Update: September, 2003
The Ghastly World of Johnny Legend
by Jonny Whiteside - Singer - actor - wrestling promoter - horror archivist - porn producer Johnny Legend exists in a bizarre cultural vortex whose undertows perpetually whirl him into an episodic cycle of shenanigans that just get curiouser and curiouser. The wild-eyed, weird-bearded, longhaired dynamo, internationally known as the Rockabilly Rasputin, is a manic force, one you can find at just about every unsavory corner of the Hollywood underground. Always vibrating with eerie vigor and scheming up his latest hustle, Legend is possessed with an unrivaled fascination for the offbeat, thrust upon him from earliest childhood: He grew up in San Fernando, where he befriended neighbor Tor Johnson, the hulking, chrome-domed grappler of Plan 9 From Outer Space infamy, but the relationship suffered somewhat, Legend says, "after he let me play with his coffin and I accidentally left it out in the rain." Monster culture was a natural for Legend: "I was at Forry Ackerman's house and got to meet Ed Wood. I had my copy of the first Famous Monsters, and had Wood autograph it. He wrote this strange message: 'Whenever better monsters are made, I'll try. Ed Wood Jr.'"
Legend formed his first band, the Seeds of Time, in 1966. Conducting their own personal riot on the Sunset Strip, they played every joint in town, the same circuit worked by the Seeds, Love and the Doors. "We were kind of a progressive folk-rock band. I got shows at UCLA fraternities, and we started auditioning at places like the Sea Hag, all the Sunset Strip clubs, London Fog, Pandora’s Box. I had an Outer Limits monster costume that I got at an auction, the Giant Garbage Eater from the Henry Silva episode. We'd put somebody in that, hit the Strip and hand out fliers. This was pre-drug, it was really more a Mod thing, then the Seeds had a couple of hits and [Seeds singer] Sky Saxon started coming up and saying, 'Hey, I love you like a brother, but I'm probably gonna haveta sue your ass, so we changed the name to Shadow Legend in '67. That was a harder-edged band, doing more a Yardbirds hard rock, all original songs, playing the Hullabaloo, the Galaxy next to the Whisky. You'd do three sets a night for a week - one night the entire audience was Martha Raye and Neil Young."
In the early '70s, Legend "snuck into the film business," working PR campaigns and writing trailers for American International, and composing soundtracks for semi-hard-core stuff like Sexual Sensory Perception: Sex of the Future - he also appeared in the Z-grade exploitation flick Pot, Parents and Police ("a family film done on a skin-flick budget, which I co-starred in as a crazed hippie who gets stoned on mescaline and falls down the stairs") - and running with the lowlifes who pioneered pre-Deep Throat XXX.
Circa '73, Legend emerged at the forefront of Los Angeles’ rockabilly revival with a new group, Blue Midnight: "What we did wasn't Ruben & the Jets or Flash Cadillac or Sha Na Na - I formed the band for Gene Vincent, and then he died, so I figured what the hell? We didn't do fashion crap or mimic the songs, we just did them in our own versions."
Legend then quickly formed an outfit with volatile German rockabilly fanatic Ronnie Weiser and veteran singer Ray "Caterpillar" Campi. Momentum built slowly; without a major record deal, club dates were almost impossible to nail down at the time. Billy Zoom, later of X, joined up on guitar, and, as the Rollin' Rock Rebels, they embarked on a bizarre endeavor that, Legend says, "only about 10 people were interested in."
The notorious promoter-DJ Art Laboe brought them to the stage at Chino State prison ("Humble Harve was an inmate at the time," Legend says, referring to the KRLA boss jock and spouse killer), and with the assistance of sax honker Chuck Higgins, Blue Midnight began to mix with some of the Johnny Otis R&B stable. But bookings remained a problem; once Higgins had the group substitute for him at a Bell Gardens dive: "This was the scariest place I'd ever seen - a bunch of ex-cons, and within 10 minutes someone had smashed a guy's head through the jukebox; he was bleeding on the turntable." Zoom quietly packed up and left; Legend managed to keep his skull intact with an improvised honky-tonk set.
In the early '80s, Legend, along with several other Rollin' Rock Records players, became K-Tel International recording artists, touring Europe with supercharged 1950s renegades Jackie Lee "Jack the Cat" Waukeen Cochran and Tony "Wild Man" Conn. These were wild, drunken blitzkriegs, with Wild Man and the Cat still raging over career implosions suffered two decades earlier; Legend acted as chaperon and devil's advocate. Legend usually appeared in full Confederate-general uniform, caterwauling "The South Will Rise Again" (from Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Two Thousand Maniacs) along with such demented originals as "Soakin' the Bone" and "Mexican Love," the latter a favorite of the late Dennis Wilson, one of a small army of celebrity affiliations Legend seems to magnetically attract.
From Russ Meyer ultravixen Kitten Natividad to the late film noir bruiser Lawrence Tierney, Legend has commingled with just about everyone. The melding of horror movies, rock & roll and lucha libre is hardly novel at this late date, but for Legend, it all converged with a frightening inevitability. He was responsible for the recording of Classy Freddie Blassie's immortal "Pencil Neck Geek" and later the movie My Breakfast With Blassie, and enjoyed associations with such wrestling aficionados as Andy Kaufman and the Aztec Mummy; Legend the horror actor has suffered gruesome ends in movies such as Bride of Re-Animator and Children of the Corn III.
Legend's frantic pace is constant; curating an endless series of underworld sideshows, he pinballs on a hit-and-run, shock-and-thrill spree of film festivals, club dates, horror conventions, wrestling shows, acting jobs. He's always there, lurking in the shadows, rattling off staccato accounts of his bizarre feats, usually climaxing with a statement along the lines of "They finally pulled the plug and everyone went berserk and we had to beat a hasty escape." Legend never exaggerates - he doesn't need to.
...Then & Now...
JOHNNY LEGEND & HIS ROCKABILLY BASTARDS
"ROCKABILLY BASTARD", "The Best Of Johnny Legend Volume None"
Johnny Legend, the Rockabilly Rasputin, the man-made legend, the self-made man, has been enjoying increasing world wide popularity, as young people everywhere are getting tired of the boring Hippie/Grunge/Heavy Metal/Techno-Crock music that is being dished out ad-infinitum, day after day, by the major entertainment conglomerates, and once again are longing for fun in their music, for a music they can dance to, and have a good time with.
This is Johnny Legend's kind of music: 100% Real American Rock'n'Roll, Rhythm & Blues, Rockabilly, Hillbilly Rock and Swing Bop Music!
Johnny was one of the original WILDCAT SHAKERS, later renamed THE ROLLIN' ROCK REBELS, and finally the ROCKABILLY REBELS, the first authentic American Rockabilly band since the 1950s. The band was formed in 1971, and featured, in addition to Johnny Legend, Ray Campi, Jimmie Lee Maslon and Billy Zoom.
Since then, Legend has been busy touring and bringing his outrageous rockin' perfomances to Europe, Japan and the USA, but in addition to concerts, Johnny Legend organizes Wrestling Extravaganzas where Rockabilly Music is mixed in with Wrestling Matches, a pretty craaaazy combination if you ask me!
Johnny produced the highly acclaimed feature film "My Breakfast With Blassie", (Andy Kaufman's last movie) and appears as a demented Country & Western singer in the killer-larvae sci-fi thriller "Blatella" starring Randy Quaid and George Takei/James Doohan of Star Trek fame.
This record is what Rock'n'Roll always was supposed to be: wild, savage, crazy, sexy, fun, swingin' party music. Few people can convey that feeling with more excitement and enthusiasm than the self-made man, the man-made legend, the one and only Rockabilly Rasputin, Johnny Legend!
-Ronny Weiser, 8/97
LEGENDARY UPDATE: 1996-1997
LEGEND CAPTURES WOMEN'S TITLE! After one of the strangest feuds in pro wrestling history, manager Johnny Legend defeated Cheryl "Lightning" Russa and walked away with the coveted A.I.W.A. World's Women's Championship before a stunned outdoor audience in Maywood, California. Wrestling scholars and historians have all acknowledged that this is definitely the first time a man has won the women's title (Andy Kaufman, God love him, only wrestled amateur women from the audience). Legend, upon winning, immediately announced he was becoming a "devout feminist" and would defend the title with the proper respect and dignity, promising not to enter the ring "if it was the wrong time of the month," etc. Outraged female grapplers from around the world have issued challenges, but Legend has managed so far to successfully defend the belt for the past year-and-a-half. This volatile situation was recently profiled in the highly regarded international publication Fighting Females."
JOHNNY MAKES GOOD ON TWENTY YEAR PLEDGE: After seeing the barely released film "Switchblade Sisters" in 1976, Johnny spent the next nineteen years vowing to rescue the film and give it a proper national release. On the twentieth year, in June of 1996, Quentin Tarantino came to the rescue with his new company Rolling Thunder and together he and Johnny provided the film a major theatrical and video release through Miramax Films.
INVASION OF THE SUNSET STRIP! In 1969, Johnny walked away from the notorious Sunset Strip, having conquered virtually every available venue at the time (Pandora's Box, Whiskey A-Go-Go, London Fog,s the night before The Doors played their first gig). Since the years had flip-flopped from '69 to '96, Johnny decided to re-invade the territory with a blistering series of shows at The Whiskey, The Roxie, The Roxbury and Cocoanut Teaser, culminating in a heart-stopping appearance at the Elvis Birthday Bash at the House of Blues.
INCREDIBLY STRANGE ROADSHOW HI-JINX: For more jaded kicks, Johnny went back on the road with Ray Steckler's infamous Incredibly Strange Creatures epic, the original horror rock musical from the early sixties, presenting the "original roadshow version" complete with Live Monsters in the audience to record-breaking crowds in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, giving a modern audience a taste of greatness from the glory days of filmdom.While Johnny's Budweiser commercial continues on national television, the limber Legend is on location with his latest feature film appearance as a demented country-and-western singer in the killer-larvae sci-fi thriller "Blattella." Johnny performs two songs in the film, his own "I Itch Like A Son of A Bitch" and the country ballad "If You Had Only Loved Me Right." The film also stars Randy Quaid and George Takei/James Doohan of Star Trek fame.
Although Johnny had many popular albums released throughout Europe, this is his first U.S. release and it's also the first Rollin'Rock Records American LP release in 15 years.
Johnny Legend, the Rockabilly Rasputin, the man-made legend, the self-made man, has been enjoying increasing worldwide popularity, as young people are getting fed up with the boring hippie/punk/heavy-metal/disco/techno-crock music that's been forced upon them almost incessantly by the music industry, and are once again longing for 100% Real American Rock 'N' Roll, Hillbilly, Rhythm & Blues and Rockabilly Music!
For over 20 years, way before it was fashionable, Rollin'Rock Records, with artists such as Johnny, Ray Campi, Tony Conn, Mac Curtis, Johnny Carroll, Sid King, Jack Cochran, Ronnie Mack etc., has been at the forefront of the struggle against the 1960's Hippie Drug Culture with all of its various destructive spin-offs. Even today PBS Television broadcasts documentary after documentary glorifying this extreme, Anti-American and pro-drug movement. Our Universities are controlled by the "politically correct" ex-New Left professors and administrators who try to impose a Gestapo-type atmosphere upon the students. It is under these circumstances that Johnny Legend and I decided it was high time to offer American Youth some exciting and sizzling Real American Bop Rock Music to alleviate some of the boredom they must feel hour after hour of inane "pc correct" college courses alternated by brain-numbing music videos!
Johnny was one of the original Wildcat Shakers, later renamed The Rollin'Rock Rebels and finally the Rockabilly Rebels, the first authentic American Rockabilly band since the 1950's. Their first booking was Simi Valley High School where the principal canceled the concert after a near riot had broken out! Back then it was very difficult to fit into the night-club owners' stereotypes of what this band was supposed to be: to oldies clubs we were too country or too modern; to "rock" clubs we were oldies or country; to country club managers we were too Rock or oldies. In other words, We just didn't fit!
Really strange, if you think about it, since all we were playing was Real American Rock'n'Roll, Rockabilly and Rhythm & Blues and the public loved it, regardless of what myopic club owners and DJs might have thought!
Johnny Legend hails from San Fernando, California, home of Ritchie Valens, where people still believe in the American Way Of Life, wear Western Shirts and Cowboy Boots, drive 1950's cars and enjoy open pit barbecues on weekends, while listening to Gene Vincent, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Elvis and Jerry Lee on their stereos. It is to these people, plus to all the true-blue Rockin' cats and chicks in Japan and Europe that this LP is dedicated to.