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DICKIE DAMRON "ROCKIN' PARTY"

Interview by Steve Kelemen



Dickie Damron's 1957 debut single is considered by many to be one of the best and rarest in first generation Rockabilly.


I was born and raised in Bentley, Alberta. A small town in central Alberta half way between Calgary and Edmonton. My father had a farm just north of Bently. We (my sister and two brothers) were just regular farm kids, always into some kind of trouble. Both my mother and father were musical. My mother was a classical music teacher for many years. My dad was an old time fiddler. There was always music of some kind in our home growing up. My older brother learned to play guitar first and when I was about 5 years old I started to play Hawaiian style.

I remember some of the traveling shows that came through our area. Usually they were combined dance shows. It was more of a variety show with comedians and dancers, etc. The singers were of the cowboy type, like Gene Autry, etc. That was the first live performances that I saw by other artists.

I started playing at dances when I was 14 or 15 years old. I put a band together with my brother and my girlfriend Martha Ohlson (on piano) who later became my first wife. We continued on like that until we were about 17 or 18 years old. We played mainly old time music. I played fiddle, my brother played accordian and guitar. Our bookings consisted mostly of weddings, anniversaries, graduations and local events.

We rehearsed day in and day out for hours at a time. I don't know how my parents stood the constant racket that emanated from the living room and reverberated all over the small farm house.

Over the next few years our music gave way to Rockabilly. At the time, the band consisted of myself on guitar and vocals, Martha on piano, Roger Dye on bass and Keith Cave on lead guitar. My younger brother Howard occasionally filled in for Howard.




ROCKIN' PARTY

Our first sessions were recorded in 1958 at the C.K.R.D. studio in Red Deer. "Rockin' Party" b/w "Gonna Have A Party" on our own Laurel label. We had the tape sent to King Plastics in Cincinnati, Ohio. Which was the only pressing plant that I was aware of at the time. The name idea originally came from my younger brother whose girlfriend was named Laurel. When the Elvis movie "Jailhouse Rock" came out there was Laurel Records in it so I thought we were going to get sued. To think that somebody in Hollywood would even know of us (but it was a coincidence). Man! We were greenhorns concerning these kinds of things. At the time I believe that the sessions were recorded on a Crown two-track recorder.

I also want to mention that the Laurel single received very good promotion due to being distributed to jukeboxes throughout central Alberta. There was an outfit in Red Deer that programmed all the jukeboxes. That was a big thing for us to get our record on all those jukeboxes. Because other than a little of that type of music being played on the radio, that was about the only exposure for the record. People would hear the record on the jukeboxes and they would come to our dances and sometimes buy the record. So that was how our music first got out to the public.

The first sessions we did for Quality were recorded in the same studio, using the same line-up that we used on the Laurel record. There's an interesting story about the first record on Quality. I realized after the Laurel record how hard it is to distribute the records and get them around, so I thought that if we could get on a bigger record label and get them distributed Canada wide, we may get more exposure. We just did a session after our radio show one night and sent a tape (like a demo session) to Quality. We never heard back from them. Then one day I heard it on the radio, they just took this demo session and released it without our knowledge. It was weeks after that I finally got a contact from Quality.

Thanks to Dick Damron for taking the time to tell us about those early days and for setting the record straight, the Laurel Record.



Rockabilly Hall of Fame