnny whether he recommended it. Being on a show that was being sponsored by the product you'll not be surprised to hear Johnny say it sure was a tip top idea and that listeners should "try it and watch your savings grow".


Buzz Adlum and his Orchestra provide a pleasant enough western instrumental, Twilight On The Trail, complete with clip-clop rhythm and strings and flutes. No doubt he listeners were dying for the song to end and JC to come back on. I know I was tempted to hit the skip button. It's a fascinating glimpse of what our heroes had to put up with in those pioneering days. For the last song, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Johnny says, "we got a real rockin' spiritual here that we love". That pretty much sums it up, and a great version it is too.


To sum up, a brilliant little show with unbelievable sound quality, a real must for Johnny Cash fans to snap up.

Bobby Lee Trammell Remembered


Earlier this year the great Arkansas rockabilly artist Bobby Lee Trammell passed away. Like all great rockabilly stories it involves Memphis somewhere along the line. In BLT's case he made his stage debut thanks to the charitable Carl Perkins and soon auditioned for Sam Phillips, but a lack of patience saw him head to California where he came to the attention of promoter and label owner Fabor Robinson. Anyhoot, here's to man deemed too wild for Ozzie and Harriet.


MY TOP 3 BLT's
1. You Mostest Girl - one of the greatest Elvis style rock 'n' rollers. I would love Elvis to have cut this at either the Big Hunk O' Love session or for the Elvis Is Back album. Cut in March 1958 at Western recorders in Hollywood, this peach should have made him a star. Thanks to a four-piece black harmony group and some crisp backing, it's his finest ever moment.
2. I Sure Do Love You Baby - from Bob Luman's band he used James Burton on lead guitar, James Kirkland on bass and himself on rhythm guitar, the b-side of Shirley Lee is a fine slab of mid tempo rockabilly.
3. My Susie J, My Susie Jane - Same setting as You Mostest Girl this time from the back end the 1958 summer, and a straight ahead rocker with sax, backing vocals, piano and a sparkling solo from the great Joe Maphis. His third single, this one really should have been a hit. Brilliant.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Sleepy LaBeef - Sleepy Rocks


Sleepy Rocks (Bear Family BCD 15981 AR)

The latest in the excellent Rocks series looks at the distinguished and prolific career of the Human Jukebox, Sleepy LaBeef. The 6'7" man mountain was born Thomas Paulsley LaBeff in Smackover, Arizona. Heavily hooded eyes earned him his Sleepy moniker while the Human Jukebox comes from the fact that's he's reputed to have thousands of songs in his repertoire. Thirty five of them are included here and it probably goes without saying that the sound quality and packaging has that usual German precision we've come to know and love.

As for the music, Sleepy has the fantastic quality of giving everything a genuine edge. The brilliance of the early stuff is beyond reproach, but what amazes me is the songs he did in later decades. By the '70s and '80s most covers of Roll Over Beethoven and Ride On Josephine sound like karaoke but not in the hands of Sleepy LaBeef who always gave his covers a forceful drive. If it's the early stuff that floats your boat you're gonna find it hard to go past the opening tracks with the well know belters, All The Time and I'm Through being as goods as rockabilly gets. There's a couple of early demos here, one being the scorching reading of Elvis' Baby Let's Play House.

There's a great feel to the trio of numbers from the Columbia Nashville session in September 1965, with the harmonica adding a welcome addition - You Can't Catch Me is perhaps the best Chuck Berry cover west of Dave Edmunds. When he joined the reactivated Sun label he cut a few first class albums, the pick of this hear being his cover of Sandford Clark's Lonesome For A Letter. This CD maintains the high quality of the series and is a worthy addition to anyone's collection.

Terry & Gerry - Let's Get The Hell Back To Lubbock


Let's Get The Hell Back To Lubbock (Cherry Red Records CDMRED315)
Tracklisting: Hello / Butters On The Bread / TV Song / Dennis & Brian / Wait Until Your Older / Clothes Shop / Kennedy Says / Banking On Simon / Wolfman's Request / Hello (LP Version) / Joey / Ballad Of A Nasty Man / C.A.R.S. / A Thousand Towns / Percy Crusoe / The Good, The Bad, The Usherette / Fashion Rodeo / The Armchair Terrorists Song / How Long Johnny / Reservation / A Sea Shanty For The Gravy Boat / Hello (Slow Version) / Oscar's Theme / Reservation (Ira Hayes Mix) / Pizza Pie & Junk / The Last Bullet In The Gun / Victory Polka / Independents' Day / Joey (Piano Version) / Butters On The Bread (Live At The Powerhouse 1985) / Dennis & Brian (Live At The Powerhouse 1985) / Wait Until Your Older (Live At The Powerhouse 1985)

Two decades after the demise of the political skiffle duo Terry and Gerry, Cherry Red Records have collated all their singles, album tracks and a few live numbers on one superb CD. I loved their From Lubbock To Clintwood East album and played it to death in my Aberystwyth bed-sit. We had a local student band at the time, Railroad Bill and the Box Car Stompers who played traditional skiffle and I dreamed that Britain's own contribution to rock 'n' roll was on the verge of a comeback, thirty odd years after Lonnie Lonnegan and Nancy Whiskey.

Terry and Gerry seemed to have everything it took to make the big time, a good novelty sound and the type of socially aware lyrics that were so popular at the time. It was like John Cooper Clark or Billy Bragg with some decent melodies. Gerry Colvin had taken American Studies at university and worked for an American bank before turning to music. Terry Lilley had started his career in the punk bands Dennis & the Din Makers and Vision Collision. The line-up was completed with Doreen Deville on washboard and Andy Downer on second extra guitar, with Jeremy Paige and Mick Howson coming in off the subs bench. Their lilting vocals and driving acoustic sound was fresh and they made an immediate impact on the independent scene. They were more MNE than Smash Hits and more Janice Long than Dave Lee Travis. They seemed a bit too smart for an indie band in their black jackets and ribbon ties, but their tales of Thatcher's Britain hit the right cord for lefties everywhere. They came to the attention of the legendary BBC disc jockey and champion of the unknown bands John Peel after he picked out their demonstration tape because his wife's best friends were also known as Terry and Gerry. They ultimately recorded three sessions for the John Peel programme.

Their debut EP came out on Robert Lloyd's Vindaloo Records, with the top side featuring 3 songs that ran for a whopping total of five minutes. The highlight was Butter's On the Bread, a great song about the miners' strike of 1984 "the butter's on the bread of the rich man's life". From the very beginning, the wonderful thing about their songs was the perfect combination of fun music with a serious message. In early 1985 they moved to In Tape records where their first single was the energetic call-and-response romp, Clothes Shop. A cynical look at the fashion trend of the day, it got a favourable review from Morrisey on Radio 1 and reached number 5 in the UK Indie chart. Later in the year they released the follow-up, Banking on Simon which became the theme to regional children's television show Poparound. It was the flip-side Joey, which caught my ear though - a downbeat ballad about a young man addicted to drugs.

Their first and only album was the brilliant From Lubbock to Clintwood East, a fourteen song, dufferless masterpiece. The whole album is included on this new release and newcomers to the group will be able to wallow in such classics as Ballad of a Nasty Man, / The Good, the Bad and the Usherette, C.A.R.S, A Thousand Towns, The Armchair Terrorist's Song and Fashion Rodeo. The next single was surprisingly, Reservation, a good song but surely not as good as the half dozen just mentioned. The b-side was Pizza Pie and Junk, a story of the dream of going to America on either Freddie Laker's or Richard Branson's then revolutionary cheap airlines - "get my picture taken with little Mickey Mouse, truck on down to Washington and spit at the White House".

Their last single before calling it a day and going their separate ways was the suicide ballad, Last Bullet in the Gun which went all the way to #1 in the indie charts. A great finish for a great little duo, who came on the scene for a fleeting moment and vanished all too soon. Gerry Colvin has since worked with The Man Upstairs, Alison Moyet and now now performs and records with Nick Quarmby as ColvinQuarmby. Terry Lilley studied for and achieved a higher national diploma in jazz studies - aparently, the only double-bass player ever to do so. Jeremy Paige formed Rumblefish and Mick Howson joined the Destroyers, a 15 piece gypsy band.

It's a shame Terry and Gerry didn't stick around a while longer and that this Cherry Red release only had to be a single set. If only their complete works required a four CD box set to do it justice. A fabulous CD that is well worth checking out whether you've heard of them or not.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Billy Fury - 25th Anniversary


It doesn't seem possible but its twenty-five years ago today that the great Billy Fury passed away. I come from a family of Billy lovers with my mum being a fan since the heyday and no doubt helping turn myself and my sister into fans. My mum was working in a shop window in the early 60's when Billy walked by, causing her to knock half the stuff over. To top it all, my wife is a fan as well. Whereas she frowns a bit when I play a Don Williams or some other country shit (her words not mine), its always okay to play The Sound of Fury. When I first got into rock 'n' roll my earliest heroes were Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis and Billy Fury and although others became special to me over the years, Johnny Cash for instance, those original five will always be the top dogs. As I'm writing this Julie has just said that whenever she thinks about our music she always thinks Elvis, Gene and Eddie, Billy and the Stray Cats because that's what we always listened to as teenagers together.


Something that still stick in my mind long after it should have vanished is when the May Fair came to my hometown Presteigne when I was a school kid and one of the prizes at the darts stall was a postcard of Billy in his leopard skin shirt. I tried as hard as I could to get that picture but the darts were blunt and the board was rock hard - proved by the fact that the postcard was still there when the fair came back the following year. The first answer phone we ever had used to play Billy's Phone Call which was always nice to listen to before speaking to some double glazing quote.


Whereas the past 25 years have seen the star of Elvis burning as bright as ever, sadly the name of Billy Fury has all but died here in his homeland. Apart from my beautiful and sadly missed pussy, Billy Furry, I don't think I've heard the name mentioned in years. I know there's a couple of tribute acts doing the rounds, with Colin Gold being very good. As I mentioned in my review of the recent Rockers Reunion, the young Liverpool Teddy Boy band Furious played a couple of his songs, so perhaps there's hope for a revival. Let's face it, he was a million miles better than most things Britain produced and at least a couple of miles better than the far more successful Cliff Richard. The old Bachelor Boy might have done a mean lip curl but for the all around package Billy was the man. He has stage presence and his performances were raunchy in a way Cliff just couldn't carry off. Billy was a good looking dude who you could imagine would carry through the dirty deed whereas Cliff might look okay but if you took him home he'd probably help your mum knit a cardigan. I've asked the three girls in my life to give me their top 10 and here they are.


Julie's (wife) Top 10 - no order except for the first one
Gonna Type A Letter, Halfway to Paradise, You Don't Know, Maybe Tomorrow, I Will, In Thoughts of You, In Summer, A Thousand Stars, Last Night Was Made For Love, Like I've Never Been Gone


Pat's (mum) Top 10 - no order
Last Night Was Made For Love, Like I've Never Been Gone, Halfway to Paradise, A Thousand Stars, I'll Never Find Another You, In Thoughts of You, Wondrous Place, Once Upon A Dream, Somebody Else's Girl, It's Only Make Believe


Sharon's (sister) Top Ten - in order
Wondrous Place, In Thoughts of You, My Advice, Don't Leave Me This Way, Maybe Tomorrow, Jealousy, Alright, Goodbye, I'll Never Find Another You, Don't Say It's Over, You Don't Know


My Top 10 - in order
Don't Knock Upon My Door, Wondrous Place, Don't Jump, Margo, I'm Lost Without You, That's Love, Baby How I Cried, Maybe Tomorrow, Turn My Back On You, I'm Lost Without You

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Jack Rabbit Slim - From The Waist Down (Western Star Records)


Track listing: Rock-A-Cha / Petrolhead / Bikini Bull Ridin' Baby / Wolf Call / Wild Cavewoman / Rest Assured / Let Me Home Baby / The Tease / Blues Caravan / Generous Lover / Daddy's Got A Gun / Helldorado / Trailer Queen / Justine.

For their last album Jack Rabbit Slim came up with the name Sleazabilly was more than just the album title, it described their sound. If Betti Page was in a hard rockin' band, this is what it would sound like. This is their third release on the wonderful Western Star label, their line-up consisting of Bob Butfoy, Darren Lince, Landon Filer and Paul Saunders. Butfoy again wrote most of the songs, having a hand in all but two of the fourteen songs. Rock-A-Cha and Petrolhead set the scene for a feast of 21st Century rockabilly. The low-down Bikini Bull Ridin' Baby is a rollocking number with a country edge. There's a Buddy Holly I'm Lookin' For Someone To Love beat to Rest Assured. Let Me Home Baby isn't so much a nod to the Johnny Burnette Trio as a handshake with some back-slapping from the spare hand. I really enjoyed the call-and-response rocker Generous Lover and the instrumental Helldorado.

Elvis' Girl Happy movie fodder Wolf Call is miles better than the King's effort. If he'd have done it like this, Rusty Wells would have got out of Fort Lauderdale a lot sooner. Don and Terry's Justine owes a lot to Shaky and the Sunsets and is a great closer. So, another quality item from one of the top bands around. I love the title (playing on the Elvis television restrictions of the 50's) and the cover is a great 1950's b-movie interpretation.

Carlos & the Bandidos -The Good, The Bad & The Bandidos


Track listing: You're Gone, Gone, Gone, My Poor Old Heart, Miserlou, Come Home To You, My Baby Thinks She's A Train, You're Crazy, A Murder Of Crows, I Wish I Had Died In My Cradle, The Alibi, I'm Shakin', The Devils Slate, Mary Jane, The Sun Shines Brighter, An Unhealthy Obsession, Go On Your Way, The Vanishing Race

Carlos & the Bandidos go from strength to strength with each release enhancing their reputation. This latest release maintains the momentum and sees them taking their sound to new levels of mexibilly. For those unfamiliar with their sound, it's basically hard-edged rockabilly played to a spaghetti western theme. Paul "Monkey" Maitland, Neil Scott and Roger Van Niekerk lay down a solid, sometimes exotic beat, underpinned by hot guitar picking from Malcolm Chapman. Bringing it all home is Carlos Mejuto who's vocals are never less than interesting and one of the best on the current rocking scene.

This CD was recorded by Big Boy Bloater and includes guest spots for his misses, Lil Lisa on sax and Dave Priseman on Trumpet. There don't appear to be any weak spots on the album, but the standouts for me are Mary Jane, Miserlou, An Unhealthy Obsession and the best of all, You're Crazy, a full-on blasting rocker. Also on the market is a best of Carlos & the Bandidos, a great place for novices to start their Carlos collection. You won't regret it.

The Bullets - Final Race (Stage Records)

Track listing: Final Race / Little Sister / I'm Sorry / Ramblin' Gal / She's Wicked / You Treat Me Badly / Daniela / One Cup Of Coffee / Don't Pass Me By / I Don't Know / Holiday Memories / I Wanna Be Alone / Baby Blue / Pulsar


The global influence of rockabilly takes a detour to Thessaloniki, Macedonia where the Bullets formed in 1988. That's a twenty year unbroken run which has seen them build up a local following around Greece without ever becoming one of the big players on the European circuit. They hope that can change with this release on Stage Records. For a group of such longevity they appear to have seen very few recording action. Their debut didn't come until 2003 and since then it's basically been the odd track on the odd compilation. Well they're here now and are making up for lost time.


It's one of the most diverse albums I've heard for ages with splashes of doo-wop, a little bit of psycho and plenty of rockabilly. The title track is great neo-rockabilly in the Restless category and they storm through the Fuzztones' She's Wicked. Sister Mary takes the lead vocals on the doo-wopper I'm sorry that wouldn't have been out of place on the Grease soundtrack - don't let that put you off though, it's good. I don't know goes from tender doo-wop to a manic call-and-response rocker that somehow works. There's a touch of the Stray Cats to Ramblin' Gal, which goes like a hotrod. There's surfabilly with You Treat Me Badly while Daniela has the Jets sound. They revisit the Cotton brothers for Holiday Memories, which could have come out of Northampton such is the sound they get on this rockin' bit of doo-wop.


The cover of Elvis' Little Sister is blistering with savage guitar and a hard driving beat that could be the king of the strollers on dancefloors for years to come. Gene's Baby Blue is rock solid and would have done his leathers proud. Not for the faint hearted, but a great version from the piano to the backing vocals. Glen Glenn's One Cup Of Coffee (And A Cigarette) bounces along nicely and rounds off a great trio of covers. Sometimes too much diversity can hamper an album, not so here though. This is an enjoyable release which should offer something for everyone.



Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Elvis' Last 50's Session



June 10-11, 1958
RCA Studio B, Nashville, Tennessee
I Need Your Love Tonight
A Big Hunk o’ Love
Ain’t That Loving You Baby
(Now And Then There’s) A Fool Such As I
I Got Stung
Musicians: Guitars - Hank Garland, Chet Atkins, Elvis Presley. Bass - Bob Moore. Piano – Floyd Cramer. Drums: Buddy Harman, DJ Fontana. Backing vocals – The Jordannaires (Gordon Stoker, Hoyt Hawkins, Neal Matthews and Ray Walker). Producer : Steve Sholes. Engineer: Selby Coffeen
When Elvis Presley first entered a studio at Sun Records in Memphis, he was a young kid looking for a break, unsure of his role in life and probably happy just to make a souvenir record for posterity. By the time he entered the RCA Studios in Nashville, 50 years ago today he was the best selling artist in the land, and the biggest, most shocking star the entertainment world had ever witnessed. The 50’s were his decade, he ruled the airwaves and was a star of the silver screen. On top of that he was the most photographed man on the planet, the world’s most eligible bachelor, number one selling artist, the premier live attraction and top of the FBI’s wanted list for a pair of swivelling hips that were causing havoc with teenage girls from San Diego to Boston.
Having been enlisted by the US Army, the June 1958 sessions were of paramount importance to him and RCA as he was required to come up with enough good songs to keep the flag flying whilst he served Uncle Sam in Germany. Although he only actually came up with five songs, such was the quality that they could all have been a-sides, which with reasonably spread out releasing could have taken up about a years worth of singles.
Kicking off at seven o’clock on the night of the 10th, the session ran until five the following morning. The fact that it was productive is being doubt, and by all accounts it was an enjoyable affair. Elvis was ecstatic with the band, after all they were the backbone of the Nashville A-Team, and was particularly blown away with guitar whiz Hank Sugarfoot Garland who’d depped for him briefly the year before. By the end of the session, which would be Elvis’ last for almost two years, everyone was happy except Colonel Tom who thought the music was too loud – further proof that he knew more about dancing, electrified chickens than rock music. They’d cut five brilliant, blues based commercial rock ‘n’ rollers and with it, enough ammunition to fuel the fires over the coming months.
The proof is in the pudding as they say. I Got Stung was the first song to see release and although it was released as the b-side of One Night, it went to number 8 in the US charts in it’s own right and to number 1 in the UK charts. (Now And Then There’s) A Fool Such As I was coupled with I Need Your Love Tonight for the next single, surely one of the greatest two-siders ever. Both sides went to the very top in Britain and to 2 and 4 respectively in the States. Late in ’59 A Big Hunk o’ Love again topped the pile in the UK and peaked at number 4 back home. The Clyde Otis/Ivory Joe Hunter number, Ain’t That Loving You Baby, being perhaps the weakest of the five was held back until 1964. By then it was being used between Kissin’ Cousins and Do The Clam and was therefore looking a quality item.

CASHIN’ IN – aka BORROWING THE BOOM CHICKA BOOM

Johnny Cash is currently one of the most hip artists for fellow performers to sight as an influence, being popular on both the mainstream and the youthful indie scene. It's not a new phenomena though, he has pretty much always been a leader in his field and therefore a role model to other singers. The 50's and 60's saw scores of singers adopting the JC style, no doubt thinking that if he could score with the simple boom-chicka-boom style, then why couldn't they. Well, it wasn't that simple. As we know, JC was dripping with charisma and wrote some of the greatest songs since Hank Williams. Some of the best were as simple as the sound, like Get Rhythm, others were different, they had lines that just didn't pop into a normal mans head, like Big River. "Cavorting in Davenport", that's not the type of thing Joe Bloggs dreams up as he's walking down Main Street. Anyway, here’s a handful of songs done ala Johnny.

1. Dane Stinit - That Muddy Ole River
Number one in the Johnny Cash soundalikes has to be Dane Stinit's tribute to JC and Memphis with Muddy Ole River. I know I’ve given him three entries here but I make no apology for that. This guy is the ducks nuts and this song should have been a big country hit. Recorded in November 1966 it is significant in that it was Sam Phillips' final Sun production. Like Big River it pays homage to the mighty Mississippi River that flows along the banks of Memphis, Tennessee.
2. Johnny Doe - Devil Train
I wonder how long it took to come up with the name. The name might suck but the song doesn't. Rich in Cashisms and strong of rhythm, this devil train might be headed for hell, but what a ride.
3. Johnny Seay - My Baby Walks All Over Me

Johnny Seay was one of the best and most successful of the JC disciples, scoring a couple of Hot 100 hits along the way. Waylon did a pretty good version of MBWAOM but Bob Luman absolutely nailed it and has the definitive version. Johnny Seay's runs it close and
4. Benny Joy - Dark Angel
Benny Joy recorded some of the best rockabilly ever without even a hint of Johnny Cash in his sound, but he's firmly in Johnny Cash country here with a plodding ode to his evil woman.
5. Chuck Wells - Down And Out
Johnny Cash tackles 60's trucking songs is what we get here. The backing vocalists even sound like Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters. I don't know anything about Chuck Wells but I bet he was a big fan of JC.
6. Hal Smith - Makin' A Livin' With My Guitar
The tale of a little local band made good, it could be the story of JC and the T2. Having sold a million copies of his latest single, Smith advises up "don't take your guns to town, your guitar's all you need". I wonder how many copies this single actually sold!
7. Durwood Daly - That's The Way It Goes
Durwood Haddock cut this peach for the Big Springs, Texas label Caprock and it was reviewed by Billboard the day before Buddy Holly died. It sold poorly and sank without a trace. His East Dallas Dagger is a classic.
8. Dane Stinit - Always On The Go
The flip side, Don't Knock What You Don't Understand is equally good except for the organ solo.
9. Bud Landon - Six Mile Climb
Great Lutheresque picking drives this train song down the track. Not a million miles from Folsom Prison Blues, this little cracker is unlucky not to be on more rockabilly compilations. The guitar solo gets in your blood, baby this is a classic. His Running Man is nearly as good, and is also worth checking out.
10. Johnny Skiles - Come Paddle Footin' Down
Even during Johnny Cash's worst drug days he never came up with a song title quite like this.
11. Barnshakers - Five Minutes To Live
From the brilliant Five Minutes To Live album, this is a modern day tribute to the Tennesee Three sound that shows that their sound will never die while there's still disciples like this around.
12. Johnny Doe - Cab Drivin' Man
What a guy this Johnny Doe is. To these ears, this truck driving mover is the equal of the truckin' hits of the likes of Dave Dudley.
13. Dane Stinit - Flip Top Flipper
Vocally Dane Stinit had JC down to a tea. He even manages the laughing vocal mannerism that JC used to great effect.
14. Clayton Phelps - Muddy Road
Unfortunately it's muddy by name and muddy by nature. The sound may be poor but it can't hide the great music which captures the Sun sound of JC.
15. Bart Barton - Ballad of Earl K Long
A story song with strong lyrics and Barton showing of a healthy set of lungs. The band keep the beat going in finest Tennessee Two tradition.
Special mention for those that didn't quite make the top 15; Jerry Cox - Friday You Said Goodbye, Lonnie Mullins - It Was You, Lonnie Smithson - Me and the Blues and Jim Nesbitt - Cry Me A River.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Rockin' Song of the Week No's 11-20

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 11
George Thorogood - Madison Blues (demo) (Rounder Records)
This demo was recorded at Music Designers Inc, Boston in September 1974. It's three and a half minutes of pure blues. George sounded so young and raw, much rawer than his sound today. I know that happens with virtually every band, where they smooth out the rough edges as the years go by and the band get tighter. I just think this uncut roughness works really well with hard driving blues like this. His slide playing shows that he was already there, and his voice hasn't really changed over the years. I know I've written about Crazy Cavan a lot lately but I make no apologies for mentioning him here - I George Thorogood and the Destroyers are to the blues what CC and the Rhythm Rockers are to rockabilly. It's got a heavy backbeat that plods along hypnotically and a singer that gives it from the soul. It's rough, tough and ready, and that's what these GT demos proved to any label that heard them.
Recommended downloads: Bad To the Bone, Get A Haircut, I Drink Alone, One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, Gear Jammer and for some reason I love Ballad of Maverick.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 12
Vince Everett - Box of Candy(ABC Paramount (unissued)
I love Ral Donner but to me Vince Everett is the greatest Elvisette ever. Born Marvin Benefield, he took his stage name from the character Elvis played in Jailhouse Rock, and dedicated his career to singing in the Elvis Presley style. The beauty is that he never sounds like he's forcing it, it appears to come naturally and it's pure ear candy. If it's a replica you're after, take a listen his stunning version of Such A Night or the bopping Baby Let's Play House. From the pen of Elvis scribes Fred Wise and Ben Weisman, Box of Candy sounds like a castoff from the Elvis Is Back album. Instead it comes from the relatively late vintage of 1964, a time when the crappy Beatles were starting to make waves. This could be the only reason ABC Paramount chose to leave this and the equally great Sweet Flavours in the can. Box of Candy is mid tempo rock 'n' roll with Jordanaires ooh-ahs, hand claps and above all, fabulous vocals. It's upturned collar time, and it's one of those songs that it's impossible to listen to without curling your lip and leaning into an imaginary mic as your treat the bathroom mirror to your finest Elvis impression. Surely it's not just me!
Recommended downloads: Such a Night, I Ain't Gonna Be Your Low Down Dog No More, Livin' High, Sweet Flavours and Baby Let's Play House.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 13
Wild Wax Combo - Hot Rod Racer(Enviken Records)
Another in a long line of Scandinavian rockabilly bands, the Wild Wax Combo have been going since 1996, releasing 4 albums to date, all of them on the Swedish Enviken label. The trio write most of their own songs, including Hot Rod Racer, a rockabilly stomper that has set my heart racing this week. There's blood thirsty guitar solos, primitive backing vocals and above all, pounding drums which make this the highlight of their 2006 release, Rumble In The Jungle. This is rockabilly music for the present day, great energy, full sound and a heart on your sleeve delivery. With songs like this still being written, rockabilly will never die. The theme might be old with hot rods being part of the rockabilly fabric since it's earliest days, but the freshness of the sound and the lifestyle of a lot of rockers keep it relevant.
Recommended downloads: Mad Dog Mama, a great Betty Page tribute Miss Betty and a strolling take on Billy Fury's Phone Call - a great choice.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 14
Hawkshaw Hawkins - Car Hoppin' Mama - RCA 6211 (1955)
Hawkshaw Hawkins is best remembered these days as one of the guys that died in the 1963 plane crash with Patsy Cline. There's so much more to this long streak of sunshine (6' 6" in his stocking feet) than that though. He was one of the finest country singers of the 50s who enjoyed eight top twenty singles, six of which went top 10. All but one were on the King label, and it took the morbidity of the plane crash for him to hit his only number one with Lonesome 7-7203. He enjoyed great success between 1948 and 1951, but hit a dry spell before hitting the charts for Columbia with Soldier's Joy. It was during this barren period that he joined RCA and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He cut Car Hoppin' Mama for RCA at their studios on McGavock Street in Nashville on 27th May 1955 under the production of Chet Atkins. With a crack band that included Atkins on guitar, Bob Moore on bass, Walter Haynes on steel guitar and the twin fiddles of Tommy Jackson and Grady Martin, the session produced three numbers, Oh How I Cried, The Love You Steal and my fave, Car Hoppin' Mama. Written by Hank Thompson, the highlights of the song are many. Haynes kicks the whole shebang off in fine style, followed by the lovely soft deep tones of Hawkins. Underpinning it throughout is the fluent guitar of Chet, playing in the Atkins-style he'd perfected. Jackson and Martin saw away to great effect. A mid tempo number, the combination of pure country accompaniment and Hawkins' mellow baritone, make this one of my favourite country songs. Why it never became a hit (The Love You Steal was on the b-side) is anyone's guess. Whether it was thought the mama was some sort of hooker or just a honky tonk queen is never quite clear, but surely that couldn't have kept the public at bay. Whatever, it's a slab of honky tonk that should be in everybody's collection.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 15
Lonesome Long John Roller - Long John's Flagpole Rock - Flagpole 301
Whereas today's big stars record their songs over a 30 day period full of re-mixing and adding untold layers of extra guitar, the songs of the '50s were often recorded in half an hour during off-the-cuff recording sessions. The stories behind some of these sessions makes for fascinating reading but nothing can quite compare with this little beauty. Phoenix Arizona DJ, Lonesome Long John Roller spent 211 days and 23 hours in his 1958 Ford Fairlane 40 feet above the ground setting the world's flagpole sitting record! He had on board his cat for company and continued to broadcast live on the air. One day the legendary guitarist Al Casey and his wife Corky were lifted into the Fairlane together with instruments and a tape recorder and they proceeded to cut Long John's Flagpole Rock. It's a jaunty rural rockabilly with Casey hitting the heights (sorry about that) on his solo. Customers who wanted to buy a copy had to put their money in a bucket which Roller hoisted up to the car and then lowered back down with a copy of the record inside. Totally unique, and another reason to love our music.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 16
Ronnie Hawkins - Hayride - Roulette 4249
By the summer of 1959 Ronnie Hawkins and his Hawks had displaced from their Arkansas homes to Canada where Ronnie has remained for the rest of his life. Bass player Jimmy Evans joined them up north that summer and allegedly sold Hayride to Ronnie for 50 bucks. It was recorded a couple of months later during an eight song demo session in New York. When the troupe returned to the Big Apple for a 26th October recording date at the Bell Sound Studio, Hayride was the only one of the demos to be re-cut. It was a great session that yielded classics such as Baby Jean, Southern Love and Hey Boba Lou. The band were as tight as the proverbial nun's snatch by this time with Levon Helm, Luke Paulman and Fred Carter Jnr pulling the strings. Hayride is a swinging rockabilly hoedown, with Ronnie playing with the phrasing. Ronnie Hawkins is a really underrated singer, one of the true greats of rock 'n' roll. Hayride, and the way he sings it, is for me, what Don't Be Cruel was for Elvis. Pure pop 'n' roll with both vocalists showing complete command over the artistry of singing.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 17
Frankie Allan - Just A Country Boy
He might not be the most famous of the Welsh rock 'n' rollers, but none of the others, Shaky included, have ever come closer to capturing the sound of Elvis Presley. From the South Wales valley town of Merthyr Tydfil, he fell in love with the music of the King and by the early 60s was fronting a local band called The Emeralds. It was following Elvis' death in 1977 that Frankie was invited by Kingsley Ward to record Just a Country Boy (from Memphis, Tennessee) at his renowned Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, South Wales. The song is so atmospheric and the sound defies it's vintage. Apart from the guitar solo (very Kirsty MacColl) the double bass, drums and Jordanairesque backing vocals, you'd swear it came from 1957 not 1977. "His music make me dance all night, and his sad songs made me cry, and I'll always feel the same way 'til I die". If only all tribute songs could be like this - think about Danny Mirror.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 18
Wilbert Harrison - 1960 - Fury 1028
After spending most of the '50s recording without success for the likes of Savoy and Deluxe, Wilbert Harrison finally hit the big time in 1959 when his first single on Fury, Kansas City, became a million selling smash. Frustration followed behind, a mood that was to follow him for the rest of his life. As great as Kansas City was and it really is great, my favourite Wilbert song is 1960, the flip-side of Goodbye Kansas City. An hypnotic stroller with the brilliant Big Apple session man Wild Jimmy Spruill on guitar and an unknown pianist who takes a marvellously controlled solo. Harrison sings with such vigour and with the uncontrollable enthusiasm of youth, telling everyone who'll listen "this is 1960 and today I'm only 21, you only live but once and when you're dead, you're done". It's a bit of a porky really because he was 31, but who cared.
Recommended downloads; The Horse, Da-De-Ya-Da, Pretty Little Woman, his great version of Stagger Lee and does anyone here not have Kansas City.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 19
Conway Twitty - Make Me Know You're Mine
Conway Twitty really had a fine set of vocal cords, one of the best in the business. A couple of years at Sun Records had proved more successful artistically than financially, but his new tenure at MGM had proved fruitful from the get-go with It's Only Make Believe becoming one of the biggest hits of 1958. Twitty had landed himself a sympathetic producer in Jim Vienneau, who gave Conway free license to growl and toy with the words. The sound was less rockabilly, more purified, mainstream rock 'n' roll. It suited Conway to a tee and when the song was right, the results were glorious, as is the case with this Shroeder-Hill number. Recorded in December '58 at the Bradley Studio in Music City, Conway is backed by the cream of the crop, Grady Martin and Ray Edenton on guitars, Harold Bradley on electric bass, Lightnin' Chance on slap bass, Floyd Cramer on piano and possibly Jack Nance on drums. The guitar and vocals purr together, with Conway singing like Duane Eddy plays guitar. Had the song been around 12 months later I'm sure Elvis would have cut it for the Elvis Is Back album.
Recommended listening: Apart from the obvious, try, I Vibrate, Long Black Train, Don't You Know, Give Me Some Love, Is A Bluebird Blue.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 20
John Lee Hooker - Boogie Chillun - Modern 627
John Lee Hooker was working the juke joints in Detroit during the late '40s when he started to make a name for himself on the local record scene. Sensation owner Bernie Besman took him into the Union Sound Studio on Second Boulevard on November 3rd, 1948, together with sound engineer Joe Siracuse. They worked hard to get the right sound in the studio, even amplifying the guitar via the toilet next door, using the water in the bowl to bounce the sound around, giving it a unique echo effect. There was another mic placed under the wooden plank that Hooker stomped his foot on - not the type of drum set-up that Phil Collins would be happy with!! The first three songs on the session were simple blues, the type that could have been recorded by any Delta bluesman. It was the fourth song that hit the spot though, and it laid the foundation for virtually every up tempo number he would record for the next half decade. From the opening riff, Hooker lays down a relentless boogie. The mumbled vocals are a treasure and the only thing that lets the side down is the guitar solo, which at best could be described as pretty shitty. "One night I was laying down, I heard mama and papa talking, I heard papa tell mama, let that boy boogie, coz it's in him and it's got to come out". Classic.
Recommended downloads: Rock House Boogie - if only Eddie Kirkland's solo could be transposed onto Boogie Chillun.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Shakin' Stevens - Prince of Wales, King of the Charts


Not since the heydays of the fifties had rock 'n' roll enjoyed such hit status as it did in the early eighties. As early as 1976 Hank Mizell's Jungle Rock had inexplicably entered the British charts on a Charly reissue and climbed all the way to the top three. When I was a kid growing up in rural mid-Wales all my school mates were into the punk bands of the day or the likes of Culture Club, Wham, Duran Duran later on. Since '77 me and my sister Sharon had been listening to mums Elvis Greatest Hits Box Set and I'd started getting into other rockers like Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. The turn of the 80's proved a great time for rock 'n' roll fans in Britain with the charts starting to house people like the Stray Cats, the Jets, Matchbox and a hip-swivelling Welshman, Shakin' Stevens. By the end of the decade Shaky had become the biggest selling artist in Europe, clocking up 28 Top 30 hits in the UK. The media referred to him as an Elvis soundalike, which was grossly unfair as he sounded like Shaky to me - if anything he was more like Ricky Nelson! He even had a small Dutch hit in the early '70's with Ricky's Lonesome Town. The void left by Shaky has never been filled and perhaps it's time this was rectified, either by Shaky himself or someone like Darrel Higham.
His story began on March 4th,1948 when he was born, Michael Barratt in the Cardiff suburb of Ely, the youngest of eleven kids. As a youngster he was introduced to rock 'n' roll by his brother Roy and it was also during this time that he first heard a friend use the name Shakin' Stevens. There was a rocker band in Cardiff, managed by entrepeneur Paul Barrett (no relation) called the Backbeats whose lead singer Rockin' Louie became Shaky's idol, with the young Shaky sometimes getting up on stage to sing with the band.
After leaving school unqualified, he became a window cleaner but his carefree ways didn't help at this or other trades he tried like furniture upholstery. He had by now fronted various bands like the Cossacks, The Olympics and the Denims. But it was in 1968 when the legendary Shakin' Stevens and The Sunsets formed that things started to become more serious. For nearly ten years the group toured all over the UK and released a couple of albums and singles (Phil will deal with Shaky & Sunsets elsewhere.). Their gigs were wild affairs played to anyone from rockers to hippies to college students. One night at the Greenford Hotel in London, sax madman Tony "Twizzle" Britnall started blowing flames out of his mouth using lighter fluid which was soon all over the floor. Pretty soon the piano burst into flames and Shaky ran and jumped onto it and leapt forward onto a light fitting and swung backwards and forwards over the hysterical crowd. Next thing, the light fused and sparks started flying off it, landing in a teddy boys quiff which erupted into flames. What a sight, the floor burning, the piano covered in fire, Shaky dangling above the crowd on a sizzling light and people slapping a rockers head, trying to kill the flames! Needless to say, he didn't repeat this type of thing when he started appearing on Top Of The Pops.
In 1977, Jack Good produced a West End musical called Elvis, and after seeing Shaky at a London gig, persuaded him to audition for the part of the prime time King. Mike Hurst negotiated a healthy wage for Shaky rising from £100 a week during the rehearsal stage to £200 when the show was up and running. Following one last drunken concert with the Sunsets on October 25th at the Broon in Woolwich, London, Shaky started a new phase in his career, without his mentor Paul Barrett.
During this time Shaky signed with Track Records as a solo act and both artist and label must have been optimistic of success given the exposure Elvis would be giving him. Three singles and an album "Play Loud" were issued but nothing happened and the label went bankrupt. An album was cut for CBS with producer Mike Hurst but they rejected it on first hearing in July '79. That same month also saw the end of Elvis' West End run, but by now Shaky was working with Good on the ITV show Oh Boy and a 26 programme series Let's Rock which even made it onto American television. CBS decided to give him another crack of the whip and with Mike Hurst at the helm they went to the Eden Studios and laid down some rock 'n' roll tracks including a cover of Buck Owens' Hot Dog. Shaky also signed a management agreement with Freya Miller. Three singles on CBS subsidiary Epic had already failed to ignite, but Hot Dog was to change everything. Benefiting from some great Albert Lee licks, Hot Dog entered the UK charts in January 1980 and climbed to the number 24 spot. The album "Take One" was released the following month but only charted for two weeks peaking at 62.
An excellent stab at Hey Mae failed to score but his take on the Blasters' Marie Marie went to number 19 but again the resultant album Marie, Marie, featuring such guitar greats as Welshman Mickey Gee, Albert Lee and Eddie Jones, disappointed, only reaching 56. Shooting Gallery from the album also missed the spot.
For the next single they chose to update Rosemary Clooney's 1954 hit This Ole House. A powerhouse version by Shaky tore up the charts reaching number 1 in the spring of '81. The album rose to number 2 and for the next ten years Shaky had a permanent residency on the UK and European charts, with hits like You Drive Me Crazy, Green Door, Oh Julie, Shirley, It's Raining and A Rockin' Good Way, a duet with fellow countryman Bonnie Tyler. By the end of the eighties, the songs had become more pop styled but their was the occasional rocker amongst them like the great, I Might.
Following a lengthy break, Shaky is now back touring, he's just blown through Britain with the Killer's sister, Linda Gail Lewis. Could he be about to hit the charts again - if he does I hope he continues to use Darrel Higham on guitar, they're one hell of a combination. I caught two of the shows in Cardiff and Porthcawl and was knocked out by the great rockin' sounds. Shaky looks and sounds unbelievably good and both shows were near sell-outs. The crowd was a real mixture of young and old with a surprising number of teenagers. He had a great new phrasing on This Ole House and did a belting Marie Marie. The duets with Linda Gail, Real Gone Lover and A Rockin' Good Way were high spots which were well received. True Love Travels On A Gravel Road was superb and would be an obvious choice when he next records (rumour is that won't be far away). After raising the house lights and paying tribute to the Sunsets in the crowd he went wild with Tear It Up, a breathtaking version with loads of Darrel Higham licks, moving into Heebie Jeebies, Rip It Up etc. It was great fun and I can't wait until November when he could be touring again. It was also good to see producer Stuart Colman playing bass on the tour, its a step in the right direction and hopefully will be the start of another prosperous association. Shaky it's time to sort out our bloody charts again!!
Postscript: Since this was written a few years ago for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, Shaky bought out a new album Now Listen which didn't really do anything. It didn't appear to bring him to a new audience and it didn't have anything for the rock 'n roll fans he'd left behind. Shame - a wasted opportunity.

Rockin' Song of the Week - No's 1-10

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 10
Glen Glenn ­Everybody's Movin'(Era 1063)
It was January 8th 1958 and Elvis was celebrating his 23rd birthday shacked up in the arms of his latest Hollywood starlet planning a trip in two days to Los Angeles. Already out there at the Gold Star Studios is LA rockabilly Glen Glenn, in the middle of one of the greatest sessions ever to take place. With his pals Gary Lambert and Guybo Smith, together with drummer Joe O'Dell and country singer come wannabee rocker Wynn Stewart, they recorded a foursome of rockabilly classics, One Cup of Coffee, I'm Glad My Baby's Gone Away, Would Ya and Everybody's Movin'. I first heard Everybody's Movin' on the 1977 Chiswick album, Hollywood Rock 'n' Roll. It was the standout track then and it's been the standout track on just about every release it's been on since. Guybo's bass is a treat and keeps this Glen Glenn original flowing smoothly from start to finish. Lambert takes a neat solo and his simple picking proves that less or more. Great song from a great guy.
Recommended listening: all 4 from the 8 Jan '58 session, Blue Jeans and a Boys Shirt, Don't You Love Me, Kitty Cat, Kathleen.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 9
Big Maybelle - Gabbin' Blues (Okeh 6931)
From Jackson, Tennessee, Big Maybelle is perhaps best remembered in rock 'n' roll circuits as the gal who gave the world, well the black part of the States anyway, one of the immortals, Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On. She started her recording career with Decca before moving to King, Okeh and Savoy among others. She cut Gabbin' Blues in New York on 8th October 1952 with Sam The Man Taylor among the band. For those who've never heard the song, I'd say it was like this - picture the scene in King Creole where Elvis is leaning over the balcony whilst the big black woman peddles the streets below shouting out the song "crawfish". Now instead of young Danny Fisher singing back to her, imagine he's also a big black woman and he starts singing back to her that the fish she's selling are crap and that she's nothing but trash! The bitching starts before the musicians, and just like two woman it doesn't let up until the guy running the soundboard turns the volume down. "Here comes ole evil chick always telling everybody she's from Chicago - got Mississippi written all over her". Co-writer Rosemary McCoy plays the bitchy broad brilliantly, running down Big Maybelle, who drowns out the comments with some of the greatest blues singing ever committed to wax. This is one of those songs where you just wish videos had been invented at the time. I'd love to see these two sassy ladies chewing one another out, in a low-down speak-easy setting - guys in fedoras smoking big cigars in the background, just waiting for the scratching and clawing to start.
Recommended downloads: My Country Man, One Monkey Don't Stop No Show, Hair Dressin' Women, Candy, Tell Me Who and obviously, Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 8
Ray Smith -You Made A Hit(Sun 308)
Possessor of one of the finest Presleyesque vocal chords in the whole of Rockabilly Town, Ray Smith should have been a big star. He did have a fleeting spell in the charts with the wonderful Rockin' Little Angel on Judd, but I reckon that today we should be able to look at his old guitars and stage clothes in Cleveland. To say he should be in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame might sound like I've been at the Jack Daniels, but I'm serious, and sober. On September 13th, 1958 when he cut You Made A Hit, I wouldn't be surprised if Sam had put a loving arm around his shoulders and said "you sure did Ray". Written by Memphis songwriter Walt Maynard, the song is quintessential Sun rockabilly with its totally engaging beat. Backed by his own guys Stanley Walker and Dean Perkins on guitar, together with studio guys Stan Kesler, Jimmy Van Eaton and the quiet guy who seemed to be his mentor, Charlie Rich on piano. Released a month after the session, the song went nowhere, much like the singles that preceded and followed it. Can anyone tell me why Ray Smith doesn't get a mention in what's considered the Sun bible, Good Rockin' Tonight by Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins? The same with Dave Marsh's For the Record: Sun Records ­ An Oral History? He did manage to get a few mentions in Escott and Hawkins' original Sun volume Catalyst, but they aren't exactly gushing. He had 5 singles on our favourite little label, not many can beat that!
Recommended downloads: Right Behind You Baby, So Young (great voice), Shake Around, Rockin' Bandit, Breakup, the brilliant Rockin' Little Angel, That's Alright, the ral Donnerish Nice Guy and best of, the glorious Elvisy vocals on Candy Doll.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 7
Runnin' Wild -Killer Taco Stomp(El Toro)
With it's heavy stompin' beat, Killer Taco Stomp is rockabilly for the 21st Century. The frenzied vocals are deep and strong, the beat is unrelenting and as menacing as the vocals. The drums and bass give a hint of how rockabilly is going to sound once the purists run for the hills. Song kicks of with heavily echoed slapping bass, before the rockin' western guitar kicks in and the track gets bops into orbit. The vocals are something else, savage and scary, sounding more like Link Wray's Good Rockin' Tonight than Elvis'. This is great music to drive to at night, to bop to, to scare your granny with or to just sit and listen. If this is the future, I wanna live for years. Runnin' Wild were formed from the remnants of The Domino's and are the best rockabilly band Belgium has produced. After early work on Rockhouse and Red Comet Records they began to make a name for themselves on the European scene during the late '90s. They joined Rock Therapy/El Toro and made a huge impression at the May 2000 Hemsby festival, thanks to their wild live show and Killer Taco Stomp becoming a dancehall favourite. Check out the video clip below where KTS is used to showcase the Screamin' Weekender.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yKuVtuU07c
Recommended downloads: Loretta, Hello, Mr Lowdown Blues, Sure Do Love You Baby and Here Comes Johnny.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 6
Lavern Baker - Hey Memphis(Atlantic 2119)
Hey Memphis is Lavern Baker's raunchy tribute to the Tupelo Flash, Elvis Presley, using his Little Sister note for note. Both were penned by the prolific team Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. Elvis had cut Little Sister in June 1961 with Hank Sugarfoot Garland borrowing Harold Bradley's Fender to get the growling tone that drove the song along. Three months later Lavern used the equally fabulous Mickey Baker to get the same growl. Gary Chester plays the DJ Fontana part to a tee and Lavern sings with all the authority you'd expect from her. Although King Curtis was on the session he sat this one out, a shame really as a couple of his honks would have been interesting. Can you imagine what it would have been like if Steve Binder had got Lavern and Elvis to combine the two songs for Elvis' Comeback Special in 1968. Forget Tweedle Dee which they both did, this is the song that would have slayed us ­ Colonel Tom woulda had a heart attack, another reason why Binder should have done it. Does anyone out there know what Elvis thought of Hey Memphis? How the flipside of it, Voodoo Voodoo, remained in the can for 3 years is a mystery. An astonishingly dark rocker it is one of the great fusions of rock 'n' roll and rhythm 'n' blues.
Recommended downloads: Voodoo Voodoo, Bumble Bee, Whipper Snapper, Humpty Dumpty Heart and On Revival Day.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 5
Janis Martin - Bang Bang(RCA 47-7318)
After just two years and just five previous sessions (three in New York and two in Nashville), Janis Martin entered the RCA Victor Studio in Nashville for the final time on July 7th, 1958. Under the production of Chet Atkins she was teamed up with the big boys of the south, Hank Sugarfoot Garland, Bob Moore, Buddy Harman and the Jordanaires included. The Jordanaires featured heavily on the other three tracks recorded, but played no role (at least to these ears!) on Bang Bang. They played a fine role in making "William" a top-notch rock 'n' roller but I think Chet was on the money when he decided to go without them on the Banger. Bang Bang is a stop starter with Janis giving Wanda a run for her money as the queen of rockabilly. Sugarfoot shines throughout before exploding into a truly memorable solo. Despite the heroics of Janis and Sugarfoot, the star of the show has to be Buddy Harman whose shotgun-drumming is a showstopper. Released with the rockaballad Please Be My Love as by Janis and her Boyfriends, the song failed to chart, whereas it should have launched her into the big time.
Recommended downloads: Drugstore Rock 'n' Roll, My Boy Elvis, Barefoot Baby and her second best number Crackerjack.
Since I originally wrote this, Janis has passed away - rest in peace, and I'll always remember our kiss on the stairs.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 4
Benny Joy - Ittie Bittie Everything(Ram 1000-1)
Don't get fooled by the cute little title. This ain't the sort of thing thing to play the sister's little daughter expecting to send her into a peaceful spell of slumber. This is a "wake all neighbours and let's have a riot" slab of rock 'n' roll. With it's heavy beat and driving vocals, the song was not the usual fair for Buck Ram's self-named label who thrived in the 50's thanks to the beautiful tones of Tony Williams and his Platters. If ever a guy was called the right thing, it was Benny Joy who in a few short years recorded a dozen solid gone boppers, with his musical partner Big John Taylor. After singles on Tri-Dec and Dixie, Buck Ram took him by the horns with the promise of a career to match the Platters or better still Elvis, who had thrilled Joy when he'd played his hometown of Tampa, Florida a few years before. Colonel Tom parker may have been a dog-catcher in Tampa but he let this puppy get away. Buck Ram shepherded him to his new stable though and the big time looked on. As is the theme with everything on this website though, the cream seemed to fall to the bottom whilst the shite rose to the top. Despite big tours, including a couple to Europe, the hits eluded Benny Joy and he drifted away from the spot light, becoming a Nashville songwriter for Cedarwood. By the 70's he was back in Florida where he lived until his death in 1988. The first track of his I ever heard was Spin The Bottle, a breathless rocker taken at breakneck speed. Any number of a dozen of his songs were good enough to go all the way, he had the right voice, the right songs, the right name, just not the four leaf clover.
Recommended downloads: Crash The party, Miss Bobby Sox, Spin The Bottle, Steady With Betty, Rollin' To The Jukebox Rock, Money Money, Hey High School Baby. Best thing to do is just buy the Ace CD (CDCHD703) ­ Benny Joy. Crash The Rockabilly Party.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 3
Thurston Harris - Hey Baba Leba / I'm Out To Getcha(Aladdin 3415)
More of a single of the week than just a song. Both sides here are prime slabs of black rock 'n' roll. Following a couple of years with the doo-wopping Lamplighters on Federal, Thurston Harris went out on his own with Aladdin Records. Formed in 1945 Aladdin was tailor made for Harris, with a roster than included like minded revelers of the big beat Amos Milburn, Big Jay McNeely and Shirley and Lee. The first session, cut in Los Angeles on 27 August 1957 was a scorcher which produced two classics in Little Bitty Pretty One and Do What You Did. He scored a massive hit at his first attempt, with LBPO outselling Bobby Day's original and peaking at number 6. DWYD somehow stalled just outside the top 50, but the standard had been set, and pretty high it was too. The second session only yielded one track, another bitch of a song, I Got Loaded (In Smokey Joe's Joint), which was held back for over six months until released as his fourth single. So to January 1958 and these two songs of the week. Both Hey Baba Leba and I'm Out To Getcha feature strong bass lines that drive the songs along. Helen Humes' Leba rocks like the dickens and the drums keep a relentless back beat. The sax has 50's r'n'b written all over it complete with a rip-roaring extended solo. Getcha, from the prolific pen of Otis Blackwell, sees the guitarist wear out the bass strings - man they must have been bopping when they laid this down. This must have been what the martians were dancing too as they circulated the skies above the States throughout the decade! Music for flying saucers. Although the standard of his work remained high for a few years he was never able to replicate the success of Little Bitty Pretty One and by the early '60s both Aladdin and Thurston had run their course. What a beautiful ride it was though.
Recommended downloads: Hey Little Girl, Purple Stew, One Scotch One Bourbon One Beer, Fine Fine Frame and the biggies, LBPO, DWYD and Over and Over. Finally, the brilliant doo-wop-n-roller-stroller My Last Will Last.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 2
Gene Wyatt - Lover Boy(Ebb 123)
Gene Wyatt got involved in the music industry from an early age as he is hometown was Shreveport, Louisiana, a hot bed of country music and rockabilly. Gene worked with local boys Coach Floyd (bass), Leon Post (piano), Ronnie Lewis (drums) and the future hall-of-fame guitarist James Burton. In 1957 Wyatt fell under the influence of songwriter Dee Marias who took him to the KWKH studios behind the Louisiana Hayride auditorium. They cut four tracks with Burton on fire, not for the last time. They found an outlet for the songs when Ronnie Lewis' esteemed uncle, Stan Lewis sold the masters to the LA based Ebb Records. The label was hot at the time thanks to the Hollywood Flames' Buzz Buzz Buzz and the Shreveport boys must have been dreaming of big things. Ebb owner Leona Rupe chose the fine piano bopper Love Fever as the a-side with Lover Boy on the flip when it came out in January '58. Lover Boy has a swampy rockabilly beat with Ronnie Lewis sounding like Lennox Lewis on the drums. Burton takes two guitar solos that lift the song an extra notch and must have sounded from another world as it blasted out of car radios along the West Coast. Wyatt sings with great enthusiasm, but it's that guitar that makes this so memorable fully 50 years on. Sadly, Gene Wyatt committed suicide in 1980.
Recommended downloads; Love Fever and Prettiest Girl At The Dance, the first song I heard by him.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 1
Jimmy Pritchett -That's The Way I Feel(Crystal 503)
Recorded in the spring of 1958 with Nothing On My Mind on the flip, That's The Way I Feel is one of those feel good rockabilly boppers that became synonymous with Memphis. The band is believed to be the Clyde Leopard band, a staple of the local Memphis scene who among others gave a start to Warren Smith. Another legend of the Memphis crowd, Stan Kesler was hell bent on recording his new discovery Jimmy Pritchett but soon ran into problems with the equipment at the WHBQ studio. He called his old pal Sam Phillips who let them use his Sun Studios on Union. Kesler certainly knew his was around that soundboard and he produced a cracker. Drummer Jimmy van Eaton is outstanding and dominates the backing like he does on so many Memphis recordings, whilst. Smokey Joe Baugh takes a flight into the stratosphere for his piano solo. When the song kicks off in JLL style you half expect the Killer to start singing. However, it's our man Jimmy, whose vocals have a great energy to them with the perfect combination of enthusiasm and control. The song was released on Kesler's short lived Crystal label, while Pritchett's career was even shorter. Pityfully, this was his only release. He probably came on the rockabilly scene two years too late to have ruffled Sam's hair, a shame because he seemed to have the exuberant voice that was made for rockabilly.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Luke McDaniel - the Daddy – O Rockabilly

Luke McDaniel, like many a good singer was born in the good ole southern state of Mississippi, in Ellisville on February 3, 1927. He started in music after buying a seven dollar mandolin, and was influenced by hillbilly singers like The Bailes Brothers. He formed his own band and turned professional in 1945. He opened for Hank Williams in New Orleans in the late 40's and appears to have become hooked on the lonesome sound of Hank. In 1952 he recorded "Whoa Boy" for Trumpet Records in Jackson, Mississippi as well as a tribute single, "A Tribute To Hank Williams, My Buddy". The Trumpet records were all high quality hillbilly, but as with many at the time, showed him at this stage as little more than a Hank Williams clone. I'm not knocking him, I love his Trumpet stuff, it's just that he hadn't developed his own sound yet.

In 1953 he was introduced to King Records by fellow artist Jack Cardwell (The Death of Hank Williams/ Dear Joan). McDaniel had become a fixture on the "Tom 'N Jack" radio and television show that aired over WKAB and WKAB-TV but during his time at King he failed to register any hits despite half a dozen fine singles. "Money Bag Woman" was particularly strong, fusing his hillbilly with a rhumba beat. When the King contract expired, he went back to New Orleans where he recorded for the Mel-A-Dee label. He worked under the alias Jeff Daniels and recorded his Mel-A-Dee tracks at the legendary Cosimo's Studio with the pick of the city's black musicians. Only one single was released, the great "Daddy –O Rock" coupled with "Hey Woman".

In 54 he was a country deejay for radio station WLAU in Laurel, Mississippi and joined the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, becoming a part of the touring Hayride show. It was a wonderful time to be part of the Hayride set-up and the influence of Elvis Presley saw McDaniel move towards a more rocking sound. It’s also believed that that when Grand Ole Opry stars Curly Fox along with Jamup and Honey came to do a show in Laurel, Luke gave up the job he had at that time to join the troupe as a bit of a handy man. Around this time, McDaniel wrote "Midnight Shift" under the pseudonym of Earl Lee, which Buddy Holly would later record.
In 1956 Elvis and Carl Perkins urged McDaniels to submit a demo to Sam Phillips. Sam was impressed and signed McDaniel to a contract with Sun Records. It's unsure whether he cut two sessions or just one at Sun (either Sep 56 or/and Jan 57). Nothing was issued though, as Sam and Luke had a financial disagreement. The unissued Sun sides have now seen the light of day thanks to reissue labels like Charly Records. "My Baby Don't Rock" sounds like a Sonny Burgess track with Martin Willis' sax to the fore and a firecraker solo from Roland Janes. "High High High" is another high class song in the best traditions of Sun. "Uh Babe" is more seminal-Sun rockabilly with Jimmy Van Eaton on fine form behind the skinned boxes. "Go Ahead Baby" is more exciting bop and sounds like a cross between Hayden Thompson and Gene Simmons.
As a songwriter he got some cuts by George Jones and Jim Reeves, but he was destined to fail as a singer in his own right. He recorded singles for the Big Howdy label, sometimes under the name "Jeff Daniels". Highlight is the manic "Switch Blade Sam", a frontrunner in anyone's bad boy rockabilly top ten. The other side was the original of "You're Still On My Mind", better known in the versions of George Jones and the Byrds. There are two versions of the great "Foxy Dan", a song written for him by Carl Perkins. Make sure you get the 1960 Astro recording, which is superior to the version on Big Howdy that was released in the 1970s.

Disillusioned by the early 60s he left the business to start his own trucking business - another great hillbilly singer that just couldn't get the right breaks. A lot of his rockabilly records got a new lease of life in Europe during the 70’s and 80’s but as far as I know he never came over to play any live shows. He died in Mobile, Alabama on 27th June 1992.

My Top 10
1. Uh Uh Uh – wonderful commercial bopper, sort of Foxy Dan meets the Andrews Sisters.
2. Go Ahead Baby – pure Sun rockabilly. This couldn’t have been cut anywhere but at 706 Union. Great guitar solos and drumming. LD sounds so at home in this rocking style.
3. Daddy-O-Rock – superb black meets white rocker with honking sax.
4. Switchblade Sam – kick-ass rocker like Dixie Fried on speed.
5. High High High – line up for a stroller of the highest order. The backing reminds me a bit of the Lifeguards’ Everybody Out Of The Pool. Sax and a hot guitar solo add to the excitement.
6. What I Tell My Heart – country with a beat that could almost be from an undiscovered Warren Smith session.
7. Foxy Dan – the dapper Dan man who’s "got more money than Wells Fargo".
8. I'm Tired Of These Country Ways – hillbilly vocals with a semi-rockabilly backbeat.
9. Uh Babe – laid back Sun rockabilly with a wonderful vocal performance.
10. Drive On – Not the Johnny Cash American Recordings song but a hillbilly song steeped in the Hank Williams tradition. Luke’s wailing vocals works in perfect tandem with the fiddle.


Discography
as Luke McDaniel
Trumpet Records
Whoa Boy / Tribute To Hank Williams (1952)
A Tribute To Hank Williams, My Buddy / This Cryin’ Heart (1953)
King Records
Drive On / Let Me Be A Souvenir(1953)
I Can’t Go / For Old Times Sake (1953)
The Automobile Song / I Can’t Steal Another’s Bridge (1954)
Honey Won’t You Please Come Home / Crying My Heart Out For You (1954)
Money Bag Woman / Hurts Me So (1954)
One More Heart / Living In A House Of Sin (1955)

as Jeff Daniels
Meladee Records
Daddy-O Rock / Hey Woman! (1956)
Big Howdy Records
Switch Blade Sam / You’re Still On My Mind (1959)
Big B Records
Uh-Huh-Huh / Table For Two (1959)
Astro Records
Foxy Dan / Some Day You’ll Remember (1960)
Big Howdy Records
Uh-Huh-Huh / Table For Two (197?)
Foxy Dan / Bye Bye Baby (197?)
Hard Luck / Johnny’s (197?)
I Tried / I’m Tired Of These Country Ways (197?)
Switch Blade Sam / You’re Still On My Mind (197?)
Sun (unissued)
Go Ahead Baby
Huh Babe
High High High
My Baby Don’t Rock
That’s What I Tell My Heart

Grady Martin tribute


Just months after the death of Chet Atkins, the world of country music suffered another massive loss when legendary session guitarist Grady Martin passed away this week aged 72. One of the most important musicians of the pioneering era of the 50's and 60's, Martin appears to have suffered a heart attack at his home.Martin was born on a farm near Chappel Hill in Marshall County, Tennessee, the youngest of four children. He spent many childhood hours listening to music on the families battery-operated Zenith radio, and soon developed a love for country music and the Grand Ole Opry which the family listened to every weekend. Young Grady began playing the fiddle and guitar and by his teens was playing in local bands and sitting in with visiting bands. At fifteen he was heard by Big Jeff Bess who persuaded Grady's parents to let him move to Nashville to play with his band Big Jeff and the Radio Playboys. Two years later he joined Paul Howard's Arkansas Cotton Pickers and then became a founder member of Little Jimmy Dicken's Country Boys. By now he had retired his fiddle and was becoming known as one of the town's top guitarists. He worked the Opry and played with the Bailes Brothers, Curley Fox and Texas Ruby.He took over the lead of Red Foley's band and as well as the Opry they played the Ozark Jubilee. It was with Foley that Martin played on his first big seller, Chattanooga Shoe-Shine Boy. During the session he formed a long time partnership with Decca's Paul Cohen and their influential Nashville producer, Owen Bradley. The next two decades were when Martin made his name and built up an unprecedented reputation. Although he recorded with his Slewfoot Five for Decca it was his session work where he excelled.He started working with Johnny Horton and the late 50's saw him at the peak of his craft on such Horton classics as Honky Tonk Man, I'm A One Woman Man, I'm Coming Home and The Woman I Need. It was Martin who suggested at one Horton session that Harold Bradley play a banjo on When It's Springtime In Alaska (It's Forty Below). It was a master stroke which completely changed the song's make-up and set a trend for such historic folk songs - Horton repeated the idea for his million-seller, Battle Of New Orleans. He was respected as a versatile and inventive guitarist and the full range of playing he used when working with Brenda Lee summed it up, whether it be his rockabilly boogie playing on Bigelow 6-200, or his fills on the poppier material like Let's Jump The Brromstick or My Baby Likes Western Guys.The first Grammy ever awarded for a country song was Marty Robbins brilliant western ballad, El Paso, but only a fool would suggest the song would have been half as good without Grady Martin's fluent Tex-Mex picking. It was a high point in both men's illustrious careers. When they worked together a year later (1960), history was again made when Martin's malfunctioning amplifier caused a distorted sound, known from that day forward as fuzztone.He worked thousands of sessions and amongst the artists Martin backed were; Johnny Burnette, Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, Flatt & Scruggs, Lefty Frizzell, Don Gibson, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Joan Baez, JJ Cale, Merle Haggard, Bill Monroe, Hank Snow, Ernest Tubb and Roy Orbison.In the 70's he worked extensively with Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn and produced the country-rockers Brush Arbor. After a brief spell with Jerry Reed he became a member of the Willie Nelson Family troupe, touring the world from 1980 to 1994 and working on such studio sessions as On The Road Again and Always On My Mind. He retired and spent his time back in Marshall County. He became the first recipient of the Nashville Music Association's Masters Award in 1983 and was awarded a Chetty last year during Chet Atkins' Musician Days festivities in Nashville. Married three times, Martin left behind ten children, seven grandchildren, one great-grandchild and an enormous body of guitar solos that helped change the face of popular music. As Bob Moore told the Tennessean newspaper, "I think he's the single greatest guitar player we've had here in Nashville".

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Pop Goes The Rockabilly

1. Union Avenue - White Wedding
Rockabilly quintet Union Avenue hail from Scotland and have found a niche in the market by covering pop songs in the style of Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two. Some songs work better than others but the ones that do work are great. They make the songs like they were always Cash songs, in no small part to the vocals of Andrew Cardno and the Luther picking of guitarist Paul Paterson. They recently had the Radio 1 record of the week for their cover of Motorhead's Ace Of Spades and have been support acts for The Stranglers and Lee Rocker among others. Billy Idol's White Wedding was a frantic slice of pop in the early 80's, with a full blown production. Union Avenue stripped the song to the bare bones and even recorded it on vintage equipment for an authentic Sun sound. They pulled a master stroke in slowing the tempo and letting the song breath the way JC's best songs did. A classic version that makes Billy Idol's redundant.

2. Paul Ansell's Number Nine - Red Light
A highlight of Number Nine's live set, Red Light does indeed spell danger when the wrong version is played. Billy Ocean is as shite as Paul Ansell is great, and their versions show the difference. Ocean's is just drab pop music whereas Paul Ansell and Number Nine give a menacing rocked up performance. Not rockabilly per say but that isn't what they're about. It's high energy with a rocking emphasis but not restrained by the narrow parameters of pure rockabilly.

3. Big 6 - Tiger Feet
The Dream Team of the rocking scene, band members include Mike Sanchez and ? among its ranks. They play with a smile on their face and the music ranges from Bill Haley style rock to ska. They are particularly adept at converting glam-rock songs into rock 'n' roll with the likes of Slade and T-Rex being given the sax and slap-bass treatment. Their version of Mud's Tiger Feet is a romp, heavy on the sax and drums. Like the original it's a dance-floor cert.

4. Dave Phillips - Tainted Love
If ever you needed to explain to someone why a guitar is better than a synthesiser just take a listen to Soft Cell's version then take in Dave Phillips. I first heard this on Radio 1 on a school trip to see the Severn Boar and tried to convince everyone on the bus that this was better than Soft Cell's limp version. I'm not sure what percentage of John Beddoes School was bent, but no-one agreed with me.

5. Darrel Higham - Kingston Town
I know it wasn't the original but it was the UB40 version that I first heard back in the 80's. I never liked them and thought Red Red Wine was abysmal. Darrel's version of Kingston Town is a different animal all together. There isn't a lot of difference between reggae and rockabilly, the hypnotic, incessant beat being the embodiment of both styles.

6. Demented Are Go - Crazy Horses
There couldn't be a bigger contrast between the squeaky clean Osmonds and psychobilly trio Demented Are Go. The two versions of the song echo the differences with the toothy Mormon family sounded contrived and controlled as they reach for an orgasm of excitement. The Cardiff stompers, by contrast are totally convincing as they rape the song and bring it to a crazy level that would make Donny and Marie blush.

7. Doug Church - Graceland
Elvis impersonators aren't my favourite people in the world but where Doug Church manages to avoid my hatred is that he doesn't copy Elvis songs. Instead he gives modern songs the Elvis styled vocals, and it works well. There's the saying that riding a moped and shagging a fat girl are both fun to ride as long as your mates don't find out. I think listening to Doug Church is a bit like that as well. It's surreal hearing what sounds like Elvis singing about "going to Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee".

8. Stray Cats - You Can't Hurry Love
Not the Stray Cats' greatest moment but still a lot better than either Phil Collins or Diana Ross. Much like the Dave Phillips selection at number 4 it was good to hear a pop song with a double bass and therefore given a bit of balls.

9. Jets - Yes Tonight Josephine
I didn't even realise this wasn't a Jets original when I first heard this back in the day. It seemed such a straight ahead rockabilly song that it was impossible to imagine it was just a run of the mill pop song. This was the break out song for the Cotton brothers and for a couple of years they were on tv everytime you turned it on. Oh how we wish those days would return.

10. Meteors - These Boots Were Made For Walkin'
Apparantly Frank Sinatra hated Tommy Sands as a son in law so much that he used his Mafia influence to make sure that Sands couldn't get work. If Nancy had of married Meteors front-man Paul Fenech instead I reckon Ol Blue Eyes would have arranged for Fenech to take a trip down the Hudson in a body bag. Whatever, the Meteors version of These Boots Were Made For Walkin' is a miles from Nancy, just like a good psycho should be.

Remembering Billy Fury - 25th Anniversary

It doesn't seem possible but its twenty-five years ago today that the great Billy Fury passed away. I come from a family of Billy lovers with my mum being a fan since the heyday and no doubt helping turn myself and my sister into fans. My mum was working in a shop window in the early 60's when Billy walked by, causing her to knock half the stuff over. To top it all, my wife is a fan as well. Whereas she frowns a bit when I play a Don Williams or some other country shit (her words not mine), its always okay to play The Sound of Fury. When I first got into rock 'n' roll my earliest heroes were Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis and Billy Fury and although others became special to me over the years, Johnny Cash for instance, those original five will always be the top dogs. As I'm writing this Julie has just said that whenever she thinks about our music she always thinks Elvis, Gene and Eddie, Billy and the Stray Cats because that's what we always listened to as teenagers together.Something that still stick in my mind long after it should have vanished is when the May Fair came to my hometown Presteigne when I was a school kid and one of the prizes at the darts stall was a postcard of Billy in his leopard skin shirt. I tried as hard as I could to get that picture but the darts were blunt and the board was rock hard - proved by the fact that the postcard was still there when the fair came back the following year. The first answer phone we ever had used to play Billy's Phone Call which was always nice to listen to before speaking to some double glazing quote.Whereas the past 25 years have seen the star of Elvis burning as bright as ever, sadly the name of Billy Fury has all but died here in his homeland. Apart from my beautiful and sadly missed pussy, Billy Furry, I don't think I've heard the name mentioned in years. I know there's a couple of tribute acts doing the rounds, with Colin Gold being very good. As I mentioned in my review of the recent Rockers Reunion, the young Liverpool Teddy Boy band Furious played a couple of his songs, so perhaps there's hope for a revival. Let's face it, he was a million miles better than most things Britain produced and at least a couple of miles better than the far more successful Cliff Richard. The old Bachelor Boy might have done a mean lip curl but for the all around package Billy was the man. He has stage presence and his performances were raunchy in a way Cliff just couldn't carry off. Billy was a good looking dude who you could imagine would carry through the dirty deed whereas Cliff might look okay but if you took him home he'd probably help your mum knit a cardigan. I've asked the three girls in my life to give me their top 10 and here they are.

Julie's (wife) Top 10 - no order except for the first one
Gonna Type A Letter
Halfway to Paradise
You Don't Know
Maybe Tomorrow
I Will
In Thoughts of You
In Summer
A Thousand Stars
Last Night Was Made For Love
Like I've Never Been Gone

Pat's (mum) Top 10 - no order
Last Night Was Made For Love
Like I've Never Been Gone
Halfway to Paradise
A Thousand Stars
I'll Never Find Another You
In Thoughts of You
Wondrous Place
Once Upon A Dream
Somebody Else's Girl
It's Only Make Believe

Sharon's (sister) Top Ten - in order
Wondrous Place
In Thoughts of You
My Advice
Don't Leave Me This Way
Maybe Tomorrow
Jealousy
Alright, Goodbye
I'll Never Find Another You
Don't Say It's Over
You Don't Know

My Top 10 - in order
Don't Knock Upon My Door
Wondrous Place
Don't Jump
Margo
I'm Lost Without You
That's Love
Baby How I Cried
Maybe Tomorrow
Turn My Back On You
I'm Lost Without You

Johnny & the Jailbirds

In rock 'n' roll, as with most strains of music, you get bands who never make it beyond the pub circuit and a few that have that little bit extra quality and are therefore able to really make a name for themselves on an international basis. Johnny and the Jailbirds fall in the latter category, having achieved cult status across the European continent. They were formed in late 1973, when Johnny Red moved from London to Northamptonshire. He placed an ad in a local newspaper, looking for some like minded rockers to form a rock 'n' roll band. He auditioned the applicants and after a few rehearsals Johnny and the Jailbirds were up and running. From the humble beginnings of their first gig in a local village club they quickly developed a reputation for one of the top bands in the UK. They signed to Charly Records in 1979. When Richie Ball joined on lead guitar, the final piece of the jigsaw was in place. As well as being a top picker he was a songwriter and Ball and Red began a fruitful partnership. These contributed eight songs for the bands debut album 'Out On Bail'. Rockabilly was rife in Europe at that time and the Jailbirds took advantage with two of their strongest numbers, 'Eileen' and Too Much Wine' making the top five of the French Rock 'n' Roll charts. The album became an instant classic and was to be the highlight of their career. They called it a day after just seven years but reformed a few years ago and Red and Ball wrote all the tracks for the comeback album 'Rockin The Blues Away'. They charted in the E.M.S. European country charts, with 'Lonestar Boogie' which went to No5 in October 2000, and 'Red Eye to Memphis' which reached No3 in January 2001.

My Johnny & the Jailbirds Top 5.
1. Eileen - brilliant hot pot of rock 'n' roll with ringing guitar and Elvisy vocals combining with a splash of doo-wop.
2. Too Much Wine - more of the same, melodic with some fine Red vocals. Their songs are so catchy.
3. Lonestar Boogie - melodic rockabilly which kicks off in Johnny Cash mode.
4. Stay Away - Taken from a 45 on the French ? Label, Stay Away is a singalong rocker with a short, but oh-so-sweet guitar solo.
5. Red Eye To Memphis - another exciting ditty with a commercial, catchy chorus.