Wednesday, 10 December 2008

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.
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.

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