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BOOK REVIEW

 

CATCH THAT ROCKABILLY FEVER

Personal Stories of Life on the Road and in the Studio

 

Author: Sheree Homer

Publisher: McFarland & Co. Inc

 


Whilst I have not met Sheree, we have been in numerous locations at the same time, such as the Green Bay Festivals. I am aware of her enthusiasm for rockabilly music and that beams out like a lighthouse from the pages of this book. It is a well constructed and literate salute to the music loved and cherished by many.

 

She has been able to interview many of the artists of this genre and has fleshed out the resulting pieces with comprehensive overviews of their careers. It is split up into relevant sections such as Sun Legends, Louisiana Hayride Stars, Arkansas Rockabillies, Texas Rockabillies, California Rockabillies and Rockabilly Pioneers.

 

The definition of rockabilly used by Sheree is in keeping with the American thoughts in that it encompasses several acts that Europeans classify as rock 'n' roll such as Charlie Gracie, Laura Lee Perkins and Big Al Downing. Other inclusions such as Ricky Nelson started their careers with rockabilly tinged recordings but soon developed into all out rock 'n' roll acts. However, that is nit-picking as every artist featured in this book is worthy of inclusion and has had rock 'n' roll blood coursing through their veins.

 

Some of the artists featured had passed on by the time this book was commenced but there are informative sections on such great artists as Buddy Holly, Bob Luman, Johnny Burnette and The Rock 'n' Roll Trio and, of course, the Tupelo flash Elvis Presley. Each of these are worthy of a complete book or more in his own right (in the case of Elvis, there are already enough to fill a whole section of a library) but Sheree successfully manages to capture the skeleton of each career with passion.

 

To provide an example of the book's typical content, let us look at the section on Hayden Thompson. Mixing a blend of narrative and quotes from a series of interviews, Homer describes Hayden's early days and his first recording as a country singer until the impact of Presley and his rockabilly styling became apparent to this aspiring musician. The story line goes into some detail including an early appearance on the Louisiana Hayride and how Thompson and his band undertook a tour as part of a package with the movie 'Rock round The Clock'. Hayden would perform a set, the movie would be shown and then the whole cycle would repeat itself to the next audience. It was during such an appearance that he came to the attention of Jack Clement and Sun records. A contract was signed a series of recording sessions took place. Finally, his classic version of 'Love My Baby' was released and showed some action but at the same time, label mate Bill Justis was breaking out nationally with 'Raunchy' and so Hayden's effort was still born. The story of Hayden continues with a description of his days at Sun Records, his good luck and bad luck and how he evolved into a fairly successful country singer for Kapp Records after having relocated to Chicago. Giving up show business in the mid seventies, Thompson describes the call to return to performing in Europe in the eighties in the rockabilly revival and the elation that he felt with the rapturous reception he received and continues to receive to this very day - from his headlining shows in the UK and across continental Europe.

 

All the other artists in the book are provided with a similar sympathetic, occasionally painful, and enthusiastic analysis which makes for good and interesting reading. To demonstrate the impact of the so called rockabilly revival and its continuing impact on an alternative music scene of the current day, Sheree has two concluding chapters. One goes into detail on a selection of rockabilly revivalists of the likes of the wonderful Marti Brom, Go Cat Go, and High Noon. The book closes out with pieces on new young current artists such as Carl sonny Leyland, Ruby Ann and Kim Lenz.

 

There are a selection of photographs dotted throughout the books 254 pages, including a marvelous one of Bob Luman and his band (including James Burton, James Kirkland and Butch White) rehearsing. The narrative never becomes boring and the author's passion is a joy to read. Well done Sheree and best of luck with your new project on the story of Ricky Nelson.

 

(c) Tony Wilkinson

August 2010.


Page Posted October, 2010