Sunday, 22 February 2009

Warren Smith - when it hits, it drives the cool cats wild

It was February 1956 and the patrons of The Cotton Club in West Memphis, Arkansas were enjoying the sounds of their regular band, Clyde Leopard and The Snearly Ranch Boys. The band had recently been augmented by a young country singer who some felt had the potential to go beyond these settings. So impressed had been Ranch Boy steel player and songwriter, Stan Kesler, that he had called the attention of local record man Sam Phillips. Following an audition where they had performed a hillbilly ballad penned by Kesler, I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry, Phillips had told them to get some more material. This particular night, Phillips actually turned up at the club with Johnny Cash and at the interval had invited the singer, Warren Smith to join them at their table. Cash was armed with a song he'd written (or purchased from George Jones!) called Rock 'n' Roll Ruby and he offered it to Smith and the band. Looking back now, it's funny to think that Johnny Cash, being more country than rock, didn't fancy the song himself but offered it to Warren Smith who was probably as pure a country singer as any that stepped through the hallowed doors of Sun Studios.

Born in Humphreys County Mississippi near the blues-drenched Yazoo City on February 7th 1932, Smith had been raised in Louise, MS with his grandparents following the divorce of his parents. After a spell in the Air Force, and with music very much his passion, he made the move to the tune-town known as Memphis, Tennessee determined to make his fortune.

The following Sunday (5th), Warren and the Snearly Ranch Boys, Buddy Holobaugh, Stan Kesler, Jan Ledbetter, Smokey Joe Baugh and Johnny Bernero, drafted in to play drums instead of Leopard who may have felt his nose out of joint, converged on Union Avenue ready to cut. After Phillips and Cash turned up late, the session began with the band running through Ruby a couple of times. An early out-take exists which shows the band well on the way to perfecting the tune, Baugh's piano solo being particularly on the money. The master truly is a rockabilly classic with Holobaugh's guitar driving the track, together with Benero's drumming. The second song tackled was one they were familiar with, I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry. A country weeper, Smith's vocal's are perfection, he starts the tune in a high key and maintains it without a quiver. Sufficiently pleased with the debut cuts, Phillips released them on 25 March 1956 as Sun 239. Billboard magazine predicted "another Sun candidate for rock 'n' roll - country and western stardom" adding that "Smith sells Rock 'n' Roll Ruby with sock showmanship and a strong, driving beat." Two weeks later in it's May 5th issue, Billboard reviewed it again raving "Sun has done it again! This country rock 'n' roll record is showing all the signs of being a Presley-type success. Already on the Memphis and Charlotte territorial charts, it should soon hit the national charts."

By the 26th of May it was number 1 on the Memphis charts, helped no doubt by exposure from the local jocks and personal appearances all over town. After selling over sixty eight thousand copies by July, it was obvious that another session was needed to re-enforce this encouraging start. None of Sam's other stars had sold more copies with their debut, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins…. The summer included a mouth-watering week long tour of the Memphis area with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Eddie Bond and new boys, Roy Orbison and the Teen Kings whose Ooby Dooby had just been released on Sun. Not a bad night out for the local's! The tour culminated with a show at Overton Shell park in Memphis in which Elvis made a non-performing appearance.

In order to get more widespread exposure, the rest of summer '56 was spent on the road as Smith and Orbison undertook a gruelling tour of Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi. Once the royalties had been collected, it was obvious that Smith felt he was the man and that the Snearly Ranch Boys were coincidental. This aggrieved the band who understood an unwritten agreement existed in which the band would be on equal terms with royalties split equally. Not one to worry about upsetting others, Smith duly severed his connections with them and assembled his own band featuring Al Hopson on guitar, Marcus Van Story on bass and drummer Johnny Bernero.

It was this new line-up which recorded two separate sessions in August producing the goods for Sun 250. The a-side was a Johnny Cash styled take on the old English standard, Black Jack David. Charles Underwood, a student at Memphis State University, had provided the song Ubangi Stomp bathed in racist lyrics, but Smith hadn't been impressed with it at first. However, with nothing in the bag, Smith tried the song out of desperation and surprised himself with a performance which he felt got better with every take. Released on September 24th, and despite another encouraging review from Billboard, sales were disappointing with only thirty eight thousand takers.

The first year in the big time ended with a five day gig at the Malco Theatre at home in Memphis with Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison followed by some dates in Huntsville and Sheffield, Alabama with Carl Perkins and someone destined to steal Smith's thunder, a cocky young piano pounder who'd just started to make an impression in Memphis, Jerry Lee Lewis.

1957 started with an unproductive (single wise) session with The Darkest Cloud and an early take on So Long I'm Gone remaining in the can. Another session in January had the same affect and with the second single having failed to click, the pressure was on to come up with something strong. In February, with a different line-up Smith had another crack at So Long I'm Gone, a song from the pen of Roy Orbison. With Jimmie Lott now on drums due to the unwillingness of Bernero to tour, and with Jimmy Wilson on piano, the rhythm was strong and was helped by the dual guitar of Al Hopson and Roland Janes. It's a classic mid-tempo country rocker and was commercial enough to have a chance at the charts. Breaking from tradition, Sam chose not to release the single with a rocker on one side and a country song on the other. Instead the flip was the wild Miss Froggie, the rockinest item he ever recorded, helped in no small part by Al Hopson's brilliant guitar.

Released as Sun 268 on the 15th April '57, Billboard advised it's readers to "watch both of these." Smith certainly would have been watching as the single showed great promise and in May broke into the Hot 100 at number 72. This was the big break he'd been after and the already healthy ego must have started busting at the seams. As luck would have it, fellow Sun star Jerry Lee Lewis' second single Whole Lot Of Shakin' Goin' On had been released the previous month and was now sitting on top of the Memphis charts. Sensing a potential hit, Phillips and his brother Judd, got Jerry Lee a shot on national TV. On Sunday 28th July, he performed a wild, sneering, chair throwing version of Shakin' on the Steve Allen Show. Following the show, demand for the single grew too big for Sun to cope. In order to meet the orders Sam made the decision to concentrate on Jerry Lee and therefore ending any chances of So Long I'm Gone going any further. Smith was numbstruck and apparently became so outraged at hearing the Jerry Lee hit all the time on the radio that he started smashing any copies he came across. According to Jimmie Lott "Warren was an egotist - the biggest egotist I've ever met. A caring man and a good man, but an egotist. Warren wanted recognition. He painted WARREN SMITH - THE ROCK 'N' ROLL RUBY MAN on the back of his car - a seven or eight thousand dollar Cadillac sedan."

Smith returned to the Sun studio in October and with Hopson and Janes working in perfect harmony, cut a brilliant version of Slim Harpo's Got Love If You Want It. With a tender ballad from the pen of Hopson, I Fell In Love, on the flip, Sun 286 was released in December. This same month, Sun also released Johnny Cash (Ballad Of A Teenage Queen/Big River), Sonny Burgess (My Bucket's Got A Hole In It), Roy Orbison (Chicken Hearted) and Carl Perkins (Glad All Over). However, it was to be old sparring partner Jerry Lee Lewis that caused the problems again, as this time he was riding high with Great Balls Of Fire. Again, promotion of Smith was limited and resulted in a poultry seven thousand copies being sold. The wheels were starting to come off and bass man Marcus Van Story quit, being replaced by Will Hopson, brother of guitarist Al. Lott had also had his namesake and for future shows, drummers were picked up from local bands. Smith also parted company with Stars Inc. and handed over his bookings to the Charlotte based G.D.Kemper who immediately fixed up some dates in Canada with cowboy Lash Larue. An appearance on the influential Ed Sullivan Show was a step in the right direction but then Kemper severed contacts with Smith following the latter's booking his own dates in Maryland.

Musically, he was still producing great stuff like Uranium Rock, Golden Rocket, Dear John and Do I Love. On January 7th 1959, Smith went into the studio with Billy Lee Riley and Sid Manker (guitars), Cliff Acred (bass), Charlie Rich (piano) and the great Jimmy Van Eaton (drums). The results were as good as one would expect from such a line-up. Both the perfect Goodbye Mr Love and the poppy, chorus laden Sweet Sweet Girl were ideal for the time and in mid-Feb they were released as Sun 314. Billboard again enthused "Chances are Warren Smith'll have the top money-making record of his career in this Sun outing. One end, a top drawer, middle beat country offering finds Warren sadly singing "Goodbye Mr Love". On the other half, a terrific Don Gibson-penned, all-market rocker, Smith sez that his ex-gal was a "Sweet, Sweet Girl" to him. Great vocal and musical support for Warren's ultra-commercial ballad and beat offerings." Given that kiss of death, sales were again negligable and with his contract at an end it was no surprise that Smith and Sun parted company. In later interviews, he contested that he always wanted to cut country music but that Sam wasn't interested. Well, he had cut country, some of which was as good as any country music cut in the decade. From Sam's point of view, he was right to cut Smith as a rocker, his vocals were perfect for the genre. Sun wasn't amune to releasing singles aimed squarely at the hillbilly market, Ernie Chaffin had had four singles in the same time-span, it's just that the rewards for a big pop hit far out-weighed the rewards for a country hit.

Following in the footsteps of buddy Johnny Cash, Smith packed the misses into the Caddie and headed west to California. He landed a deal with Warner Brothers and cut three low key singles (including a Xmas 45) under the name Warren Baker. The new life had not started too well professionally, but socially they settled down quickly in Sherman Oaks, spending a lot of time with the Cash's. Cash offered him a slot on his package show, but was turned down, Warren Smith still had plans and they didn't include playing second fiddle to anyone else. Whilst appearing at the Town Hall Party in Compton, CA, he was spotted by an executive of Liberty Records who were planning to launch a country division. Smith duly signed, becoming their first country act and on March 9th 1960, entered the Radio Recorders studio in Hollywood. He had moved two thousand miles from Memphis, but the music had moved a million. The new sound was real country, fiddles a-plenty and stone country vocals. With the top west coast pickers (Ralph Mooney, Johnny Western, Jim Pierce), they laid down three tracks from which Liberty 55248 was released. I Don't Believe I'll Fall In Love Today/Cave In was released late summertime and rose to number 5 in the country charts. With no Jerry Lee to disrupt his sales, Smith had the pleasure of seeing his next release Odds And Ends (Bits And Pieces), Liberty 55302, also reach the top ten, peaking at 7 early in '61. Both hits had been written by country tunesmith, Harlan Howard and Smith, never a prolific writer, ceased to write his own stuff.
Both artist and label must have been bubbling, and decided the next move was to cut an album. The majority of the album was cut on 4th May at Radio Recorders with the same gang and with the two hits added was released as The First Country Collection Of Warren Smith. The playing's fine and the singing's great, it just lacks any sparkle. The same can't be said of the next single, Liberty 55336, which coupled two excellent songs in a revisited Old Lonesome Feeling (written by Stan Kesler) and Call Of The Wild. It was the b-side which took, eventually making the 26 spot. The follow up single was a duet with Shirley Collie, George Jones' Why, Baby, Why which again stalled in the twenties (23).

Despite his career blooming, things were starting to come undone as he became addicted to amphetamines (any Johnny Cash influence!!) and Smith failed to appear for a scheduled session with Collie. Willie Nelson took his place and also seemed to take husband Bill Coffie's place as well. With the first seeds of unreliable being sown, his next single, cut in Nashville, was Bad News Gets Around (!) and despite a great reading it failed to chart. Same fate for the next single, 160 lbs Of Hurt and its flip, Book Of Broken Hearts.

The next single was marvellous. The a-side That's Why I Sing In A Honky Tonk, climbed to 25 in November '63 and the b-side Big City Ways followed it to 41. This being despite the fact, that radio at first gave it the cold shoulder due to Smith's long, emphasised pronounciation of the first sylable when describing his - country girl. I'll bet the boys back in Memphis enjoyed the moment.

In April '64 he cut his final single for Liberty back in Hollywood. Blue Smoke is real '60's country and justifiyably rose to 41 in the charts, a fine swan-song. The label didn't renew his contract, his life was being ruined by drugs and Liberty was doing okay without needing a risk artist. It's a shame because Smith's vocals were in peak condition and his sound was sounding as fresh as anything being generated in Nashville.On 17th August 1965 in LeGrange, Texas at 8am, Smith's '65 Pontiac skidded off Highway 77, just missing another car before slamming into a steep enbankment. He was rushed to Fayette Hospital with severe back injuries and facial lacerations. He was out of action for the best part of a year, having to learn to walk again.A comeback of sorts was arranged with Slick Norris' Houston based label, Slick. She Likes Attention suffers from a poor vocal but Future X is a good track. Nothing came of the release, not surprising as promotion/distribution must have been limited.

A single came out on Mercury, who now had Jerry Lee, but this time there was no competition. Smith's chart days were over despite his health problems not affecting his voice as much. Now mixing drink with his drugs, Smith was now being arrested on a regular basis and ended up doing an eighteen month spell in a Huntsville, Alabama jail. His long-term marraige was over, but on his return to civilisation, he met and married a new woman. Trying to restart his life, he got work as a Safety Director for Trinity Industries in Longview, Texas, only singing on stage at weekends. In the early 70's he cut a couple of low-budget, low-profile singles for Jubal Records.
In 1976 he got an offer from Mike Cattin of the Carl Perkins Fan Club to record only his second album, for the Lake County record label. Due to his work commitments the album had to be recorded on Sundays and started in December '76 and was finished in June '77. Smith was very disappointed with the results, the tracks ranging from remakes of Sun/Liberty songs to a few originals.

In April '77, Warren Smith arrived in Britain to play a rockabilly show with Jack Scott, Charlie Feathers and Buddy Knox. Smith was completely overcome by the reception he received and was invited back the following November with fellow Sun artist Ray Smith. Again, the shows went well and a rejuvenated Smith was scheduled to return in April.
Unfortunately this tour never materialised as on the last day of January 1981, Smith was admitted to hospital with chest pains. Before the day was over, he suffered a massive heart attack and died. He was 47.

There's no better way to sum him up than a couple of quotes from Mr Sam "Quote Unquote" Phillips:

In an interview with Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins; "He was probably the best pure singer for country music I've ever heard. He had a pure country voice and an innate feel for the country ballad. With that music he was as goos as anyone I've heard before or since. So Long I'm Gone was just a wonderful country record. He was a difficult personality, but just interesting enough that I liked him a whole lot."

In an interview with Trevor Cajiao, talking about Sonny Burgess, Billy Lee Riley and Warren Smith; "..I should have followed through with Warren Smith too although he was much more of a country-flavoured guy in a way. The guy had the ability to make it. That, I guess, in a way, I regret somethin' like that because these were people with unique abilities and I coulda' made 'em' even if there's such a thing as a little more unique. I was probably a bit deficient in the fact that I didn't take a little more assistance and probably I coulda' pulled some of these guys, and done a little more with 'em. Those three guys I know had hit records in 'em."

Warren Smith - Discography and Billboard Charts

Sun 239 - Rock 'n' Roll Ruby / I'd Rather Be Safe Than Sorry
Sun 250 - Ubangi Stomp / Black Jack David
Sun 268 - So Long I'm Gone / Miss Froggie
Sun 286 - Got Love If You Want It / I Fell In Love
Sun 314 - Goodbye Mr Love / Sweet Sweet Girl
Warner Brothers - 5113 Hawaiian Eye / The Man And The Challenge
Warner Brothers 5118 - Midnight In Bethlehem / Little Bitty Baby
Warner Brothers 5125 - Dear Santa / The Meaning Of Xmas
Liberty 55248 - Cave In / I Don't Believe I'll Fall In Love Today
Liberty 55302 - Odds And Ends (Bits And Pieces) / A Whole Lot Of Nothin'
Liberty 55336 - Call Of The Wild / Old Lonesome Feeling
Liberty 55361 - Why Baby Why (with Shirley Collie) / Why I'm Walkin'
Liberty 55409 - Five Minutes Of The Latest Blues / Bad News Gets Around
Liberty 55475 - Book Of Broken Hearts / A Hundred And Sixty Lbs. Of Hurt
Liberty 55615 - That's Why I Sing In A Honky Tonk / Big City Ways
Liberty 55699 - Blue Smoke / Judge And Jury
Skill 007 - Future X / She Likes Attention
Mercury 78225 - When The Heartaches Get To Me / Lie To Me
Jubal 172 - Make It On Your Own / Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea
Jubal 272 - I Don't Believe / Did You Tell Him
Jubal 473 - A Woman's Never As Gone / One More Time


The First Country Collection of Warren Smith - LRP 3199
I Fall To Pieces/Foolin' Around/Take Good Care Of HerPick Me Up On Your Way Down/Just Call Me LonesomeHeartbreak Avenue/I Still Miss SomeoneKissing My Pillow/I Can't Stop Loving You

The Legendary Warren Smith - Lake County LP 506
Book Of Broken Hearts/That's Why I Sing In A Honky TonkHeartaches By The Number/Blue Suede ShoesI Don't Believe I'll Fall In Love Today/Rock 'n' Roll RubyBetween The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea/Ubangi StompFolsom Prison Blues/Roll Over BeethovenMedley:Movin' On-Rhumba Boogie-Golden RocketThat's All Right Mama/Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache



1960 - 5 - 17 - I Don't Believe I'll Fall In Love Today - Liberty 55248

1961 - 7 - 15- Odds And Ends (Bits And Pieces) - Liberty 55302

1961 - 23 - 3 - Why, Baby, Why - with Shirley Collie - Liberty 55361

1961 - 26 - 3 - Call Of The Wild - Liberty 55336

1963 - 25 - 3 - That's Why I Sing In A Honky Tonk - Liberty 55615

1964 - 41 - - Big City Ways - Liberty 55615

1964 - 41 - Blue Smoke - Liberty 55699

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 44

Edwin Bruce - Sweet Woman (Sun 292)

Eighteen year old local memphis boy Edwin Bruce walked into the Sun Studio on 26th January 1958 and gave a commanding performance that belied his tender age. Sounding like a veteran of the rockabilly circuit he impressed Sam Phillips enough to get a release, no mean feat in 1958 when most sessions led to can-fillers. It was a typical Sun rocker with Billy Lee Riley on guitar, Stan Kesler on bass, Jimmy Wilson on piano and Jimmy Van Eaton doing overtime on the cymbol. Unlike some Sun rockers the vocals were rasping and manic, but a calm and laid back - more Carl Mann than Ray Harris. The interplay between the guitars of Bruce and Billy Lee is the songs driving force. He never made it to rock 'n' roll stardom but the ensuing decades were more rewarding once he swapped the pompadour for a cowboy hat. It's hard to believe that the vocalist on his country classics like Diane was the same guy who turned up his collar for Sweet Woman and Rock Boppin' Baby. Then again, the photo of him with his quiff and rock 'n' roll pose is a long way from the weathered cowboy photos with his moustache and stetson. Whatever, his voice is great in either vein and I love his country stuff as well as is all too few rockers.

Recommended listening: Rock Boppin' Baby, Diane, The Last Cowby Song, Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grown Up To Be Cowboys and the great Waylonesque Girls, Women and Ladies.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Billy Fury - Classics & Collectibles (Universal 9849226 (2CD))

Tracklisting: - CD 1 - 1. Halfway To Paradise 2. Cross My Heart 3. I'd Never Find Another You 4. King For Tonight 5. You're Having The Last Dance With Me 6. Turn My Back On You 7. Maybe Tomorrow 8. Wondrous Place 9. Like I've Never Been Gone 10. Baby Come On Stereo [live] 11. Do You Really Love Me Too 12. I'm Lost Without You 13. Letter Full Of Tears 14. Turn Your Lamp Down Low 15. In Thoughts Of You 16. What Am I Living For 17. Somebody Else's Girl 18. Jealousy 19. Push Push 20. Last Night Was Made For Love 21. Nothin' Shakin' (But The Leaves On The Trees) 22. Thousand Stars 23. It's Only Make Believe 24. Hard Times (No One Knows Better Than I) 25. Once Upon A Dream 26. This Diamond Ring 27. I Will 28. Million Miles From Nowhere 29. Run To My Lovin' Arms 30. You're Swell 31. Forget Him

CD 2 - 1. Break Up 2. Nothin' Shakin' (But The Leaves On The Trees) [alternate take] 3. Hippy Hippy Shake 4. Glad All Over 5. I Can Feel It 6. You Got Me Dizzy 7. Saved 8. You Better Believe It Baby 9. She's So Far Out She's In 10. Straight To Your Arms 11. Away From You 12. Am I Blue 13. That's Enough 14. Kansas City 15. From The Bottom Of My Heart 16. I'll Be So Glad (When Your Heart Is Mine) 17. Lovesick Blues 18. Keep Away 19. What Did I Do 20. Cheat With Love 21. I Can't Help Loving You 22. Candy Kisses 23. I'm Hurting All Over 24. Nobody's Child 25. Wedding Bells 26. Stick Around 27. Time Has Come 28. Let's Paint The Town 29. Begin The Beguine 30. I'll Never Fall In Love Again [alternate take] 31. I Will Always Be With You

The first thing to mention here is the stunning cover shot and the colour photo on the back. Billy Fury was a different class to his fellow Brits and it’s great to see him getting recognition with releases such as this. Whether it’s a compulsory purchase for Joe Public I’m not sure but for Fury pervs it’s an essential item. It might not the full quota of his hits like the comprehensive 40th Anniversary Anthology from a few years ago, but it does have some well chosen rarities and a handful of previously un-issued numbers.

Running at a generous 62 tracks the collection doesn’t run chronically which is a nice change. Collette, Margo and That’s Love are notable omissions from the early days but most fans will have them countless times over anyway. The first CD pretty much runs through the hits but a review of them is a bit pointless so I’ll concentrate on the lesser known gems. A Million Miles From Nowhere is one of those great vocals from Billy where he sounds like he’s either eating a sweet or his tongue is too big for his mouth, I love it. The song is okay without being any great shakes but Billy shows what a great singer he was.

The second CD starts with the unheard cover of Charlie Rich’s Break Up which bangs along nicely with Billy singing in 58 mode battling against an organist in 1963 May fair mode. Billy just about wins with a bit of help from the enthusiastic drummer and guitarist. Next up are half a dozen 60’s beat numbers which will need no introduction. I Can Feel It is a good 60’s rocker with an intro that felt like Elvis’ Flaming Star on speed. You Better Believe It Baby has a Motown feel and shows how effortlessly Billy could adapt to all forms of American music. The previously unreleased Straight To Your Arms is very of it’s time and despite some fine vocals from Billy, I'll Be So Glad (When Your Heart Is Mine) is just to jazzy for me. I love the bouncy, uptempo version of Lovesick Blues that even ol’ Hank would have approved of.

Keep Away isn’t a great song but Billy and the guitarist are good enough to save the day. Cheat With Love is a pretty good happy-go-lucky country number. The alternate take of I'll Never Fall In Love Again is virtually the same as the issued version that we know and love so much. So, all told, this is a mighty fine release that will appeal to fans and could find a broader audience with the general public who will identify track titles like Halfway To Paradise and be tempted.

Billy, you sum it all up for me yourself when you sing, “I think you’re swell”.

Imelda May - ready for take off

There's been a lot of talk lately about the potential crossover success for Imelda May. She has signed with Universal Records who have re-released her Love Tattoo and the single Johnny Got A Boom Boom is getting airplay on the national BBC Radio station. Things took an turn last year after she appeared on Jools Holland TV show and she's since then she's done Radio 2 sessions for Holland, Johnnie Walker and Paul Jones. Jeff Beck has asked Imelda and her band (which includes her husband and rockabilly singer Darrel Higham) to support him on his upcoming tour, which will include a date at London`s Royal Albert Hall.

It's been three decades since someone from the rockabilly scene made any impression on the charts, so it would be a great boost to the scene if Imelda can break that duck. I'm not sure just how big she can make it though, as I don't think there's a video or anything to get ther to the attention of the younger, MTV type of listener. Whatever she achieves, it's great news for her and Darrel. All the best, the whole rockin' scene is behind you.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 43

Ronnie Dawson - Party Town (No Hit Records)

It seems hard to believe that there was a life before Ronny Dawson, but it's true. I don't remember being aware of him until the release of the ridiculously brilliant album on No Hit Records which gave us all his early boppers from Do Do Do to Jump And Run. Maybe his songs had come out on compilations but if so they'd never registered with me. As great as those 50's songs were, it was only the beginning. I'm struggling to think of any other artist who came out of that era but produced their premier body of work 40 years later. He sort of reinvented himself and blew away the crowds with some propane fuelled rockabilly that simply scorched like no-one else on the scene. Always employing the best musicians from Lisa Pankratz to Tjarko Jeen his live shows were a sweaty mesmeric affair that were virtually impossible to follow. The best thing was, he made albums in the 90's which were just as good as the live shows, original songs that became as legendary as the man. Part Town is one such number, written by Ronnie and former Planet Rocker Eddie Angel for the sublime Just Rockin' & Rollin' album that Ronnie produced with Liam Watson of Toe Rag Studios and Barney Koumis, owner of the No Hit. This is big sound rockabilly with Angel on lead guitar supported by Ronnie and Tjarko, Naokazu Tone on bass and Bruce Brand on drums. As on most of the album the sound is further enhanced with the vamping of horn-men Alex Bland and Ned Bennett.

Recommended listening: From the early days there's Rockin' Bones, Who's Been Here, Do Do Do and Action Packed to start with. From the second coming there's pretty much anything on the Just Rockin' & Rollin' and Monkey Beat albums including the title songs, Mexigo, Roadhouse Rock, a great interpretation of Ghost Riders In The Sky and my favourite, Veronica.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Joe Leonard Tribute to Buck Griffin

I've just had an email from Lin/Kliff record owner Joe Leonard paying tribute to the great Buck Griffin. It reads as follows.

"Buck died February 14 in a hospital in Sayre, Oklahoma from heart failure and emphysema which he had suffered for several years. He had been living in Erick, Oklahoma and burial services were held today, February 17, at a cemetery there. He is survived by two daughters, Linda of Hutchison, Kansas and Rita of Las Vegas, Nevada. I was saddened to hear about his death, (he was 86), but I knew he had suffered a lot in recent years. He was among the first country singers I signed to LIN records in the early 1950's and we worked together for many years thereafter. As a singer and songwriter I placed him the same league as Hank Williams and when I placed his contract with MGM records I anticipated that they would groom him to be Hank's successor. The MGM releases received excellent reviews and press support but we found that their radio station promotion was very poor. As a result, they lost a chance to have a truly great star and hitmaker. Thousands of his fans, however, never gave up and he will always be remembered as a country legend." Joe Leonard.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 42

Johnny Cash - The Ways Of A Woman In Love (Sun 302)
It's fifty years since the parting of the ways between the once wonderful marriage of Johnny Cash and Sun Records. With his association with the label going south quicker than the big river than runs under the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge, Sam Phillips tried to milk the cow a couple more times. Getting all he could in the can for the dry spells ahead, Sam held two July sessions with Johnny, Luther and Marshall and 706 regulars Billy Lee Riley, Jimmy Van Eaton and Jimmy Wilson (replaced by Charlie Rich for the second session). These songs had a lot more meat on the bone than the Cry Cry Cry days of three short years earlier. The Gene Lowery Singers were also used to give a commercial edge that was never on the original agenda. A lot of the elements that made their name are still there, from Luther's simple guitar intro to JC's wonderful way with words, it's just you now have hoo's and ah's and a piano solo. A great going-away present to Sam, that being the generous man he was, he shared with us all.
Recommended listening: Yeah, like need telling!

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 41

Smokestack Lightnin' - Gentle On My Mind (EMI Records)

Current band members Bernie Batke (Vocals & Bass), Michael Kargel (Drums), Frieder Graef (Guitars & Vocals), Dirk Hess (Guitars), Oliver Stangl (Pedal Steel & Strings) formed their apprenticeships in bands like The Blue Jays And The Brewsters before getting together in 1997. Smokestack Lightnin' are one hell of a hot rockin' band, blending hard slap-based rockabilly with a retro-country twang. They have a sound all of their own but if you had to compare them with anyone I would say it was the Road Hammers.

Their Soulbeat (2000) and Homecooking (2005) albums are great and paved the way for a bit of fame courtesy of EMI and their cover of the Unknown Stuntman being used on a Honda TV commercial. I don't know if this makes sense to anyone but the heavily echoed vocals and the relentless stompin' boogie compares to the early stuff John lee Hooker did for Modern. I've always loved the song Gentle On My Mind, particularly Elvis' version, and it's a perfect vehicle for Smokestack Lightnin's jangling guitars and driving rhythm.

Recommended downloads: 2007's Modern Twang was a sort of Best of compilation and is well worth buying, otherwise I'd go for The Unknown Stuntman, Soulbeat, Guns n Roses' Paradise City, a rockin' Real Gone Daddy, JC's Ring of Fire and Girl On The Billboard with Paul Ansell.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Buck Griffin - RIP

One of the first articles I ever wrote was about rockabilly/honky tonk singer Buck Griffin, which in turn led me to my proud association with Joe Leonard. Griffin was a great artist who unfortunately struck out before making the major leagues, despite going to bat for Lin, MGM and Holiday Inn between 1954 and 1962. He tried his hand at both country and the newly emerging rockabilly style but was destined to remain relatively unknown.

Born Albert C. Griffin in Corsicana, Texas on 23rd February 1923, his formative years were spent moving throughout Oklahoma and Kansas. Whilst still in his teens, A.C. as he was known, formed and fronted a country band with three schoolmates. After leaving school and holding down jobs on pipelines and oil fields, he started to play the local honky tonks and eventually got a gig on radio station WKY.

Throughout the forties and fifties radio had bred many stars who once they were groomed and polished, moved on to better things, leaving the station manager to find a replacement. WKY probably had this in mind when they copyrighted the name Chuck Wyman and had our Mr Griffin use it for all his broadcasts. Once he left the station, singers like Paul Brawner and Pronger Suggs took over the role and the sponsors continued backing the shows. The public must surely have noticed whenever a new Chuck arrived, but after a hard days toil in the cotton fields or rounding up cattle, I don't suppose they cared.

Local entrepreneur Joe Leonard Jr. who owned radio station KGAF in Gainesville, Texas had started his own publishing company and had released four singles on his fledgling Lin label. Leonard liked what he heard in Griffin and in early '54 took him to Dallas where they cut two Griffin originals at the WFAA Studio. It Don't Make No Never Mind featured both horn and piano solo's but suffered from a pedestrian pace. The jazzier western swing cut Meadowlark Boogie was catchier but when they were released as Lin 1005 they went nowhere. Unperturbed by the lack of success they returned to the studio on 17 September 1954 to cut four more slabs of hillbilly, again all written by Griffen. Cut at the Jim Beck Studio in Dallas, two singles were issued with Lin 1007 coupling the slow Rollin' Tears and the lively One Day After Payday with it's great backing (including Sonny James on fiddle), and clever lyrics. Lin 1008 again suffered the same fate despite two more Hank-like numbers.

Thinking that perhaps Buck's songs weren't commercial enough, Leonard chose to cut the next session using others writers, but then strangely used two gospel styled tracks. It proved fruitful in that the Woodrow Patty, writer of one of the cuts, Next In Line, would write such rockabilly classics as She's A Going Jessie, Old Deacon Jones and the classic Rockin' Rollin' Stone all recorded by Leonard artists.

When they returned to Jim Beck's studio a couple of months later they cut the brilliant country bopper, Let's Elope Baby, a track which gained greater recognition via Janis Martin's cover for RCA. It's thought that the backing band for the session provided by Bill Wimberley comprised of several ex-Texas Playboys including Johnnie Gimble on fiddle. The results are thus very polished and were Buck's best efforts to date. Bawlin' And Squallin' the flip of Elope was another swinger, as was the marching Go-Stop-Go another penned by Patty and Cochise was out of the Kaw Liga. Little Dan was very commercial with driving fiddle and great, playful vocals and could have been a contender if luck had played more of a part in his career. The flip Neither Do I was another dip into the Hank Williams book of songwriting.

Despite poor sales Buck received the boost of Hank's label MGM offering to release his records. Obviously keen to produce the goods and get his career going in the right direction, Buck must have anticipated great things when he travelled to the Clifford Herring Studio in Fort Worth, Texas on 9th May '56 with Leonard and regular guitarist Merl Shelton. All his recordings had shown a versatility but this session really offered a new sound with the classic Stutterin' Papa kicking off the proceedings. This rural rockabilly with great guitar throughout had lyrics which kids could actually relate to, someone which most of his records failed to have. Issued as MGM K 12284, the top side Watchin' The 7:10 Roll By featured high lonesome wails and a good country boogie guitar. It looked good for the guys as the single picked up a very encouraging review in the June 30 issue of Billboard who awarded Watchin' The 7:10 Roll By, 82/100 in their Commercial Potential Ratings. Reviewed in the New C&W Records section, they enthused "Griffin uncorks a wonderfully effective train-rhythm blues job. The rhythmic figure repeats for solid spin and sales potentialÖ.New on the label, the performer is impressive and the country band backing swings."

The same gang returned to the session on July 6th, cutting four more Griffin originals. Bow My Back and Old Bee Tree were couple as MGM K 12439 but again no chart action was forthcoming. Both were strong hillbilly songs, aimed at the country market with Bow My Back being particularly clever. For the third and final single on MGM proper, a song from each of the Fort Worth session's was chosen. The top side Jessie Lee is now rightly considered a classic with groups copying it to this day. Backed with You'll Never Come Back the coupling was reviewed in the 23 December 1957 issue of Billboard who described it thus "Country blues, slow in tempo. Griffin has a very authentic feel for the genre, and plenty of individuality in his vocal. Solid wax, and merits real exposure." They also featured it in their "This Week's Best Buys (Pop)" section where they referred to him as "a solid new.

The backing of national radio still eluded him and despite the favourable review in Billboard and his appearances on the Big D Jamboree in Dallas, the sales were only sufficient for MGM to issue his next single on their Metro subsidiary. Cut in January 58, both The Party and Every Night were poppier than anything previously attempted with backing vocals and sounding a bit like Gene Vincent. It should have come as no surprise when this also bombed and probably getting disillusioned, Buck didn't return to the studio until the turn of the new decade when he returned to Lin label. The Nashville sound was evident on First Man To Stand On The Moon and Twenty Six Steps. Another two years passed before Joe Leonard produced a single which came out on the Holiday Inn label, formed by hotelier Kemmons Wilson and god, Sam Phillips. Pretty Lou was a really neat sax led rocker with Girl In 1209 being an attractive slowy. It's a shame that Sam Phillips only fits in this story as an aside because the mouth waters at the thought of what he could have achieved with Buck Griffin. That voice was made to be backed by Roland Janes, Billy Lee Riley et all.

Since those days Buck has sold bibles, started his own Rotary label, hosted a Kansas based NBC TV show and settled in Erick, Oklahoma.In 2000 the love of his life, Mildred Griffin, his wife for 58 yrs pasted away at the age of 76. Buck himself passed away this week - I've only just heard so I don't even know what he died from. Anyway, thanks for the music Buck, and rest in peace.

Recommended listening: Bear Family's brilliant Let's Elope Baby (BCD 15811).

Buck Griffin Discography

Lin1005 - It Don't Make No Never Mind / Meadowlark Boogie

Lin 1007 - Rollin' Tears / One Day After Payday

Lin1008 - Going Home All Alone / Lookin' For The Green

Lin1014 - Next To Mine / Lord Give Me Strength

Lin 1015 - Let's Elope Baby / Bawlin' And Squallin'

Lin 1016 - Go-Stop-Go / Cochise

Lin 1018 - Little Dan / Neither Do I

MGM K 12284 - Stutterin' Papa / Watchin' The 7:10 Roll By

MGM K 12439 - Old Bee Tree / Bow My Back

MGM K 12597 - Jessie Lee - You'll Never Come Back

Metro K 20007 - Every Night - The Party

Lin 5030 - First Man To Step On The Moon / Twenty Six Steps

Holiday Inn 109 - Pretty Lou / Girl In 1209

Rotary 459 - Too Many Honkytonks / Seven Lonely Rooms

Rotary 460 - Flashing Lights Wine And Me / I Can't Keep My Wheels On The Ground

Rotary 461 - One Day After Payday / No More Fun

Rotary 462 - Green River Towns / Greener Pastures

Foundation 415 - Viet Nam / Drinkin' With The Blues

Monday, 16 February 2009

Dion – Heroes – Giants of Early Rock Guitar

Tracklist: Summertime Blues, Come On, Let's Go, Rave On, Believe What You Say, Bye Bye Love, Be-Bop-A-Lula, Runaway, Jailhouse Rock, I Walk The Line, Blue Suede Shoes, Who Do You Love, Sweet Little Rock and Roller, Dream Baby, Shake, Rattle and Roll, The Wanderer

Dion - vocals, guitar
Michael Harvey - drum, percussion
Rick Krive - keyboard
Bob Guertin - vocals, bass instrument
John Michalak - saxophone
Robert Richardson - acoustic guitar, electric guitar
Tony Lavender - background vocals

Heroes is a 2 disc set that sees Dion pay tribute to the early days of rock ‘n’ roll with a 15 track CD and a DVD in which he talks enthusiastically about rocks first pioneers. As he states in the booklet, this is a nod not just to the stars but to the musicians behind them. The likes of James Burton, Luther Perkins and Scotty Moore.

Produced by Dion and Robert Guertin, the duo have managed, in the most part, to give these old standards a freshness that makes this release worthwhile. Who needs another version of Shake Rattle And Roll? "The band and I set out to capture the original intent, essence and passion of these first generation rockers," explains Dion. "While we stayed true to the arrangements, approach and sounds, we let it rip - we didn't copy the solos or simply take a snapshot of the songs. I want to give people a glimpse of who Cliff Gallup was”.

I know this release has garnered universal acclaim from fans and critics alike. I don’t want to sound like a killjoy but it doesn’t all come out peaches and cream for me. I really enjoyed his cover of Ritchie Valens’ Come On Let’s Go, complete with the La Bamba ending. Others that I thought really worked well were Del Shannon’s Runaway, Buddy’s Rave On and his reworking of The Wanderer.

On the downside, I thought Jailhouse Rock and Shake, Rattle and Roll were poor, and Sweet Little Rock and Roller was abysmal. This was virtually karaoke.

Highlight of the album for me was JC’s I Walk The Line where the band and Dion sound great. It had me wondering what Johnny would have sounded like doing The Wanderer. Now that Dion has paid tribute to the rockers, I hope he turns his attention next to the doo-wop groups that inspired him in the early days. This would be the perfect time to reunite with the Belmonts again. To promote that one, what about a few shows in the UK?

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 40

John D Loudermilk -Blue Train (On A Heartbreak Track) RCA 47-8308
Never one of your run-of-the-mill artists, John D. Loudermilk was one of the most prolific and creative songwriters in country music history. The son of white collar, illiterate parents he was encouraged by them to pursue his education, but music was never far from his mind. He was a local radio attraction throughout his school years, eventually being heard on the radio performing his own composition A Rose And A Baby Ruth, which wound up with George Hamilton IV, giving him a number one record. JD landed a deal with Colonial Records and his first single for them, Sittin' In The Balcony got covered by Eddie Cochran who took it into the charts. Over the years, further releases followed on Colonial, Dot, Columbia and RCA but it was as a writer that he achieved his biggest successes, among them Talk Back Trembling Lips, Waterloo, Tobacco Road and Ebony Eyes. As a singer, JD has an engaging, easy-on-the-ear sound that was prefect for his country/rock 'òn' roll songs.

Blue Train was cut at the RCA Studios in Nashville on 17th April 1961 (ironically, on the first anniversary of Eddie Cochran's death) under the expert production and engineering of Chet Atkins and Bill Porter respectively. Charlie McCoy's train whistle harmonica commences proceedings before the band kick in with a tight acoustic rhythm. Future Jerry lee Lewis drummer Jimmy Isbell and bass from either Henry Strzelecki or Roy Huskey maintain the train rhythm. The backing vocals from Anita Kerr, Norro Wilson and the usual crew aid a fine element to the song, and the whole thing is a blast. As with virtually everything he released it failed to register on the charts but it did see an extended shelf-life thanks to be part of the excellent Language Of Love album late in '61. Even if the folks back home weren't excited enough to buy the single in droves, the South Africans made it a hit thanks to it being linked to the famed railroad line between Johannesburg and Capetown, die Blou Trein (Blue Train). So why didn't the people of Wales make Railroad Bills' Aberystwyth Sprinter a hit?
Recommended downloads: Angela Jones, Jimmie's Song, Th' Wife, the Big O sounding Language of Love and the Jack Scott style ballad What Would You Take For Me.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 39

The Velaires -Ubangi Stomp (Jamie)
I'm not really much of a fan of garage rock 'n' roll with most early 60's covers of rock classics leaving me cold, but I do like this. The band started in Sioux City as the Screamers but soon changed it to the Flairs. This name didn't last long either due to the commoness of it and so following a goig at the legendary Val Air Ballroom in Des Moines they became the Velaires. The group consisted of Dan Matousek on rhythm guitar, Bob Dawdy on lead guitar, Jerry DeMers on bass, and Don Bourret on drums. Their manager and booking agent was Dan's older brother, Dick Matousek. Following a brief spell on Palms Records they were signed to Jamie Records in 1961 and hit the charts with a fine cover of Chuck Berry's immortal Roll Over Beethoven. Further releases appeared over the years on Mercury, Palms, Ramco and Brent. The original members parted in 1963, after which the band became known as Danny & The Velaires. They were more than just a cover band but from what I've heard, I think their covers are better than their originals. Ubangi Stomp being perhaps the finest example. It kicks off with a ringing guitar that reminds me of Johnny Otis' Castin' My Spell. The drumming is suffienciently jungly to back up the lyrics and the song has a great energy. I'm not sure whether Warren Smith ever heard and if so what he though about it, but I'm sure Charles Underwood was happy enough.
Recommended downloads: Sticks And Stones and Roll Over Beethoven.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Bob Gallion

Born: , 22 April 1931, Ashland, Kentucky (Some sources say 1929)

Died: 20 August 1999, Wood, West Virginia.

The first time I heard of Bob Gallion was My Square Dancin' Mama (She's Done Learned To Rock 'n' Roll) and Baby, Love Me on an MGM rockabilly album. His vocals on them are pure country and despite the excitement of the backing, it was pretty much his only stab at rock 'n' roll. His voice is country, fair and square, and though the songs sometimes veered slightly (very slightly) to the poppy sound, his voice never did. He is an excellent and much undervalued singer.

Bob Gallion took up the guitar at an early age whilst growing up in Columbus, Ohio and had turned pro by his 20th birthday. He worked local gigs and radio programmes before joining Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper's Clinch Mountain Clan on Wheeling's WWVA Jamboree. In 1951 he formed his own band, the Country Boys and stayed on the Jamboree until '56 when he became a regular performer on the Louisiana Hayride.

Next thing he knew he was signed to MGM and penned a songwriting contract with Acuff-Rose. He cut about 20 tracks in six sessions between February 1956 and Feb 1959. The quality was high but the record sales unfortunately did them little justice. There were small hits in That's What I Tell My Heart (a co-write with Luke McDaniel that should have been massive) and You Take The Tables And I'll Take The Chairs, but there were others that should have done much better. Hey Mr Bartender, Trademark On What I've Found and You've Gotta Have A Heartache (To Know How To Love) were especially strong.

When his MGM contract expired, he moved to Hickory and immediately began to register hits. Over the next couple of years he scored with Loving You, One Way Street and Wall To Wall Love, a top 5 country hit penned by June and Helen Carter. He left Hickory in 1968 and joined United Artists, as well as returning to the Wheeling Jamboree where he stayed for nigh on twenty years.

Recommended lsitening: Out Of A Honky Tonk (Bear Family BCD 16439)

Don Gibson - Don Rocks (Bear Family BCD 16991)

Don Gibson was an amazing songwriter who had a string of hits for RCA in the late 50’s and early 60’s. He bridged the gap between country and rock ‘n’ roll and although he sat with one and a half of his ass cheeks on the hillbilly side, he still had a flair for rockabilly. By no stretch of the imagination can he be called a rockabilly singer but there was a definite edge to his music. Not dissimilar to Roy Orbison, he excelled at taking the Nashville Sound outside the Music City city limits. It was too pop to be Charlie Feathers but it was also too rockin’ to put him on Bill Monroe’s Christmas card list.

Bear Family have served Don well over the years with the box-set treatment and the fabulous single CD, A Legend In My Time. As befits the title, and the series, this new one concentrates on the up-tempo sides and it’s stunning, from the music in the grooves to the packaging and sound quality. It covers the RCA years from 1957 to 1967 but doesn’t run chronologically, something that helps the CD run so smoothly.

The CD kicks of in cracking style with a trio of corkers. Sweet Sweet Girl is so beloved by us rockers thanks to Warren Smith’s great version, but Don’s is equally great. I’m sure everyone here is familiar with the big guns like Oh Lonesome Me, Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles and Blue Blue Day.

It shows the quality of the material he was producing in his prime for 1961’s I Sat Back And Let It Happen go unreleased for over twenty years. Where do you stop with the superlatives? Listen to Lonesome Number One – beautiful picking fromm Grady Martin, and great interplay with Cramer and the Jordannaires.

Sea of Heartbreak is one of those perfect pop songs with Floyd Cramer tinkling away as the Nashville A Team lay down a bouncy support for Don’s wonderful vocals. From April ’61, I just wish Bob Moore or one of those boys had persuaded Elvis to have a crack at it - you just know it would have been a killer, it was tailor made for the early 60’s Elvis treatment.

Of the covers, I thought his cover of Brook Benton’s Hurtin’ Inside was spot on and the gospel workout on Martha Carson’s Satisfied also works well. Hank Snow’s Movin’ On is slightly spoilt by the backing singers but the chicken picking guitar just about saves the day. Campdown Races is another that is perhaps not up to the standard of the rest. I love the funky arrangement of What’s The Reason I’m Not Pleasing You.

Basically, I could go on raving about this release but I’m sure you get my drift already. This is another stunning release from the king of the reissue market. Buy this with complete confidence, its another to Bear Family release that’ll you’ll need to keep close to the CD changer.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 38

Go-Katz -Walkin' Talkin' Johnny Cash Blues (Raucous Records RAUCD215)
Classic neo-rockabilly quartet The Go-Katz are the brainchild of Raucous Records owner Howard Raucous who formed the band back in 1986. With himself on lead vocals the earliest line-up was a five piece with Giles " Beaker" Brett and Andy Young on guitars, Mark "Moff" Moffat on bass and Johnny "Wolf" Basford on drums. They started off in Loughborough, England, a town more famous for it's sports college than it's rockabilly bands. As a vehicle for their first EP Howard launched Raucous Records and the rest as they say is history. Walkin' Talkin' Johnny Cash Blues is taken from their Maniac EP which features a demo from their first session together with two great covers of Johnny Powers' Long Blond Hair and the Meteors' Maniac. WTJCB is about taking speed, something the drummer and guitarist must have done before this take. It's breathless stuff and should appeal to rockabillies and psychos alike. If you don't want to jump around to this you better get the doctor, coz you're coming down with something.
Recommended downloads: Maniac, Long Blond Hair and the gloriously frantic Real Gone Demented Hillbilly Cat, which does pretty much what the title suggests.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 37

Curtis Gordon -Please Baby Please (Mercury 183)
Written in vain for Fats Domino, Please Baby Please sees honky-tonk rocker Curtis Gordon go as close to the blues as he ever went. Cut at the Bradley studios in Nashville in October 1957 it was to be his last Mercury session. Backed by the legendary A-Team the song gives Floyd Cramer plenty of scope to flex the fingers and an all too brief cameo from Sugarfoot Garland. Never a hit artist, CG's songs didn't really gain much attention until the rockabilly revival with tracks like Draggin' and Mobile, Alabama cropping up on compilations. As neat as those songs are, it's the almost swamp-pop blues of Please Baby Please that's pleasures me most. It hit's the spot ma'am.
Recommended downloads: Play The Music Louder, Cry Cry, I Wouldn't (from the same Oct 57 session) and So Tired of Crying which was gloriously covered by the much-missed Rimshots.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Lloyd Price – Lloyd Rocks!

Lloyd Price – Lloyd Rocks! (Bear Family BCD 16999)
1. Where You At 2. Country Boy Rock 3. Rock 'n' Roll Dance 4. Walkin' The Track 5. Lawdy Miss Clawdy 6. Why 7. I'm Glad, Glad 8. Baby Please Come Home 9. Tell Me, Pretty Baby 10. Carry Me Home 11. Woe Ho Ho 12. Heavy Dreams 13. The Chicken And The Bop 14. Hello Little Girl 15. Georgianna 16. How Many Times 17. Such A Mess 18. Down By The River 19. Gonna Let You Come Back Home 20. Stagger Lee 21. You Need Love 22. Where Were You On Our Wedding Day 23. Just Because 24. Personality 25. Have You Ever Had The Blues 26. I'm Gonna Get Married 27. Wont'cha Come Home 28. Lady Luck 29. Question 30. Mailman Blues 31. Ain't That Just Like A Woman 32. The Hoochie Coochie Coo 33. Lawdy Miss Clawdy 34. Baby Please Come Home (LP Version)

Bear Family’s Rocks series is an amazing series that until now has focussed on the white end of rock ‘n’ roll. But with this release and one from the Cadillacs and Shirley & Lee, they have started to dip into the black end of the market. I’ve got the two Ace CDs from a decade ago and The Exciting Lloyd Price on MCA, but good as they are, they’re totally blown into the water by Lloyd Rocks. As usual with Bear Family the packaging is awesome (51 page booklet no less!), but it’s the choice of tracks by Bill Millar that really sets this one apart.

The CD spans from 1952 to 1961 and runs through the pick of his up-tempo material for Specialty, KRC, and ABC-Paramount. The Specialty tracks from ’52 show just how ahead of the game New Orleans was when it came to rocking music. Everyone reading this must know what a great number Lawdy Miss Clawdy is, prototype rock ‘n’ roll from the oh-so-wonderfully familiar piano intro to Herb Hardesty almost stealing the show on sax. Other Specialty highlights Country Boy Rock, Rock 'n' Roll Dance, Baby Please Come Home and Walkin' The Track.

Great as the music was, Lloyd was getting left behind when it came to New Orleans acts hitting the charts. In a move that was a massive gamble at the time, Price left Specialty and started his own label, KRC. Just Because is a beauty that was leased to ABC-Paramount and became a hit despite competition from Lloyd’s valet and cousin Larry Williams, who covered it and even claimed writer credit. Another KRC track to really hit the spot is The Chicken And The Bop, Georgianna (a cross between Smiley’s Tee Na Na and his own Lawdy Miss Clawdy) and Such A Mess.

By September ’58 Lloyd was with ABC fulltime and it jump-started his career with a handful of hits like Where Were You On Our Wedding Day and Personality. There’s the magical intro to Stagger Lee “the might was clear and the moon was yellow, and the leaves came tumbling down” – great stuff. Not everyone’s cup-of-tea, the ABC sides may have lost some of the r’n’b drive for a polished line-up including some slightly square backing vocals. I love them though - they’re great songs, with enough of Lloyd’s roots showing through to keep them on the rocking side of pop. Just listen to I’m Gonna Get Married, it might smack of pop music, but there’s also a quality to them that could only come from an artist steeped in the traditions of New Orleans.

This is a must have item that maintains the high quality of the Rocks series and is one of the best CDs you’re likely to buy this year. A brilliant release.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 36

The Starliters -Tom the Boogie Woogie Tom Cat (Tail Records)
From Milan, Italy, The Starliters are a hot rockabilly band that have now been on the scene for over a decade. They sound like Jack Baymoore with a slightly bigger nod in the direction of hillbilly. Over the years they've recorded for Rockhouse, Favourite, On the Hill and Tail Records and have provided the backing for American artists, Robert Gordon, Marvin Rainwater and Marti Brom during their tours of Europe. I think they've now signed to El Toro and look forward to their forthcoming album. The only album I've got is the Tail Records effort, Pickin' Up Speed and it's a corker. Recorded at Tails studio in Sweden in 1999 the sound is high quality thanks to the stellar engineering of Lars Strandhiem. Tom the Boogie Woogie Tom Cat is, as Big Sandy might describe it, "hi-billy" music, a rockin' hillbilly boogie which hot steel and electric licks together with a hot piano solo from Boppin' Steve. Max Ammons' vocals are excellent, controlled and exciting at the same time.
Recommended listening: Super Trucker, Rocking & Knocking and Gonna Move In.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Memphis Cats on youTube

Charlie Feathers - That Certain Female
Some crazy guy called Mike miming in the car to this Charlie Feathers anthem. Manic.

Sonny Burgess - We Wanna Boogie
Sonny Burgess & fellow pianist Kern Kennedy playin at High Rockabilly 2005 (Spain).

Billy Lee Riley - Pearly Lee - 20.10.07 Roermond NL
BILLY LEE RILEY with THE BELLHOPS (NL)!! front row footage

Carl Perkins- Blue Suede Shoes 1956
Prime time CP. hot version from the quartet that was faster thant eh single.

Eddie Bond - Slippin´In in Green Bay 2007.
Sadly too short a clip but the bright suit was enough to get me going.

Junior Thompson - Raw Deal on 78RPM
A milestone in rock history! 78rpm Memphis Rockabilly 1956! A very scarce record that definiates the rockabilly sound that came out from the small labels in the southern US in mid 50'swhat a great site to see this 78 spinning round as the legendary song balsts out of the speakers. Just wish it was my 78!

Hayden Thompson - Love My Baby
Original Sun Rockabilly Star at The Rhythm Riot 2006

Jack Earls & the Ragtime Wranglers - Take me to That Place
Live at the Rockabilly Rave Camber UK, October 2004.

Barbra Pittman - I'm getting better all the time
Ms Pittman at the Rave. This was the first time I saw this lady and unfortunately the last. At times she's excellent. That voice is still there wanting to rock! You also see a tiredness (is that the right word) in her voice. I'm glad I filmed this. Miss Mary Ann and Lynette Morgan look more than happy to supply backing vocals... great rocking version, and probably the first handclapping solo I've ever enjoyed.

Carl Mann - Mona Lisa/I´m Comin´ Home
Carl Mann rocking it up at Screaming Fest Saturday the 9th of June 2007.

Narvel Felts - My Babe - Green Bay 2005
That's Ashley Kingman from the Fly-Rite Boys on lead guitar.

Johnny Burnette - Hound Dog
From 1956 this is prime time Memphis rockabilly. no wonder the flying saucers were scared to land.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 35

Wayne Raney - Heads Or Tails, I Win (King 1058)
Wayne Raney and the Delmore Brothers were as close as country music ever got to the blues. From the harmonica and the guitar boogie lines to the simple lyric structure, their work for King Records of Cincinnati could have been mistaken for "race records’" if it wasn't for the pure hillbilly vocals. From an October 21st 1951 session the musicians on Heads Or Tails, I Win are to northern hillbilly what Jimmy Van Eaton, Roland Janes and Billy Lee Riley were to southern rockabilly. Raney is joined on twin harmonica by Lonnie Glosson with Alton and Rabon Delmore picking the geetars. Al Myers also plays a lick and the bass comes courtesy of the prolific Louis Innes. Raney's vocals are as playful as the lyrics on what is a great, but sadly overlooked slab of bautiful mid-tempo hillbilly boogie.
Recommended downloads: Anything on the Ace CD "That Real Hot Boogie Boy’" or the Fan records bootleg from 2001. The bootleg is hard to find but amazingly the Ace one doesn't have Heads Or Tails, I Win.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 34

Railroad Bill and the Boxcar Stompers - Aberystwyth Sprinter
Railroad Bill and the Boxcar Stompers are legends of the Aberystwyth pub scene. They played all the bars in town during the mid to late 80's when they were students here. It used to be great to be able to pop out for a few beers and listen to some live skiffle. With the usual array of skiffle instruments, washboard, tea chest bass, guitar and mandolin they sounded rough and loose, just like skiffle should. Highlights of the live show used to be Jesse James and Mama Don't Allow, which allowed everyone to take a solo for the encouraging crowd. They released a casette during this period, which I've still got somewhere. I can't remember what it was called but I remember the inlay was cheap and cheerful and brown. The star of the album was the self written classic, Aberystwyth Sprinter, a heartfelt tribute to the only train that runs into Aberystwyth - it still is! Known near and far as the Sprinter it was a sprinter in the same sense that Eddie The Eagle was an Olympic ski-jumper. I think they got to perform it on Radio 1 when the Roadshow came to town. It was probably the last skiffle song played on Radio 1. "I don't know the Welsh for piston, I don't know the Welsh for train, but I do know that I would like to come back here again, tourists come in summer, students come in winter, but everybody comes here on the Aberystwyth Sprinter". Classic. The last time I saw them was at a brilliant night at the King's Hotel in Newport, where the line-up also included the Rimshots (no mean skifflers themselves) and skiffle king, Lonnie Donnegan. It seems like Railroad Bill still play the occasional gig, I look forward to them coming back to Aber.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The Reno Brothers - 90 Miles To Reno

The Reno Brothers - 90 Miles To Reno
Tombstone Records, TOMBCD 2086

Tracklisting: Let The Devil Come Out / Rollin' Roadhouse / Johnny Law / 90 Miles / Travellin' On / Still In Love With You / Make It All Right / Rolling Ramblin' Man / I Don't Know / Hotrod Saturday Night / Don't Even Know Your Name / Truckin' Man / You Gave Me A Mountain / White Corn / East Bound & Down

Dutch quartet the Reno Brothers come from Holland and are Rogier Hermans (Lead Vocals, Lead Guitar), Rolf Hartogs (Backing Vocals, Acoustic & Lead Guitar), Eddy Poppes (Double Bass) and Aeilko Van Der Wagen (Drums). I wonder if they were going to call themselves Love Me Tender but changed their mind at the last minute (Elvis joke there!). They formed in 1998 after Hermans and Poppes had served their apprenticeships in rockabilly bands the Red Shots, Get Rhythm and Jimmy and the Bamboozies. Following the release of their debut album, Born To Party, they have undertaken shows across Europe and in the process have gained a reputation as one of the top exponents of country based rockabilly. There seems to be an increase in the number of bands who are going for that rockin'-truckin'-hillbilly sound at the moment, with the Reno Brothers being up there with BossHoss and Smokestack Lightning.

Hermans who wrote half the songs here is a talented guy with a voice that is a dead ringer for Dale Watson - and that's no bad thing. After the two excellent openers, Let The Devil Come Out and Rollin' Roadhouse I actually thought I'd put the wrong CD on, it was so much like DW. Ironically, he sounds less like him on the Watson song Truckin' Man. Jerry Reed's East Bound And Down rocks like the clappers as do their covers of Wayne Hancock's Johnny Law and Alan Jackson's Don't Even Know Your Name. Rolling Ramblin' Man again from the pen of Hermans is given some nice blues harmonica from Andres "Zwiebel" Swiatlowsaki. It's a cracking album full of driving rhythms and enough variety to keep it interesting. Great stuff.

Bo Diddley on youTube

What better way to remember the great man than by checking him out on youTube. He was a very visual artist with his dancing, his prototype guitars and with Duchess grooving away alongside.

Bo Diddley
In glaring technicolour from late 60's I'd guess.

Road Runner
Great 1960 tv black and white clip, great black and white band. Buperb picture quality as well.

Hey Bo Diddley
With a band as big as his flairs, this clip comes from 1985. Just like Bo there's horn a plenty.

Who Do You Love? (with Ron Wood)
Live from Tokyo, 1988. Those Stones boys worshipped the Chess guys as is obvious by the genuine smile on Wood's face.

I'm a Man
Powerful, menacing performance from Rennes, France, 1989. Forget the yera, this is vintage.

Let The Kids Dance
Wow. Fabulous 1965 clip from Hollywood a Go Go, complete with neat intro from show host KHJ Radio's "Boss Jock" Sam Riddle. There's the bonus of plenty of Bo dancing.

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover
Just watch it! Nuff said.

Bo Diddley is Crazy
1996 promotional video for the single from the great A Man AMongst Men album.

Dueling Guitars (with Chuck Berry) Battle of the guitar from Let the Good Times Roll, 1973. I love the part where Bo pretends to run away from Chuck's duckwalk.

The Blues and Elvis - LAST INTERVIEW
You can't look at Bo without letting him remind us that he invented everything. Taken from Electrified: The Story of the Maxwell St Urban Blues.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 33

Hot Boogie Chillun -Chillun Walk
As the bands name suggests there's a strong John Lee Hooker influence here. The hypnotic groove that JLH made his own is given the impetus of a strong rockabilly vocal, clicking bass and some dirty sax. The band came from German and in the late 90' s were the cult band on the rocking scene, with their singles constantly blasting out to throbbing dance floors across Europe. More Roy Gaines than Roy Orbison, Hot Boogie Chillun aren't for the faint hearted. Chillun Walk is a low-down mean stroller that builds to a crescendo of wailing guitars, vocals and a touch of heavily amplified harmonica. A barnstormer.
Recommended downloads: Desperado Love, Dirty Robber and Hey, Girl.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 32

Joe Hill Louis -Boogie In The Park - Modern 20-813 (1950)
One man band Joe Hill Louis was tailor made to work with Sam Phillips who seemed drawn to eccentric people like a moth to a flame. A drummer, harmonica player, guitarist and no mean singer either, Joe Hill had recorded in Sun during July 1950 and returned on 27th November for a legendary session that ranged from the relentless bop of Boogie In the Park to his finest slow blues, Cold Chills. Everything that was ggood about Memphis blues was encapsulated in those two tracks. Apparantly Memphis deejay Dewey Phillips was a massive fan of JHL and was eager to push his records and make a star of him, no doubt having soaked up his imprompto one-man street corner gigs around town. In an interview Sam Phillips did with Martin Hawkins in 2000 he said that Boogie In The Park was written about either Handy Park or the local black baseball arena, Russwood Park, home of the Memphis Red Socks. For sheer hypnotic, unadulterated blues boogie, it was the equal of anything the wonderful John Lee Hooker ever conjured up.
Recommended downloads: I Feel Like A Million, the overdubbed 1953 stomper Western Union Man and a superb cover of the Sonny Boy Williamson classic Eyesight To The Blind.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 31

Jesse Al Tuscan and the Lumberjacks - 88 AM - Tail Records (2000)
Jesse Al Tuscan and the Lumberjacks are a dynamic quartet from Berlin, Germany who recorded for the great Swedish label Tail Records. I'm not sure whether the band are still going because they're website seems to have stopped updating a couple of years ago - hopefully they're still drinking good German beer and ripping the joints apart with their brand of fireball rock 'n' roll. Singer and rhythm guitarist Alexander Arndt has got a great Elvisy style, swooning and swaggering with Martin Herzog playing some tasty lead licks. Tail Records uses a 50's recording studio using vintage recording equipment which gives all their releases that authentic rocking sound. 88 AM sounds for all the world like it was cut at Sun circa 1956 - it's full of rumbling guitar, menacing vocals and I could picture this little ditty spinning around on a yellow 45.
Recommended downloads: Rockin Motorcycle, You're Tempting Me, Set Him Free and Bear Hug a duet with Eva Eastwood.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Billy Brown - RIP

For most folks in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, Billy Brown will be remembered as the local preacher who was rumoured to be a bit of a singer in his younger days. But there are a whole host of us who were enlightened by him in a different way, who will mourn his recent passing as the death of a great rockabilly singer. His late ‘50s rockers may have drawn a blank in his homeland at the time, but two decades later they caused a major stir in Europe as the rockabilly revival was kicking off.

Born William George Brown in Princeton, West Virginia on July 22nd 1929, BB found music at an early age. He was spotted by Allen Bradley, who signed him to a management contract and introduced him to the local bigwig Bill Lowery. This in turn led to a contract with Columbia Records and a four song session was recorded in the summer of 1950. Jealous Stars was the first single but Brown was unable to promote it as he’d signed another contract – with Uncle Sam, for a spell during the Korean War! He remained semi-active during this time with Columbia issuing more singles and Billy playing on a military radio show. In 1956 he and his band found work at the Anchorage Club in Atlanta, Georgia. A single was issued on the local Atlanta label, Stars, featuring Did We Have A Party and It's Love (Stars 552). Party was a million miles from the country music he’d previously been playing and he took to it like a natural. Don Law heard about the stir the Stars single was making and he resigned Billy to a contract with Columbia Records on October 20, 1957. In November the single was reissued as Columbia 41029.

On December 18, 1957 he was in Nashville for a session at the legendary Bradley Studio where he cut two of the greatest rockers of all time, Meet Me In the Alley, Sally and Flip Out. Sally was released as Columbia 41100 in January 1958 while Flip Out had to wait until November 1958 when it hit the record stores as Columbia 41297. they say hindsight is a wonderful thing, but even with it it’s still impossible to fathom out why none of these songs was a hit. The backing band included Jerry Reed and Harold Bradley on guitars, Ray Stevens on piano, the great Lightnin' Chance on bass, the equally marvellous Buddy Harman on drums and Dutch McMillin on the wild saxaphone.

The next single was a bit more pop orientated but the sales results were just as disappointing. Next/Once In A Lifetime came out in May ’58 followed in April ’59 by a cover of Onie Wheeler’s Run 'Em Off and the original take of He'll Have To Go on the flip.

By this time the lack of sales had turned sour for Brown and Columbia alike and his contract wasn’t renewed. He moved to Gene Autry's Republic label for whom he had a couple of singles. Legend has it that when Brown heard Jim Reeves’ new number one hit, a cover of BB’s He’ll Have To Go, he crashed the car. The dent in the car was repairable but the dent to Brown’s belief and confidence wasn’t.

He became a preacher who travelled around the country with younger brother Tommy and friend and one time rockabilly Allen Wingate (aka Allen Page – Moon Records, Memphis). They preached and sang for the Lord. A one-off single for Challenge in 1969, One Of The Ten Most Wanted Women and another late ‘70s stab at He’ll Have To Go for the Chart Action label were issued.

A stroke in 1983 left him able to sing but not play the guitar and he lived his last twenty odd years in New Smyrna Beach where he died on January 10th, 2009 following a battle against emphysema and obstructive pulmonary disease. Thanks to a handful of brilliant rockers during the heyday of rock ‘n’ roll, Billy Brown will never be forgotten. RIP.

Note: Thanks to Colin Escott, Stuart Colman and Rick De Yampert

Rockin' Song of the Week No's 21-30

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 30
Flatfoot Shakers -Gold Diggin' Mama
As mad as this might sound, Gold Diggin' Mama sounds for all the world like Jack Baymoore & the Bandits on Meteor Records circa 1956. Curled lipped vocals, authentic rockabilly guitar licks and oodles of feel-good factor. The Flatfoot Shakers area quartet from Down Under and they're further evidence of the excellent Australian scene. Singer Kieron McDonald has the perfect blend of hiccups and tease while lead guitarist Peter Baylor has obviously done his homework and studied the genre's greatest pickers. Gold Diggin' Mama is one of those relentless rockabilly boogies that makes you wanna move your feet and grab the air mic. I just played it for a girl here in work and she didn't really like it - proof to me that it's a classic!
Recommended downloads; I'm Getting Rid Of You, a great cover of Louisiana Mama and Hey There Friend.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 29
Jerry King & the Rivertown Ramblers - You Forgot Your Name El Toro Records (2006)
Although this fourpiece come from Cincinnati, Ohio they relocated to the home of rockabilly, Memphis, Tennessee where they've built a reputation as one of the best bands on the scene. Lead singer and principal songwriter Jerry King has a real 50's voice and this, combined with the bands mellow rocking sound gives them a Go Cat Go feeling. They recorded their first three albums at Sun Studios and signed with one of Europe's top labels, El Toro. You Forgot Your Name is more Don't Be Cruel than Baby Let's Play House. It's hiccupy, echo-laden and you'd swear it was cut in 1957. The backing vocals are spot on and lead guitarist Jason Roeper keeps it simple with a couple of authentic solos. If you dig the melodic rock 'n' roll of Ral Donner, you'll dig this and most of the A Date With Jerry King & the Rivertown Ramblers album.
Recommended downloads: Honky Tonk Bop, Bad Dreams (surely this is Ral Donner!), My Baby Said Goodbye.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 28
Billy Nelson - Pack, Shack And Stack Your Blues Away Sun (Savoy 1183)
Big band rock 'n' roll from the glorious Savoy label, Pack, Shack And Stack Your Blues Away was the b-side to Walk Along. Bluesman Nelson was more of a singer than a shouter and this little ditty has New York stamped all over it. The label credits the 5 Wings with the backing vocals but the reality is that only three of them are heard. They became the Dubs, but in November 1955 when this session took place they were happy to get what work they could. It's a fine slab of rock 'n' roll with a sax break that blows the roof-off.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 27
Narvel Felts ­ Kiss-A-Me Baby Sun (unissued)
They say only two things are certain ­ death and taxes. Well you can a third to the list ­- Narvel Felts will always reply to his fan mail. One of the great, sincere people of the music industry this choice is made not because he's a good guy but because of the quality of the music. Despite a handful of red hot rockers for Sun Records he left the label within five months with no releases seeing the light of day at the time ­ sound familiar? Kiss-A-Me Baby was cut on Union Avenue on April 5th 1957 with his regular band of JW Grubbs, Jerry Tuttle, Bob Taylor and Leon Barrett. The song kicks off with jungle-drum rhythm and builds as it leads to the chorus. It was re-cut for Mercury a month later than the Sun session and was released as a single but the version pales compared to the Sun take. The addition of a sax adds nothing and the lack of drive and passion makes it hard to believe that the band was virtually the same.
Recommended downloads: Did You Tell Me, Lonesome Feeling, I'm Headin' Home.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 26
Al Willis & The Swingsters ­Rock Your Little Baby To Sleep (Tail Records)
Makes Buddy Knox sound like Jimmy Bowen. Actually that suggests that Al Willis' version is all crash, bang, whollop but in honesty it's anything but. It's hard driving and relentless but it's very controlled and expertly played. The band take the song at a quicker pace than Buddy Knox's original without sacrificing the songs melody. The band are French and have been going for over a decade. Both their Tail Records, Rock The Bop and Got What It Takes are well worth checking out.
Recommended downloads: The great I've Gotta Find Someone, Angelina and When I'm Gone.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 25
Eddie & the Flatheads ­Green Man (On The Hill Records)
Think Billy Lee Riley's Flyin' Saucer Rock 'n' Roll meets the new Millenium and you're getting close to Eddie & the Flatheads Green Man. It's relentless rockabilly boogie with a pulsating beat. Front man William Svensson is a formidable singer and an uncompromising guitarist, a good combination for a rockabilly main man. The Flatheads sound like the Little Green Men, with equal measures of urgency and technique. Don't know much about them other than they're Swedish, but I like what I've heard.
Recommended downloads: Gonna Love My Baby Now, Record Hop, Stop Shakin' That Tree, Woodchopper.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 24
James Intveld ­Perfect World (Bear Family)
From the excellent Bear Family CD Introducing James Intveld, Perfect World was the opening cut and laid the foundation for a thirty minute pleasure trip. I first heard James Intveld on the Cry Baby soundtrack where he provided the vocals for Johnny Depp to lip-synch to. He was born in Holland but grew up in Compton, California. By the early 1980's he was fronting the local rockabilly band The Rockin' Shadows , before getting to film "My Heart is Achin' For You" for the 1984 movie Roadhouse 66 starring a young William Dafoe. It was whilst opening for Ricky Nelson at The Rumbleseat Garage in Long Beach that The Rockin' Shadows impressed Ricky so much that he invited James's brother Ricky and Pat Woodward to join his Stone Canyon Band. On December 31, 1985, Ricky and all his band perished in a plane crash with James taking the death of his brother bad. He laid low on the music scene for a long time just playing back-up in bands for the likes of Rosie Flores, Ray Campi and Billy Swan. In 1995 Bear Family asked James to do a song called "Barely Hangin' On", for a 20th anniversary compilation they were releasing. This led to the Introducing JI album which won the award for the best country roots CD from Music Connection for 1996. More albums have followed as well as a reputation as a fine live act. Perfect World is a loping, easy going rockaballad in the style he has made his own. His melodic vocals show the influence of Ricky Nelson/Roy Orbison and the band sound more like the Nashville A team than Bill Haley's Comets.
Recommended downloads: Samantha, My Heart Is Achin' For You, Cryin' Over You and the Cry Baby soundtrack is also worth checking out.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 23
Bobby Day ­Beep Beep Beep - Class 215
Bobby Day gives a nod to the Coasters with this novelty rocker. Sax man Plas Johnson takes the role of King Curtis, the only surprise is that it's not written by Leiber and Stoller. Cut at Barney's Studio in Los Angeles in 1957 the band comprise the cream of the West Coast session men, including Johnson, Barney Kessell, Red Callender and Earl Palmer. Bobby Day had been a part of the CA scene pretty much since he'd moved there as a teenager from Texas, and his work with the Hollywood Flames and his solo singles for Class oozed the famous West Coast sound. Yeah, it had a sound long before the Beach Boys!
Recommended downloads: Over And Over, Three Young Rebs From Georgia, and the brilliant Ain't Gonna Cry No More.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 22
Mac Curtis ­Goosebumps King (unissued)
Mac Curtis was a natural rockabilly star. Like most teenage Texans in the '50s he grew up on a diet of country music before becoming aware of rhythm and blues. By the middle of the decade Texas had become a regular stomping ground for the mad Memphis rockabillies who were cutting up the South. Youngsters from bob Luman to Buddy Holly were hooked and before long the recording studios in Fort Worth and Dallas were being bombarded by young hopefuls. Mac was great from the get-go. His first session in April 1956 had yielded a couple of crackers in Granddaddy's Rockin' and If I Had Me A Woman, followed a couple of months later with That Ain't Nothin' But Right. By the time Curtis recorded his third session he'd worked an Alan Freed package tour with no less a star than Little Richard. It was at this session that he recorded Goosebumps, which inexplicably went unreleased for two decades. The band cook in the controlled manner that enchanted many a Texas rockabilly record from Peanuts Wilson to Sid King. It was restrained and melodic and if most of them had been cut 4 or 5 years later they could have made more impact. Cut at the Jim Beck Studio in Dallas on 10 February 1957, the session was produced by the songs writer Louis Innis and featured Bill Peck on drums, Kenny Cobb on bass and Jay Brinkley on lead guitar.
Recommended downloads: Granddaddy's Rockin', If I Had Me A Woman, That Ain't Nothin' But Right, Say So, You Ain't Treatin' Me Right.

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 21
The Marquees -Wyatt Earp / Hey Little School Girl - Okeh 4-7096
Not to be confused with the Marquees on Grand, the Marquees on Len, the Marquees on Daysel or the Marquees on Warner Brothers, these Marquees recorded for Okeh in 1957. From Washington D.C. they consisted of Reese Palmer (first tenor), Marvin Gaye (second tenor/baritone), James Nolan (second tenor/baritone) and Chester Simmons (bass). They played local shows, sometimes with the addition of Peasie Adams who introduced them to Bo Diddley who was living in D.C. at this time. They were soon signed by Bo's manager Phil Landwehr who landed them Columbia Records' Okeh subsidiary. They cut Wyatt Earp and Hey Little School Girl at their first session at CBS Building on Broadway on 25th September 1957. They were backed by Bo and his band and it was beautiful. Hey Little School Girl is an up tempo jiver with a deadly combination of extreme-doowopping and a crack r&b band. Palmer takes the lead vocals and he's so full of life but the star of the show for me is Simmons with his "bbbrrrrmmm's". Jerome Green sparkles on maracas and there's a tasty sax solo in the middle. Okeh weren't impressed by the recording of Wyatt Earp so they sent them back to the studio on November 12 to re-record it with Bo's band. Simmons is again the star turn and the guitar solo is hot as well - anyone know if that's Mickey Baker? Despite good reviews the song went no-where and the Marquees left both Okeh and Phil Landwehr. Chester Simmons became a driver and valet for Bo Diddley and through this managed to persuade Harvey Fuqua of the Moonglows to come on board and from there the dynamics of the group changed constantly including become the new Moonglows for Fuqua. I think it's fair to say that Marvin Gaye went on to bigger things but he never went to anything better than Okeh 4-7096, a rock 'n' roll gem.