Ken Davis' New CD - "ECHO ROCK" - Over the past several years "Shook Shake" and "Gone Again" have appeared on numerous rock'n'roll compilation CD's around the world, including England, Holland and Germany.
In 1997 and early '98 some friends in the music business suggested to Ken to think seriously about going back into the recording studio and doing some of the songs he never got the chance to record years ago. It was always Ken's dream to put out an album, and this could lead to the opportunity of releasing a CD featuring the "old" and "new."
Those "friends" included Rocky Kruegel, of Rocky's Records in Oak Creek, Wisconsin; Mike Muskovitz, Mean Mountain Music in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Paul Kosel, Eagle Records in Germany. So, "just for the fun of it," Ken put together a group of musicians: Dean Lange, lead guitar; Maggie Lange, electric bass; and Jon Bolton, drums. In August of '98 they went into the recording studio of Miracle Sound, Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and put down 11 songs. Engineers, Paul Dry and Tom Williams assisted in recapturing the "raw sound" of the '50s.
The result is a CD released by Eagle Records in Germany for world-wide distribution: "Ken Davis - Echo Rock." It consists of 24 original songs: 10 re-mastered recordings from '58 - '62; 3 unreleased demos; and the entire Miracle Sound session.
The CD can be purchased by sending a check or money order for $12 plus $3 shipping and handling ($5 S&H on foreign orders) to:
4352 Woodview Lane
Racine, WI 53404-1220
Incorporating the influences of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly and Elvis, Ken Davis learned to sing and accompany himself on guitar/electric bass shortly after his 1954 graduation from William Horlick High School in Racine, Wisconsin.
By late '56 he was entertaining at private parties. He eventually added the Honeybees, Judy and Nancy, to the act, along with a lead guitar player. In the fall of '57 he joined Buddy Nelson's Country Gentlemen as a bass player/singer. The group worked the local "tavern scene."
By this time Ken had begun writing a lot of his own songs, so it was only natural that an idea to make a record came into the picture. In early 1958 he and the Honeybees, along with the Country Gentlemen, recorded "Bundle of Lovin'" and "Sittin' Pretty" at the Pfau recording studio in Milwaukee. The record was released on the Pfau label in March, '58. The latter song received a lot of airplay on a Milwaukee radio station. The DJ mentioned that if it had been recorded in a more professional studio it could have turned into a possible "hit" record.
Harry Smith, owner of Racine's Starlight label, liked what he heard - and went on to produce a "follow-up", "Uh Huh, That's right" b/w "Without Her Love." Again the Honeybees accompanied Ken on both songs but the band was put together with Smith's staff musicians. "Uh Huh" was a popular play on Racine's WRJN, but overall the record was only moderately successful.
Still in '58 (things were "moving right along") Ken decided to produce the next effort himself. His cousin's boyfriend often used the expression "shook shake, like a big mix cake." This is what Ken built his composition around and it turned out to be the most popular song he ever wrote. Putting together his own group of musicians, "Shook Shake" and "Echo Rock" were recorded in Starlight's "garage studio."
Billboard magazine reviewed "Shook Shake" as "a country based, rockabilly ditty sung nicely by Davis over typical combo support." In October, though, Ken entered the Army for a 2-year hitch. This, overall, put a "glitch" on the possibility of coming up with a big hit because he'd be unable to do personal appearances to promote it.
Nevertheless, Ken signed a managerial contract with a Racine juke box operator while in basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri. His manager then formed the record label, and re-released "Shook Shake" in February '59. With good regional distribution and promotion, both sides of the record received extensive juke box and radio play. "Echo Rock" actually hit #1 on a Minnesota station, even topping Elvis.Photo at left: This is a copy of an 8-page songbook cover. The booklet was a giveaway with Ken's "The Next Little Town" / "Because I'm Blue" recording.
In '59, while stationed at Ft. Still, Oklahoma, Ken put together a group and recorded "Oh So Blue" and "Gone Again" at the Oklahoma City studio of Gene Sullivan (writer of "Blue Moon of Kentucky). The songs were released on the Badger label. "Oh So Blue", a ballad sung in "Jack Scott" style, came close to being picked up by the national ABC Paramount Records.
In '60, "The Next Little Town" and "Because I'm Blue", were recorded at the Sullivan studio, but were not released until '62, and then only as a personal venture. In '65, Ken formed a Racine trio that played dances, wedding receptions and private parties. He was still writing songs and composed a "polka" especially for his accordion player. The group decided to record "Play Ginger Play" and an instrumental version of a waltz, "What Would I Do Without Dreams?" To this day Ken regrets not singing the words on the latter, because he regards it as one of his "neatest" songs. In '82, Mike Muskovitz, of Mean Mountain Music, re-issued "Shook Shake"/"Echo Rock."
Ken still lives in Racine with his wife of 38 years, three grown children, and three grandsons. He is amazed that his old records in recent years have popped up on "CD's" released in several countries. Ken says: "In my early 20's I was following a musical dream - 40 years later that dream is "following me!"
"Mr. Shook Shake": Ken Davis CD (New)
Pfau - 3507 - Sittin' Pretty/Bundle of Lovin','58
Starlight - 1002 - Uh-Huh, That's Right/Without Her Love, '58
Starlight - 11006 - Shook shake/Echo Rock, '58
Badger - 250 - Shook Shake/Echo Rock, '59
Badger - 251 Oh So Blue/Gone Again, '59
Singing Blue - The Next Little Town/Because I'm Blue, '62
Kay Dee - 031 Play Ginger Play/What Would I Do Without Dreams? (Instrumental). '67
Mean Mountain 1419 - Shook Shake/Echo Rock (Re-Issue), '82