"My mama told me she didn't like that Rock'n'Roll,
I said please, mama, please, mama you just don't know,
I don't want to hang up my Rock'n'Roll shoes,
You know I get that feeling every time I hear those Blues."
It was 75 years ago (on January 31, 1928 to be precise) that Harold Willis was born in Atlanta, Georgia.
Already by the age of 18 Chuck was a favourite on local TV shows, and soon enough Atlanta's number one Rhythm & Blues DJ, Zenas "Daddy" Sears, showcased the kid over radio station's WGST talent shows.
It is thanks to Sears' efforts that Columbia's A&R man Danny Kessler signed Chuck Willis to Okeh Records in 1951. Much of the material for Okeh is typical Jump Blues of the period delivered with he-man toughness, although even this early on, Chuck Willis gives us some samples both of the crazed-out Rock'n'Roll, as well as of the deep soulful ballads, which became his trademark for Atlantic Records in the mid Fifties.
While there were wilder performers on stage, there were not many songwriters who could compete with Chuck Willis. It seems that songwriting was his first love, and his pencraft moved easily from Jump Blues numbers, to Rumbas, from wild Rock'n'Roll to moody Soul ballads, and even to Hillbilly influenced numbers.
But regardless of what style he was performing, you could always easily recognize that huge boomy soulful voice, that unique he-man voice, that sad and happy voice--both at the same time and in the same song -- that unique American voice, which is impossible to accurately describe in a Column, but which must be experienced by listening to his masters.
"I Feel So Bad", a Top Ten Hit for Okeh in 1954, has the distinction of being a Blues with a Latin rhythm. Always a man who can appreciate good stuff, Elvis Presley covered the song in his 1961 comeback album. As the years passed the song took a life of its own, becoming a classic amongst classics.
"Search My Heart" released in the mid fifties among Chuck's last waxings for Okeh, pretty much has that modern Rock'n'Roll Big Beat he would soon be belting out for Atlantic Records in 1956. "Charged With Cheating" is another track with an Atlantic-type sound. In this case it's a soulful slow-Rock ballad presaging such priceless gems as "Juanita", "That Train Is Gone", etc.
A strong case actually could be made that it was the Atlantic productions which were influenced by the 1955 Okeh recordings. Whichever.
25 precious gems are in this CD of his Atlantic masters!
The Atlantic stuff (1956-1958) is what I grew up with (Stroll On: the Chuck Willis Collection CD RE 2055):
"Ease The Pain", is something unique, with its Latin (Rumba??) slow-Rock Soul Blues groove, is the kind of gem which comes along once very twenty years.
"Whatcha Gonna Do When Your Baby Leaves You" is a hard driving Blues Rocker which leaves you stunned.
"Juanita" is so addictive that I could not help but repeat playing it half a dozen times before allowing myself to continue listening to the Atlantic CD in order to finish this Column. Is this what they used to call a "hit record"?? Whatever happened to "hit records" anyway? Where are they gone?
"C.C.Rider" gave Mr.Willis a Number One Hit and also earned him the nickname, The King Of The Stroll.
"Thunder And Lightning" is like a tornado, while "From The Bottom Of My Heart" is another Rock'n'Roll masterpiece with a Latin Big Beat.
Not a single "good" recording for Atlantic, only great recordings, only masterpieces, no point in me trying to do justice reviewing this stuff, just go out and buy the CD, and save my time!!
CHUCK WILLIS will never Hang Up His Rock'n'Roll Shoes!!
Chuck Willis died on April 10, 1958 of severe stomach ulcer complications.
Whether they called him the King Of The Stroll, or the Hank Williams of Rhythm & Blues, he was known as a very mild-mannered timid man.
A mild gentle man with the voice of a giant.
Ironically, soon after his death, this double-sided monster hit was released, Chuck Willis' biggest hit ever: "What Am I Living For / Hang Up My Rock'n'Roll Shoes"
"They Say That Rock'n'Roll Will Soon Fade AwayDon't worry Chuck, we will NEVER hang up your Rock'n'Roll shoes!! And Rock'n'Roll will NEVER fade away!
No Matter What They Say Rock'n'Roll Is Here To Stay,
'Coz I Dont Want To Hang Up My Rock'n'Roll Shoes
You Know I Get That Feeling Every Time I Hear Those Blues
Because My Feet Start Moving Every Time I Hear Those Blues... "
Always Rollin' The Rollin' Rock,
Rockin' Ronny Weiser,
The Rockabilly Rebel Westerner From Las Vegas,
The Wild Wild West!
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CD-102 - RIP CARSON & THE TWILIGHT TRIO
CD-103 - THE ORIGINAL BAND (Bill Haley's Comets) - "Still Rockin' Around the Clock"
CD-104 - MACK STEVENS - "Texas Heat"
CD-105 - RIP CARSON & THE TWILIGHT TRIO - "Stand Back"
CD-106 - JOHNNY & THE BLADES - "Let's Make Vegas Tonite"
CD-107 - DRAGSTRIP 77 - "Rockabilly Daze"
CD-108 - THE CHOP TOPS - "Always Wild"
CD-109 - ALVIS WAYNE - "Rockabilly Daddy"
CD-110 - ALVIS WAYNE - "Proud of My Rockabilly Roots"
CD-111 - MACK STEVENS - "Let's Rock Tonite"
CD-112 - THE STARLIGHT DRIFTERS - "Thirteen To Go"
CD-113 - PAUL GALAXY & THE GALACTIX - "Cross the Line"
CD-114 - BILL HALEY'S ORIGINAL COMETS - "Aged To Perfection" - Celebrating 50 Years Of Rock'n'Roll
THE ARCHIVES OF
RONNY'S ROCKABILLY HALL OF FAME COLUMNS
© 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
Col. #64 for 12/02 - Clyde McPhatter: Never Forgotten
Col. #63 for 11/02 - The Texas Cowboy Wins
Col. #62 for 10/02 - Rockmount Ranchwear
Col. #61 for 09/02 - Five Years Of Columns!
Col. #60 for 08/02 - THE 1950s ARE ALWAYS WITH US!
Col. #59 for 07/02 - David's July 4th: Rockabilly Bar Mitzvah
Col. #58 for 06/02 - 44 Years Later ... It Was BENNY JOY!
Col. #57 for 05/02 - RECORDING TECHNIQUES
Col. #56 for 04/02 - VIVA LAS VEGAS 2002 + INTERNATIONAL MEET & GREET
Col. #55 for 03/02 - BUILD FOR A-C-T-I-O-N-!
Col. #54 for 02/02 - THE AMERICAN DINER
Col. #53 for 01/02 - The Cowboy Mirror of American Culture
Col. #52 for 12/01 - LITTLE RICHARD
Col. #51 for 11/01 - The Rock Pioneers Were Patriots
Col. #50 for 10/01 - !!! Gasp, It's Fifty Columns !!!
Col. #49 for 09/01 - TEDDY REDELL: Sooo Underrated!!!
Col. #48 for 08/01 - THE UNSTOPPABLE RAY CAMPI
Col. #47 for 07/01 - BILL HALEY'S COMETS ROCK THE FOURTH OF JULY
Col. #46 for 06/01 - PAUL GALAXY AND THE GALACTIX AT ROLLIN' ROCK
Col. #45 for 05/01 - Second Annual Viva Las Vegas Picture Show
Col. #44 for 04/01 - WHAAAAAAT, NO ROCKABILLY!!!?????!
Col. #43 for 03/01 - VIVA LAS VEGAS 2001
Col. #42 for 02/01 - ELVIS: Never Forgotten
Col. #41 for 01/01 - MACK STEVENS + HIGH PLAINS DRIFTERS + POISON OKIES
Col. #40 for 12/00 - WHATEVER HAPPENED TO COUNTRY MUSIC?
Col. #39 for 11/00 - KATS LIKE US
Col. #38 for 10/00 - JERRY LEE LEWIS IS 65
Col. #37 for 09/00 - THE STARLIGHT DRIFTERS
Col. #36 for 08/00 - ALVIS WAYNE AT ROLLIN' ROCK
Col. #35 for 07/00 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA 2000
Col. #34 for 06/00 - THE CHOP TOPS AT ROLLIN' ROCK!!
Col. #33 for 05/00 - VIVA LAS VEGAS 2000 PIX!
Col. #32 for 04/00 - DRAGSTRIP77: TEARIN' IT UP!
#30 & #31 for 02/00 & 03/00 - VIVA LAS VEGAS 2000!
Col. #29 for 01/00 - ROCKIN' 2000!
Col. #28 for 12/99 - JOHNNY AND THE BLADES AT ROLLIN' ROCK!
Col. #27 for 11/99 - AN UPDATED IMPROVED SOUND?
Col. #26 for 10/99 - TIME TO RECLAIM "THE ROCK"
Col. #25 for 9/99 - YOUNG ROCK AT ROLLIN' ROCK
Col. #24 for 8/99 - COMETS RECORD AT ROLLIN' ROCK
Col. #23 for 7/99 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!
Col. #22 for 6/99 - FINLAND IS A ROCKABILLY LAND!
Col. #21 for 5/99 - THEY ARE NOT FORGOTTEN
Col. #20 for 4/99 - ROCKABILLY REBEL: A SHORT HISTORY
Col. #19 for 3/99 - PINBALL MILLIONAIRE
Col. #18 for 1/99 & 2/99 - VIVA LAS VEGAS 1999
Col. #17 - 12/98 - INTERNATIONAL ROCKABILLY REBELS MEET & GREET
Col. #16 - 11/98 - GROOVEY JOE POOVEY: Reminiscing
Col. #15 - 10/98 - CHARLIE FEATHERS
Col. #14 - 9/98 - NARVEL FELTS AT ROLLIN' ROCK!
Col. #13 - 8/98 - IT'S WESTERN WEAR!
Col. #12 - 7/98 - THE JORDANAIRES
Col. #11 - 6/98 - ROCKABILLY HOF - 15,000 HITS!!
Col. #10 - 5/98 - MAC STEVENS RECORDS AT ROLLIN' ROCK
Col. # 9 - 4/98 - VIVA LAS VEGAS
Col. # 8 - 3/98 - KAY WHEELER
Col. # 7 - 2/98 - 10 ROLLIN' ROCK CDs
Col. # 6 - 1/98 - SAM COOKE
Col. # 5 - 12/97 - LAS VEGAS IS A 1950's TOWN
Col. # 4 - 11/97 - GOD BLESS TEXAS
Col. # 3 - 10/97 - FATS DOMINO
Col. # 2 - 9/97 - RAB DISCUSSION GROUP
Col. # 1 - 8/97 - 25 YEARS OF ROLLIN' ROCK RECORDS