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ROCKABILLY HALL OF FAME

REVIEWS

Posted September 6, 1997
HAVING A WILD WEEKEND--
WE WANNA BOOGIE 1997!
By Larry Shell, Rockin' Reporter

FRIDAY, AUG. 29, 1997 - Let me start out by stating WE WANNA BOOGIE '97 was a bonafide blast! Your intrepid reporter made it to the Ramada Inn in East Hanover around noontime and was greeted by Joanne VanVranken, the WWB hostess with the mostest! I then checked in and after a brief unpacking, went back downstairs to go over to the Parsippany Hilton / LEAD EAST, the big 50s car show. I spent several hours poring over miles of cool custom cars and looking in the small but good collectibles show where I met Gabby of Hepcat Records who did double duty with booths there and at WWB. I picked up a passel of cool CDs (new Big Six, Belmont Playboys, etc.) from him and then went through the rest of the room where I snatched up a couple more gems. Then I made it back to the Ramada where I kept Joanne company at the show registration desk for an hour or so until it was time to tidy up for a quick dinner and the evening's entertainment!

Stopped to look at the booth Spindrift Records had set up, spent more money on vinyl for a change and then went to dinner with friends from the Rockabilly List. Thankfully we were seated right away as we didn't mind eating in the bar area. We were running late and got back to the hotel just as the first band, THE BLUES JUMPERS, went on stage. I raced upstairs to shower and make myself beautiful and got back down to catch their last few numbers. As I'd heard good reports on this group, I was sorry I missed most of their set. They were good in any case, the guitar player smoked with many jazzy licks. The horns were hot and the singer sounded like he belonged in the 1940s. Among their selections I heard were "Caldonia," "Go Ahead And Burn" and "Minnie The Moocher." According to their set list which Marc C. retrieved for me, other tunes performed included "Chicken Wing," "Good Morning Judge," and "Wheels Start Turning." The last tune is also the title of their first CD which is hot off the press. If you like swing and get a chance to see these guys, do so without hesitation! Must note that folks seemed to have an aversion to dancing during the first act of any night of a weekender as hardly a soul led their toes around the big dancefloor during their set. A waste as some good sounds were coming down for dancing feet!

Next up were the FLEA BOPS. Their sound was pure traditional and they rocked the joint with a mix of cool covers and a couple of originals. They launched the crowd into a dancing frenzy which continued with such tunes as "Please Don't Leave Me,""Rock Around With Ollie Vee," "Right String‹Wrong Yo-yo" and "Blues Stay Away From Me."Ronnie Joyner was powerful on vocals and rhythm guitar, Lance LeBeau banged the skins like the pro he is, Preston LeBeau played lead to perfection and Wendy LeBeau kept that bass beat going the entire time. They encored with "Train Kept A Rollin'" to a cheering crowd of cats and kittens.

There are a lot of rockabilly trios around and I would have to classify Rod Glaze's DuValls as a power trio --- powerfully good! I was duly impressed to all get out by doghouse bassist Rod, guitarist Carl (he of the monster pompadour), and drummer Ricky "Bobaloo" --- vocally, musically ­ these cats have it all together! I canšt compliment their sound enough! Opening with "Gone Gone Gone," the crowd was once again on the floor boppin' to the beat of Mr. Bassman, Rod and the boys. Other aural delights were "Rock Therapy," "Hopped Up Rod," "Crazy Legs,""She's Poison," and "Pretty Little Kitty." They shocked yours truly with a great totally Chuck Berry-ized rendition of Huellyn DuVallšs "Three Months To Kill." The set ended with "Flying Saucers Rock N' Roll" and they went offstage to thunderous applause.

As if that wasn't excitement for one evening, the best was yet to come -- rockabilly legend, GENE SUMMERS, backed by the Rackateers! Gene raced onto the stage dressed in black wearing a Texas Flag as a cape and promptly broke into "Twixteen," one of his classics. The crowd surrounded the stage closely forming a semi-circle around the man himself. The hits kept coming with "Alabama Shake" and "Straight Skirts." Then Gene did a cool rendition of the Matchbox tune, "Rockabilly Rebel." The Rackateers backed Gene to perfection which was amazing when you consider that they'd rehearsed for the first time that day for just a couple of hours! Sonny Fisher's "Rockinš Daddy" was given a fine treatment by his fellow Texan. Gene then did a little tribute to another great Texas rocker, Johnny Carrol, and belted out "Rock N' Roll Ruby." Woooooooooow! Gene did a few unreleased tracks off his new CD including "Fancy Dan." "Wine Wine Wine" was a blast as Gene handed the mike back and forth to the audience on the chorus! Way to go, daddio! His last number was the greatly anticipated "School of Rock & Roll" which he also did for an encore but as an even faster version. I then cornered Mr. Summers outside the hall to get his John Hancock on my copy of his new CD and we had a brief chat. I also had a chance to speak to him before he left the next day and he said he was hoping to do more live shows and was currently working with Shaun Young and the Horton Brothers. Gene was a total professional and a true southern gentleman. Meeting him is a treat I won"t soon forget!

What a night and there were two more to go! Yikes! A lot of folks then made their way out to the edge of the parking lot where Jennie Soto and fiancee Vic had set up a trailer where tunes spun after-hours. They also run a monthly Rockabilly show at Coney Island High in NYC. Within an hour, the police were there to harass the crowd and tell them to turn the sounds down. This was a great disappointment to me as I was sitting in my third floor room with the window open listening to the good rockinš music while having a drink in the easy chair with my feet up until the law laid down the law.

SATURDAY, AUG. 30, 1997 - Dragged my sorry butt out of bed around 10, showered, dressed and went downstairs to have breakfast before the RAB pool party at the Hilton. I and my companions then went out to the lobby to wait for the shuttle. It was supposed to run every hour give or take a few minutes and rarely showed up earlier than 20 minutes late! A few more folks gathered and John, a cool guy from Detroit offered to take us up to the Marriot in his pickup truck to catch the shuttle. As we pulled out of the parking lot, I spied the goldang shuttle pulling into the Ramada lot! Tarnation! After we'd been waiting a few minutes at the Marriot, we were then informed that the shuttle was no longer running between there and Lead East! Whatta revolting development! We then piled back into Johnšs truck and drove over to find that unlike the first day of the show, they now had parking available. We made our way through the hotel to the pool and found seats under a shade tree. The sun was pounding!

The first band, HOWLING HOUND DOGS, went on minutes later and I have to say they were doggone good! Best of show for the pool party division. This four piece hails from Montreal and are a band to watch out for in the future! Songs included "Rockin' Daddy," "Blue Days Black Nights," "Rocky Road Blues," "Love My Baby," and "Crawdad Hole." Jersey boys, KING KEROSENE, were up next and were announced as playing their second ever paying gig at the pool. This trio had one of the only electric basses I saw that weekend and the bass player had a haircut that would've fit onto any punk band member. Tres' weird! They weren't bad and hopefully will get better as they play more gigs and get the needed experience. I didn't get the name of the first few tunes which appeared to be originals but included in the set were "Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie," "Ubangi Stomp" and "Don't Be Cruel." A cool rendition of "Crazy Bout A Mercury" was amusing as a country bar band had been playing that in the lobby as I made my way to the pool . Their first single, "Totally Crazy," was also performed. There was added entertainment by the pool as some of the British contingent took various good-natured fully clothed individuals and tossed them in. Dunkees included WWB promoters Joanne & Gregg VanVranken. Joanne loses points for wearing a swimsuit. It was a good way to cool off on a hot day in any case. I don't know about them, but it gave me a laugh!

Last up for the afternoon was HIGHWAY 13 out of Pittsburgh, PA. I think most of their set was originals as I couldn't figure out what most of them were. Included were "Baby, I'm Gone" and a tribute to Betty Page entitled "Hey Betty." Next time Išll hit them up for the set list. This reporting is hard work!

I parted company with all back at the Ramada and watched the boob tube until it was time to get ready for the evening's festivities. I didn't realize that due to the Crazy Rhythm Daddies not making it down, the schedule was adjusted for the evening. Why weren't they there is for others besides myself to answer. Needless to say I was disappointed as they were one of the main bands after Gene Summers that I had wanted to see. So while the smarter folks came down just before showtime, I sat in the way too cold air-conditioned hall for an hour. Next time I'm packing long sleeves!

First up were the BLUE MOON BOYS from Indiana who sported the most wild hyperactive frontman in Nic Presley! They did a lot of originals but included in the set was and I'm sure I got the title wrong, a totally swinging rocked-out rendition of Nat "King" Cole's "Love Is Made For You And Me." Please send correction via private e-mail! Other set standouts included "Shoe Leather," their first 45 -- "Howling At The Moon,"and "South of the Border." The BMBs showed off their kinky side with a tune about a rockabilly gal who liked to spank her men. The set ended with Nick puffing away on a butt as they belted out Tex Williams' "Smoke Smoke Smoke That Cigarette." If you get a chance to see this wild bunch, do so. Can't wait for a CD!

RHYTHM BOUND, direct from the Big Apple, New York City was next up. This four piece opened with "Rockabilly Train" and had the joint a jumpin' in no time. Tunes included "Rockabilly Fever," Carl Perkins' "You Can Do No Wrong," "Jungle Fever," and "Little Girl's Rockin'" among other profound sounds! Next up was an old favorite of mine that I havenšt seen live since the 1980s, THE ROCKATS! Barry Ryan and the boys had the crowd in the palm of their hand from the start. The front of the stage was crowded with a cheering mass of humanity! The set included future as well as old Rockats classics --"Downtown Saturday Night," "Brand New Cadillac," their 80s single -- "Rockabilly Doll, "Love This Cat" and many more. The hits kept coming with "Rockin'Baby," "Make That Move" (YOW!), "My Way" (E.Cochran), and "Rocky Road Blues." They were in excellent form and did a fantastic job. I was flipping over this great group! Could this be topped tonight? The answer was a big whopping YES as next was my pick for best of show, THE RIMSHOTS! The boys from Britain exploded onto stage as vocalist John Lewis displayed some incredible vocal gymnastics. They were good enough to play two sets this night due to the absence of the previously mentioned CRDs. The crowd went crazy and bopped until they were almost gonna drop as the Shots ran through "Cattin' Around," "Big River," "Rock All Night," and "Crawdad Hole" among others on the first set. The second included such Rimshot masterpieces as "Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor,""Rock Cat Rock," "Love Doctor," "Boppin' High School Baby," "Rambling Man," and Flying Saucers Rock N' Roll." The crowd didn't want this to ever end but unfortunately it did. I could kick myself for not going to see them prior to WWB as they played several venues in NYC just before. I won't make that mistake if and when they hit this area again.

SUNDAY, AUG. 31, 1997 - The ROCKABILLY LIST is a group of folks who love the Rockabilly music and lifestyle. For information on joining the krazy kats who live to rock, roll and e-mail, check out information on how to join elsewhere on the Hall of Fame site. After over a month of e-mailing back and forth, ten list members met in the lobby at 10:30am for a special brunch at Harold's NY Deli in Parsippany where the portions are huge! We yakked as we ate, gossiped, visited the free pickle bar and had general merriment. I plan to hold this again next year!

We then parted company and the Shell-mobile made its way over to Lead East for the last time this year. We checked out the DooWop acapella show and sat through three groups with 4-5 songs each. It was pretty dang good! The air didn't work and the room was way too warm or else I might've come back after intermission. At 3, we checked out the Razorbacks who were playing outside. I have stated before that the Razorbacks were the type of RAB band I could see playing the Holiday Inn circuit and this performance didn't change my mind. The 3pm show started at almost 4pm. These guys seemed like they didn't care how many people were waiting or how long. The speaker volume was loud enough for a large stadium. I stayed until the end of the first set and got out while the getting was good. My friends and I then took off to the Ramada for one more night of RAB madness!

BUCK AND THE BLACK CATS, a five piece from Vermont featured the only keyboards of the weekend. They were purty good as they tried to entice the shy crowd to take the floor, but as I said before cats & kittens don't dance for opening bands, but the odd thing is as soon as they're off and the DJ starts spinning, they're on that big dance floor. Weird yes? Buck and the boys put on one fine wingding with such toe tappers as "Real Wild Party," "Rock My blues Away," "Driving Nails In My Coffin," a fantastic version of Dr. Ross' "Boogie Disease," Link Wray's "Run Chicken Run," "Rip It Up," and "Dixie Fried." These cats can cross my path anytime!

THE RACKATEERS from Boston were up next. After watching these guys back up Gene Summers, I wanted to see them solo! They did not disappoint as the crowd mobbed the stage for these obvious favorites! Their repertoire included a pounding "Cast Iron Arm" and one of my all time faves, "Crazy Baby." Other cool sounds abounded with "Bertha Lou," Jimmy & Johnny's "Canšt Find The Doorknob," "Down On The Farm," and "Who Slapped John," Just before the set ended, they called our own Joanne AKA Rocket J onstage to do a couple of tunes which were Ed Bruce's "Rock Boppin' Baby" the perennial fave "Hoy Hoy." Whatta set of pipes shešs got. Fabulous!

The evening ended with a bang as Atlanta's finest, THE BLACKTOP ROCKETS, took command of the stage and had the crowd going wild with a great version of "Seven Nights To Rock" which knocked me out! Originals followed with "Rockabilly Show,"I'm A Lover," and "Hold Back" from their second newly released CD, MAKE MINE A DOUBLE on their own Straight 8 label. Cool covers followed with "You're My Baby" written by Johnny Cash and best-known for the version by Roy Orbison, and Lew Williams' "Centipede." The crowd danced up a storm as this great group kept churning out the hits: "Please Give Me Something," "Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor," a great "It's Only Make Believe," Tex Rubinowitz's classic "Hot Rod Man," and the original "I'm Wild. Wow!

All in all a fantastic night to end a fantastic three days of rockin' rollin' American Music.

I THANKED THEM AT THE SHOW BUT I'D LIKE TO GIVE A TREMENDOUS THANKS ONCE AGAIN TO JOANNE AND GREGG FOR PUTTING ON THIS SWELL EVENT AND FOR THEIR TREMENDOUS CONTRIBUTIONS TO KEEPING THE ROCKIN' SCENE ALIVE. LONG MAY WWB RUN AND LONG MAY WE ALL SUPPORT THEIR FINE EFFORTS. YOU TWO ARE WITHOUT A DOUBT THE BEST!

Š 1997 Lawrence A. Shell. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction of this article in any format without permission of the author is verboten. Send fan mail to: sheltone@ix.netcom.com