SONG OF THE WEEK
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 53
Johnny Burnette and the Rock 'n' Roll Trio -
Tear It Up (live)
Wins LP 1010 / Hydra BCK 27110
I'm not sure what the world record is for using the word legend in one sentence but you
could slip the world into so many places in the following. This live track comes from the
Johnny Burnette Trio, from the Paramount Theatre in New York in the summer of 1956 with an
introduction from the mc, Alan Freed. His show band play alongside the trio, among their
ranks, Panama Francis, Big Al Sears and Sam "The Man" Taylor. Anyone who doubted Paul
Burlison's ability will be blown away by his playing, including a pepped up intro. I can
only imagine what it must have been like to be there, as JB and his southern boys gave the
Big Apple kids a taste of manic southern rockabilly. The sound quality is excellent, but
not clear enough to hear much from the brass department! Who needs sax when the Trio can
play like this. The screaming girls and the storming beat make this more exciting than
Coral managed to capture. A breathtaking performance.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 52
Hot Rockin' - One More Star
Foot Tapping Records
Hot Rockin' front man Porky is a legend. Larger than life, he has a wonderful voice that
although at times can sound a bit flat, it has a delightful soulfulness. As readers
of my page will know, I loved his version of the early 60's Elvis song, Angel,
which was so much better than the original. A song I've been playing to death
lately comes from an earlier album, One More Star, a tribute to Britain's finest,
Billy Fury. The lyrics incorporate some of his song titles to a backing that
at times sounds like Fury's Cross My Heart. Guitarist Chris Finn should
take some credit for some apt picking that echoes the early 60's era.
A heartfelt tribute that is one of the best of this type, up there with
Carl Perkins' EP Express and the Stray Cats' Gene And Eddie.
Recommended downloads: No Heart To Spare, Suzie's Got A New Hairdo,
the western flavoured Lowdown in El Paso and a pepped up version of
Jack Scott's My True Love.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 51
Los Raw Meat - Shots!
This manic Spanish quartet are a more potent Barcelona foresome than Eto'o,
Henry, Messi and Ronaldinho ever were. Oscar Novell is a wild vocalist, Marti
Gallen plays an explosive guitar and Alvar Costache and Juan Garces maintain a
formidable rhythm. Shots! Is a modern day classic, a relentless bopper full of
energy and menace. The chorus is full of hiccupy vocals with loads of chuggin',
scratchin' pickin'. If you like Runnin' Wild's Killer Taco Stomp (who couldn't?),
you'll love this and their Sleazy LP could be just for you. Whilst the Spanish take
the sporting world apart with the tennis, soccer and cycling, their rockabilly bands
continue to shine as well.
Recommended downloads: Raw Meat, the boppers Beat of Love and La Puri and
the two hot instros Aauuuaaahhh! And Armadillo Hurricane.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 50
Elvis Presley -
(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear
I don't know what happened here, but last night changed my mind completely about this
song. It's always struck me as a bit of a kiddies song that was too cute to be of any
substance. That's probably true, but for some reason, last night when it came on my iPod
on random play, it just sounded so fantastic.
Elvis' voice is so engaging, it sounds more
playful than the teddy bear, and if you forget the Loving You cowboy suit and just enjoy
the vocals, I'm sure you'll love it to. Perhaps you do already, somebody did, it sold a
million copies. He works in perfect tandom with the Jordannaires for a slice of magic that
runs at less than two minutes.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 49
Ken Craig - Silver Coin
Bertram Int. 45-216
Another artist who has managed to keep below the radar and for all that's known about him
I'm probably right in assuming that despite the title, this record didn't make him much
silver coin. Craig was serving in the US Air Force at Hickham Field, Hawaii when he cut
this for the Honolulu label.
The label might not have been prolific but it did give us
Robin Luke and Bill Lawrence's brilliant Hey Baby! From the ass end of the ’'50s, Silver
Coin is an atmospheric number that has a western feel. It sounds like the soundtrack for a
gunslinger movie that would have Glenn Ford walking into the sunset with his pistol still
smouldering in his hand.
As far as I know, Ken Craig only had one other release, a duet
with his wife Karol from 1961.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 48
The Upsetters - Baldhead Baby
While Little Richard was on a sabatical trying to get closer to God, his backing band the
Upsetters were in Chicago getting closer to the Devil. The band were a hardened group of
musos who had learnt their trade working the tough club circuit for a couple of years
before Dinky Dick called it a day - for a while anyway. Everything with the Georgia Peach
was overboard, and that included his jewels once he's seen his message from Above. This
left the Upsetters to make a name for themselves. They signed with Vee Jay and used their
sax-man Wilbert "Lee Diamond" Smith as vocalist on a couple numbers. Grady gaines was the
mainman of a quality band that included drummer Chuck Conner and guitarist Nathaniel
Douglas among its throng. Baldhead Baby from '58 is a sax lead rocker with obvious nods to
Little Richard and Fats Domino.
Recommended downloads: Mama Loochie, Pig Tails & Blue Jeans, Take It Home to Grandma and
two great instrumentals, Jay Walking and Wake Up.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 47
Dennis Binder - Early Times
Dennis Binder was a singing piano pounder from Rosedale, Mississippi who'd recorded in
Chicago and Memphis in the early '50s. By 1954 he was working with the Delta dynamo Ike
Turner and his Kings of Rhythm having apparently ventured into Clarksdale with his band to
challenge Ike and his guys to a battle of he bands. I'm not sure who won the battle, but
Ike was impressed enough to take Binder into a Clarksdale, MS studio with Jesse Knight,
Willie Sims and a twin tenor sax attack of Eugene Fox and Bobby Fields. They recorded a
quartet of tracks that had quality stamped on every note. A tribute to Early Times whiskey
the song is powered by Ike's boogie guitar riff and the vamping saxes doing the da na na
- da na na that was to be all the rage for future show closures. Binder's vocals had that
hypnotic, almost lazy feel that was not unlike another Turner frontman, Jackie Brenston.
Within twelve months Turner and Binder had parted following a dispute over pay. Ike had
bigger troubles down the road, but for the moment he was recording some of the best music
in the south, be it tough r'n'b or gut-wrenching blues. Best place to find Early Times is
the Rhythm Rockin' Blues: Ike Turner & His Kings of Rhythm CD on Ace (CDCHD553) which
showcases the extraordinary work Ike Turner was producing at this time. Binder will be 80
later this year and is still playing, amazingly having his first album released just two
years ago. I knew whiskey was good for you.
Recommended downloads: The New Orleans style I Miss You So and the slower
call-and-responce barroom baller, You Got Me Way Down here, both from the same session as
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 46
Don Feger with The Embers -
Look Out Baby
Ebony 103 (Greasy Rock 'n' Roll Vol. 5)
I know next to nothing about Don Feger and what I have gathered has come pretty much from
Terry Gordon's awesome Rockin' Country Style website (the photo is also courtesy of the
site). Feger appears to have had two releases on the Abilene, Texas label, Ebony. As they
also appear to be the only releases on the label, I suppose it's safe to assume that Ebony
is a vanity label started by Feger to get his records out there. Look Out Baby is one of
those joyous numbers that has the full package of backing vocals, excitable vocals (oh
yay-a) and a piano player working his fingers to the bone even though he's so low in the
mixx you can almost miss him. I love it, it's everything I love about rockin' music. As it
says on the Greasy Rock n' Roll album, "they'll be jiving in the urinals to this one" -
can't say better than that.
Recommended downloads: The wonderful drooling vocals on the rockabilly classic, Date On
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 45
The Globetrotters -
Rainy Day Bells
This is a real oddity. When I first heard this track I was blown away by it's
happy-go-lucky swing. It's a joyous, romping track that is everything that's wonderful
about uptempo doo-wop. I didn't realise that the group, The Globetrotters really are the
Harlem Globetrotters basketball team. The sportsmen were enjoying world acclaim with sold
out games and even a cartoon series, so to cash in, Don Kirshner (Monkees and Archies) and
Jeff Barry were asked to produce an album. Among an album full of rubbish sits the wistful
Rainy Day Bells, written as with most of the album by the legendary team of Neil Sedaka
and Howie Greenfield. The Globetrotters including Meadowlark Lemon were joined by none
other than Sammy Turner and some session singers including James "JR" Bailey. The quality
of the song resulted in a single release which resulted in pretty good sales, eventually
becoming a "beach music" cult number.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 44
Edwin Bruce -
Eighteen year old local memphis boy Edwin Bruce walked into the Sun Studio on 26th January
1958 and gave a commanding performance that belied his tender age. Sounding like a veteran
of the rockabilly circuit he impressed Sam Phillips enough to get a release, no mean feat
in 1958 when most sessions led to can-fillers. It was a typical Sun rocker with Billy Lee
Riley on guitar, Stan Kesler on bass, Jimmy Wilson on piano and Jimmy Van Eaton doing
overtime on the cymbol. Unlike some Sun rockers the vocals were rasping and manic, but a
calm and laid back - more Carl Mann than Ray Harris. The interplay between the guitars of
Bruce and Billy Lee is the songs driving force. He never made it to rock 'n' roll stardom
but the ensuing decades were more rewarding once he swapped the pompadour for a cowboy
hat. It's hard to believe that the vocalist on his country classics like Diane was the
same guy who turned up his collar for Sweet Woman and Rock Boppin' Baby. Then again, the
photo of him with his quiff and rock 'n' roll pose is a long way from the weathered cowboy
photos with his moustache and stetson. Whatever, his voice is great in either vein and I
love his country stuff as well as is all too few rockers.
Recommended listening: Rock Boppin' Baby, Diane, The Last Cowby Song, Mama Don't Let Your
Babies Grown Up To Be Cowboys and the great Waylonesque Girls, Women and Ladies.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 43
Ronnie Dawson - Party Town
No Hit Records
It seems hard to believe that there was a life before Ronny Dawson, but it's true. I don't
remember being aware of him until the release of the ridiculously brilliant album on No
Hit Records which gave us all his early boppers from Do Do Do to Jump And Run. Maybe his
songs had come out on compilations but if so they'd never registered with me. As great as
those 50's songs were, it was only the beginning. I'm struggling to think of any other
artist who came out of that era but produced their premier body of work 40 years later. He
sort of reinvented himself and blew away the crowds with some propane fuelled rockabilly
that simply scorched like no-one else on the scene. Always employing the best musicians
from Lisa Pankratz to Tjarko Jeen his live shows were a sweaty mesmeric affair that were
virtually impossible to follow. The best thing was, he made albums in the 90's which were
just as good as the live shows, original songs that became as legendary as the man. Part
Town is one such number, written by Ronnie and former Planet Rocker Eddie Angel for the
sublime Just Rockin' & Rollin' album that Ronnie produced with Liam Watson of Toe Rag
Studios and Barney Koumis, owner of the No Hit. This is big sound rockabilly with Angel on
lead guitar supported by Ronnie and Tjarko, Naokazu Tone on bass and Bruce Brand on drums.
As on most of the album the sound is further enhanced with the vamping of horn-men Alex
Bland and Ned Bennett.
Recommended listening: From the early days there's Rockin' Bones, Who's Been Here, Do Do
Do and Action Packed to start with. From the second coming there's pretty much anything on
the Just Rockin' & Rollin' and Monkey Beat albums including the title songs, Mexigo,
Roadhouse Rock, a great interpretation of Ghost Riders In The Sky and my favourite,
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 42
Johnny Cash -
The Ways Of A Woman In Love
It's fifty years since the parting of the ways between the once wonderful marriage of
Johnny Cash and Sun Records. With his association with the label going south quicker than
the big river than runs under the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge, Sam Phillips tried to milk the
cow a couple more times. Getting all he could in the can for the dry spells ahead, Sam
held two July sessions with Johnny, Luther and Marshall and 706 regulars Billy Lee Riley,
Jimmy Van Eaton and Jimmy Wilson (replaced by Charlie Rich for the second session). These
songs had a lot more meat on the bone than the Cry Cry Cry days of three short years
earlier. The Gene Lowery Singers were also used to give a commercial edge that was never
on the original agenda. A lot of the elements that made their name are still there, from
Luther's simple guitar intro to JC's wonderful way with words, it's just you now have
hoo's and ah's and a piano solo. A great going-away present to Sam, that being the
generous man he was, he shared with us all.
Recommended listening: You must be joking.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 41
Smokestack Lightnin' -
Gentle On My Mind
Current band members Bernie Batke (Vocals & Bass), Michael Kargel (Drums), Frieder Graef
(Guitars & Vocals), Dirk Hess (Guitars), Oliver Stangl (Pedal Steel & Strings) formed
their apprenticeships in bands like The Blue Jays And The Brewsters before getting
together in 1997. Smokestack Lightnin' are one hell of a hot rockin' band, blending
hard slap-based rockabilly with a retro-country twang. They have a sound all of their own
but if you had to compare them with anyone I would say it was the Road Hammers. Their
Soulbeat (2000) and Homecooking (2005) albums are great and paved the way for a bit of
fame courtesy of EMI and their cover of the Unknown Stuntman being used on a Honda TV
commercial. I don't know if this makes sense to anyone but the heavily echoed vocals and
the relentless stompin' boogie compares to the early stuff John lee Hooker did for
Modern. I've always loved the song Gentle On My Mind, particularly Elvis' version,
and it's a perfect vehicle for Smokestack Lightnin's jangling guitars and driving
Recommended downloads: 2007's Modern Twang was a sort of Best of compilation and is well
worth buying, otherwise I'd go for The Unknown Stuntman, Soulbeat, Guns n Roses'
Paradise City, a rockin' Real Gone Daddy, JC's Ring of Fire and Girl On The Billboard
with Paul Ansell.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 40
John D Loudermilk -
Blue Train (On A Heartbreak Track)
Never one of your run-of-the-mill artists, John D. Loudermilk was one of the most prolific
and creative songwriters in country music history. The son of white collar, illiterate
parents he was encouraged by them to pursue his education, but music was never far from
his mind. He was a local radio attraction throughout his school years, eventually being
heard on the radio performing his own composition A Rose And A Baby Ruth, which wound up
with George Hamilton IV, giving him a number one record. JD landed a deal with Colonial
Records and his first single for them, Sittin' In The Balcony got covered by Eddie
Cochran who took it into the charts. Over the years, further releases followed on
Colonial, Dot, Columbia and RCA but it was as a writer that he achieved his biggest
successes, among them Talk Back Trembling Lips, Waterloo, Tobacco Road and Ebony Eyes. As
a singer, JD has an engaging, easy-on-the-ear sound that was prefect for his country/rock
'òn' roll songs. Blue Train was cut at the RCA Studios in Nashville on 17th April 1961
(ironically, on the first anniversary of Eddie Cochran's death) under the expert
production and engineering of Chet Atkins and Bill Porter respectively. Charlie McCoy's
train whistle harmonica commences proceedings before the band kick in with a tight
acoustic rhythm. Future Jerry lee Lewis drummer Jimmy Isbell and bass from either Henry
Strzelecki or Roy Huskey maintain the train rhythm. The backing vocals from Anita Kerr,
Norro Wilson and the usual crew aid a fine element to the song, and the whole thing is a
blast. As with virtually everything he released it failed to register on the charts but it
did see an extended shelf-life thanks to be part of the excellent Language Of Love album
late in '61. Even if the folks back home weren't excited enough to buy the single in
droves, the South Africans made it a hit thanks to it being linked to the famed railroad
line between Johannesburg and Capetown, die Blou Trein (Blue Train). So why didn't the
people of Wales make Railroad Bills' Aberystwyth Sprinter a hit?
Recommended downloads: Angela Jones, Jimmie's Song, Th' Wife, the Big O sounding
Language of Love and the Jack Scott style ballad What Would You Take For Me.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 39
The Velaires -
I'm not really much of a fan of garage rock 'n' roll with most early 60's covers of
rock classics leaving me cold, but I do like this. The band started in Sioux City as
the Screamers but soon changed it to the Flairs. This name didn't last long either due
to the commoness of it and so following a goig at the legendary Val Air Ballroom in
Des Moines they became the Velaires. The group consisted of Dan Matousek on
rhythm guitar, Bob Dawdy on lead guitar, Jerry DeMers on bass, and Don Bourret
on drums. Their manager and booking agent was Dan's older brother,
Dick Matousek. Following a brief spell on Palms Records they were signed to
Jamie Records in 1961 and hit the charts with a fine cover of Chuck Berry's
immortal Roll Over Beethoven. Further releases appeared over the years
on Mercury, Palms, Ramco and Brent. The original members parted in 1963,
after which the band became known as Danny & The Velaires. They were more
than just a cover band but from what I've heard, I think their covers are
better than their originals. Ubangi Stomp being perhaps the finest example.
It kicks off with a ringing guitar that reminds me of Johnny Otis' Castin'
My Spell. The drumming is suffienciently jungly to back up the lyrics
and the song has a great energy. I'm not sure whether Warren Smith ever
heard and if so what he though about it, but I'm sure Charles Underwood
was happy enough.
Recommended downloads: Sticks And Stones and Roll Over Beethoven.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 38
Walkin' Talkin' Johnny Cash Blues
Classic neo-rockabilly quartet The Go-Katz are the brainchild of Raucous Records owner
Howard Raucous who formed the band back in 1986. With himself on lead vocals the earliest
line-up was a five piece with Giles " Beaker" Brett and Andy Young on guitars, Mark "Moff"
Moffat on bass and Johnny "Wolf" Basford on drums. They started off in Loughborough,
England, a town more famous for it's sports college than it's rockabilly bands. As a
vehicle for their first EP Howard launched Raucous Records and the rest as they say is
history. Walkin' Talkin' Johnny Cash Blues is taken from their Maniac EP which features a
demo from their first session together with two great covers of Johnny Powers' Long Blond
Hair and the Meteors' Maniac. WTJCB is about taking speed, something the drummer and
guitarist must have done before this take. It's breathless stuff and should appeal to
rockabillies and psychos alike. If you don't want to jump around to this you better get
the doctor, coz you're coming down with something.
Recommended downloads: Maniac, Long Blond Hair and the gloriously frantic Real Gone
Demented Hillbilly Cat, which does pretty much what the title suggests.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 37
Curtis Gordon -
Please Baby Please
Written in vain for Fats Domino, Please Baby please sees honky-tonk rocker Curtis Gordon
go as close to the blues as he ever went. Cut at the Bradley studios in Nashville in
October 1957 it was to be his last Mercury session. Backed by the legendary A-Team the
song gives Floyd Cramer plenty of scope to flex the fingers and an all too brief cameo
from Sugarfoot Garland. Never a hit artist, CG's songs didn't really gain much attention
until the rockabilly revival with tracks like Draggin' and Mobile, Alabama cropping up on
compilations. As neat as those songs are, it's the almost swamp-pop blues of Please Baby
Please that's pleasures me most. It hit's the spot ma'am.
Recommended downloads: Play The Music Louder, Cry Cry, I Wouldn't (from the same Oct 57
session) and So Tired of Crying which was gloriously covered by the much-missed Rimshots.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 36
The Starliters -
Tom the Boogie Woogie Tom Cat
From Milan, Italy, The Starliters are a hot rockabilly band that have now been on the
scene for over a decade. They sound like Jack Baymoore with a slightly bigger nod in the
direction of hillbilly. Over the years they've recorded for Rockhouse, Favourite, On the
Hill and Tail Records and have provided the backing for American artists, Robert Gordon,
Marvin Rainwater and Marti Brom during their tours of Europe. I think they've now signed
to El Toro and look forward to their forthcoming album. The only album I've got is the
Tail Records effort, Pickin' Up Speed and it's a corker. Recorded at Tails studio in
Sweden in 1999 the sound is high quality thanks to the stellar engineering of Lars
Strandhiem. Tom the Boogie Woogie Tom Cat is, as Big Sandy might describe it, "hi-billy"
music, a rockin' hillbilly boogie which hot steel and electric licks together with a hot
piano solo from Boppin' Steve. Max Ammons' vocals are excellent, controlled and exciting
at the same time.
Recommended listening: Super Trucker, Rocking & Knocking and Gonna Move In.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 35
Wayne Raney - Heads Or Tails, I Win
Wayne Raney and the Delmore Brothers were as close as country music ever got to the blues.
From the harmonica and the guitar boogie lines to the simple lyric structure, their work
for King Records of Cincinnati could have been mistaken for "race records’" if it wasn't
for the pure hillbilly vocals. From an October 21st 1951 session the musicians on Heads Or
Tails, I Win are to northern hillbilly what Jimmy Van Eaton, Roland Janes and Billy Lee
Riley were to southern rockabilly. Raney is joined on twin harmonica by Lonnie Glosson
with Alton and Rabon Delmore picking the geetars. Al Myers also plays a lick and the bass
comes courtesy of the prolific Louis Innes. Raney's vocals are as playful as the lyrics on
what is a great, but sadly overlooked slab of bautiful mid-tempo hillbilly boogie.
Recommended downloads: Anything on the Ace CD "That Real Hot Boogie Boy’" or the Fan
records bootleg from 2001. The bootleg is hard to find but amazingly the Ace one doesn't
have Heads Or Tails, I Win.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 34
Railroad Bill and the Boxcar Stompers -
Railroad Bill and the Boxcar Stompers are legends of the Aberystwyth pub scene. They
played all the bars in town during the mid to late 80's when they were students here. It
used to be great to be able to pop out for a few beers and listen to some live skiffle.
With the usual array of skiffle instruments, washboard, tea chest bass, guitar and
mandolin they sounded rough and loose, just like skiffle should. Highlights of the live
show used to be Jesse James and Mama Don't Allow, which allowed everyone to take a solo
for the encouraging crowd. They released a casette during this period, which I've still
got somewhere. I can't remember what it was called but I remember the inlay was cheap and
cheerful and brown. The star of the album was the self written classic, Aberystwyth
Sprinter, a heartfelt tribute to the only train that runs into Aberystwyth - it still is!
Known near and far as the Sprinter it was a sprinter in the same sense that Eddie The
Eagle was an Olympic ski-jumper. I think they got to perform it on Radio 1 when the
Roadshow came to town. It was probably the last skiffle song played on Radio 1. "I don't
know the Welsh for piston, I don't know the Welsh for train, but I do know that I would
like to come back here again, tourists come in summer, students come in winter, but
everybody comes here on the Aberystwyth Sprinter". Classic. The last time I saw them was
at a brilliant night at the King's Hotel in Newport, where the line-up also included the
Rimshots (no mean skifflers themselves) and skiffle king, Lonnie Donnegan. It seems like
Rainroad Bill still play the occasional gig, I look forward to them coming back to
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 33
Hot Boogie Chillun -
As the bands name suggests there's a strong John Lee Hooker influence here.
The hypnotic groove that JLH made his own is given the impetus of a strong rockabilly
vocal, clicking bass and some dirty sax. The band came from German and in the late 90'
s were the cult band on the rocking scene, with their singles constantly blasting out
to throbbing dance floors across Europe. More Roy Gaines than Roy Orbison, Hot Boogie
Chillun aren't for the faint hearted. Chillun Walk is a low-down mean stroller that
builds to a crescendo of wailing guitars, vocals and a touch of heavily amplified
harmonica. A barnstormer.
Recommended downloads: Desperado Love, Dirty Robber and Hey, Girl.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 32
Joe Hill Louis -
Boogie In The Park
Modern 20-813 (1950)
One man band Joe Hill Louis was tailor made to work with Sam Phillips who seemed drawn to
eccentric people like a moth to a flame. A drummer, harmonica player, guitarist and no
mean singer either, Joe Hill had recorded in Sun during July 1950 and returned on 27th
November for a legendary session that ranged from the relentless bop of Boogie In the Park
to his finest slow blues, Cold Chills. Everything that was ggood about Memphis blues was
encapsulated in those two tracks. Apparantly Memphis deejay Dewey Phillips was a massive
fan of JHL and was eager to push his records and make a star of him, no doubt having
soaked up his imprompto one-man street corner gigs around town. In an interview Sam
Phillips did with Martin Hawkins in 2000 he said that Boogie In The Park was written about
either Handy Park or the local black baseball arena, Russwood Park, home of the Memphis
Red Socks. For sheer hypnotic, unadulterated blues boogie, it was the equal of anything
the wonderful John Lee Hooker ever conjured up.
Recommended downloads: I Feel Like A Million, the overdubbed 1953 stomper Western Union
Man and a superb cover of the Sonny Boy Williamson classic Eyesight To The Blind.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 31
Jesse Al Tuscan and the Lumberjacks -
Tail Records (2000)
Jesse Al Tuscan and the Lumberjacks are a dynamic quartet from Berlin, Germany who
recorded for the great Swedish label Tail Records. I'm not sure whether the band are still
going because they're website seems to have stopped updating a couple of years ago -
hopefully they're still drinking good German beer and ripping the joints apart with their
brand of fireball rock 'n' roll. Singer and rhythm guitarist Alexander Arndt has got a
great Elvisy style, swooning and swaggering with Martin Herzog playing some tasty lead
licks. Tail Records uses a 50's recording studio using vintage recording equipment which
gives all their releases that authentic rocking sound. 88 AM sounds for all the world like
it was cut at Sun circa 1956 - it's full of rumbling guitar, menacing vocals and I could
picture this little ditty spinning around on a yellow 45.
Recommended downloads: Rockin Motorcycle, You're Tempting Me, Set Him Free and Bear Hug a
duet with Eva Eastwood.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 30
Flatfoot Shakers -
Gold Diggin' Mama
As mad as this might sound, Gold Diggin' Mama sounds for all the world like Jack
Baymoore & the Bandits on Meteor Records circa 1956. Curled lipped vocals, authentic
rockabilly guitar licks and oodles of feel-good factor. The Flatfoot Shakers area
quartet from Down Under and they're further evidence of the excellent Australian scene.
Singer Kieron McDonald has the perfect blend of hiccups and tease while lead
guitarist Peter Baylor has obviously done his homework and studied the
genre's greatest pickers. Gold Diggin' Mama is one of those relentless
rockabilly boogies that makes you wanna move your feet and grab the air mic.
I just played it for a girl here in work and she didn't really like it -
proof to me that it's a classic!
Recommended downloads; I'm Getting Rid Of You, a great cover of Louisiana Mama and
Hey There Friend.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 29
Jerry King & the Rivertown Ramblers -
You Forgot Your Name
El Toro Records (2006)
Although this fourpiece come from Cincinnati, Ohio they relocated to the home of
rockabilly, Memphis, Tennessee where they've built a reputation as one of the best bands
on the scene. Lead singer and principal songwriter Jerry King has a real 50's voice and
this, combined with the bands mellow rocking sound gives them a Go Cat Go feeling. They
recorded their first three albums at Sun Studios and signed with one of Europe's top
labels, El Toro. You Forgot Your Name is more Don't Be Cruel than Baby Let's Play House.
It's hiccupy, echo-laden and you'd swear it was cut in 1957. The backing vocals are spot
on and lead guitarist Jason Roeper keeps it simple with a couple of authentic solos. If
you dig the melodic rock 'n' roll of Ral Donner, you'll dig this and most of the A Date
With Jerry King & the Rivertown Ramblers album.
Recommended downloads: Honky Tonk Bop, Bad Dreams (surely this is Ral Donner!), My Baby
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 28
Billy Nelson -
Pack, Shack And Stack Your Blues Away
Sun (Savoy 1183)
Big band rock 'n' roll from the glorious Savoy label, Pack, Shack And Stack Your
Blues Away was the b-side to Walk Along. Bluesman Nelson was more of a singer
than a shouter and this little ditty has New York stamped all over it.
The label credits the 5 Wings with the backing vocals but the reality is
that only three of them are heard. They became the Dubs, but in November
1955 when this session took place they were happy to get what work they could.
It's a fine slab of rock 'n' roll with a sax break that blows the roof-off.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 27
They say only two things are certain death and taxes. Well you can a third to the list
Narvel Felts will always reply to his fan mail. One of the great, sincere people of the
music industry this choice is made not because he's a good guy but because of the quality
of the music. Despite a handful of red hot rockers for Sun Records he left the label
within five months with no releases seeing the light of day at the time sound familiar?
Kiss-A-Me Baby was cut on Union Avenue on April 5th 1957 with his regular band of JW
Grubbs, Jerry Tuttle, Bob Taylor and Leon Barrett. The song kicks off with jungle-drum
rhythm and builds as it leads to the chorus. It was re-cut for Mercury a month later than
the Sun session and was released as a single but the version pales compared to the Sun
take. The addition of a sax adds nothing and the lack of drive and passion makes it hard
to believe that the band was virtually the same.
Recommended downloads: Did You Tell Me, Lonesome Feeling, I'm Headin' Home.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 26
Al Willis & The Swingsters
Rock Your Little Baby To Sleep
Makes Buddy Knox sound like Jimmy Bowen. Actually that suggests that Al Willis' version is all crash,
bang, whollop but in honesty it's anything but. It's hard driving and relentless but it's very
controlled and expertly played. The band take the song at a quicker pace than Buddy Knox's
original without sacrificing the songs melody. The band are French and have been going for over a decade.
Both their Tail Records, Rock The Bop and Got What It Takes are well worth checking out.
Recommended downloads: The great I've Gotta Find Someone, Angelina and When I'm Gone.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 25
Eddie & the Flatheads
On The Hill Records
Think Billy Lee Riley's Flyin' Saucer Rock 'n' Roll meets the new Millenium and you're
getting close to Eddie & the Flatheads Green Man. It's relentless rockabilly boogie with
a pulsating beat. Front man William Svensson is a formidable singer and an uncompromising
guitarist, a good combination for a rockabilly main man. The Flatheads sound like the
Little Green Men, with equal measures of urgency and technique. Don't know much about them
other than they're Swedish, but I like what I've heard.
Recommended downloads: Gonna Love My Baby Now, Record Hop, Stop Shakin' That Tree,
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 24
From the excellent Bear Family CD Introducing James Intveld, Perfect World was the opening
cut and laid the foundation for a thirty minute pleasure trip. I first heard James Intveld
on the Cry Baby soundtrack where he provided the vocals for Johnny Depp to lip-synch to.
He was born in Holland but grew up in Compton, California. By the early 1980's he was
fronting the local rockabilly band The Rockin' Shadows , before getting to film "My
Heart is Achin' For You" for the 1984 movie Roadhouse 66 starring a young William Dafoe.
It was whilst opening for Ricky Nelson at The Rumbleseat Garage in Long Beach that
The Rockin' Shadows impressed Ricky so much that he invited James's brother Ricky
and Pat Woodward to join his Stone Canyon Band. On December 31, 1985, Ricky and all his
band perished in a plane crash with James taking the death of his brother bad. He laid
low on the music scene for a long time just playing back-up in bands for the likes of
Rosie Flores, Ray Campi and Billy Swan. In 1995 Bear Family asked James to do a song
called "Barely Hangin' On", for a 20th anniversary compilation they were releasing.
This led to the Introducing JI album which won the award for the best country roots
CD from Music Connection for 1996. More albums have followed as well as a reputation
as a fine live act. Perfect World is a loping, easy going rockaballad in the style
he has made his own. His melodic vocals show the influence of Ricky Nelson/Roy Orbison
and the band sound more like the Nashville A team than Bill Haley's Comets.
Recommended downloads: Samantha, My Heart Is Achin? For You, Cryin? Over You and the
Cry baby soundtrack is also worth checking out.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 23
Beep Beep Beep
Bobby Day gives a nod to the Coasters with this novelty rocker. Sax man Plas Johnson
takes the role of King Curtis, the only surprise is that it's not written by Leiber
and Stoller. Cut at Barney's Studio in Los Angeles in 1957 the band comprise the
cream of the West Coast session men, including Johnson, Barney Kessell, Red Callender
and Earl Palmer.
Bobby Day had been a part of the CA scene pretty much since
he'd moved there as a teenager from Texas, and his work with the Hollywood
Flames and his solo singles for Class oozed the famous West Coast sound.
Yeah, it had a sound long before the Beach Boys!
Recommended downloads: Over And Over, Three Young Rebs From Georgia, and
the brilliant Ain't Gonna Cry No More.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 22
Mac Curtis was a natural rockabilly star. Like most teenage Texans in the '50s he grew up
on a diet of country music before becoming aware of rhythm and blues. By the middle of
the decade Texas had become a regular stomping ground for the mad Memphis rockabillies
who were cutting up the South. Youngsters from bob Luman to Buddy Holly were hooked
and before long the recording studios in Fort Worth and Dallas were being bombarded
by young hopefuls. Mac was great from the get-go. His first session in April
1956 had yielded a couple of crackers in Granddaddy's Rockin' and If I Had Me
A Woman, followed a couple of months later with That Ain't Nothin' But Right. By
the time Curtis recorded his third session he'd worked an Alan Freed package
tour with no less a star than Little Richard. It was at this session that he
recorded Goosebumps, which inexplicably went unreleased for two decades.
The band cook in the controlled manner that enchanted many a Texas rockabilly
record from Peanuts Wilson to Sid King. It was restrained and melodic and if
most of them had been cut 4 or 5 years later they could have made more impact.
Cut at the Jim Beck Studio in Dallas on 10 February 1957, the session was
produced by the songs writer Louis Innis and featured Bill Peck on drums,
Kenny Cobb on bass and Jay Brinkley on lead guitar.
Recommended downloads: Granddaddy's Rockin', If I Had Me A Woman, That Ain't Nothin'
But Right, Say So, You Ain't Treatin' Me Right.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 21
The Marquees -
Wyatt Earp / Hey Little School Girl
Not to be confused with the Marquees on Grand, the Marquees on Len, the Marquees on Daysel
or the Marquees on Warner Brothers, these Marquees recorded for Okeh in 1957. From
Washington D.C. they consisted of Reese Palmer (first tenor), Marvin Gaye (second
tenor/baritone), James Nolan (second tenor/baritone) and Chester Simmons (bass). They
played local shows, sometimes with the addition of Peasie Adams who introduced them to Bo
Diddley who was living in D.C. at this time. They were soon signed by Bo's manager Phil
Landwehr who landed them Columbia Records' Okeh subsidiary. They cut Wyatt Earp and Hey
Little School Girl at their first session at CBS Building on Broadway on 25th September
1957. They were backed by Bo and his band and it was beautiful. Hey Little School Girl is
an up tempo jiver with a deadly combination of extreme-doowopping and a crack r&b band.
Palmer takes the lead vocals and he's so full of life but the star of the show for me is
Simmons with his "bbbrrrrmmm's". Jerome Green sparkles on maracas and there's a tasty sax
solo in the middle. Okeh weren't impressed by the recording of Wyatt Earp so they sent
them back to the studio on November 12 to re-record it with Bo's band. Simmons is again
the star turn and the guitar solo is hot as well - anyone know if that's Mickey Baker?
Despite good reviews the song went no-where and the Marquees left both Okeh and Phil
Landwehr. Chester Simmons became a driver and valet for Bo Diddley and through this
managed to persuade Harvey Fuqua of the Moonglows to come on board and from there the
dynamics of the group changed constantly including become the new Moonglows for Fuqua. I
think it's fair to say that Marvin Gaye went on to bigger things but he never went to
anything better than Okeh 4-7096, a rock 'n' roll gem.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 20
John Lee Hooker -
John Lee Hooker was working the juke joints in Detroit during the late '40s when he
started to make a name for himself on the local record scene. Sensation owner Bernie
Besman took him into the Union Sound Studio on Second Boulevard on November 3rd, 1948,
together with sound engineer Joe Siracuse. They worked hard to get the right sound in the
studio, even amplifying the guitar via the toilet next door, using the water in the bowl
to bounce the sound around, giving it a unique echo effect. There was another mic placed
under the wooden plank that Hooker stomped his foot on - not the type of drum set-up that
Phil Collins would be happy with!! The first three songs on the session were simple blues,
the type that could have been recorded by any Delta bluesman. It was the fourth song that
hit the spot though, and it laid the foundation for virtually every up tempo number he
would record for the next half decade. From the opening riff, Hooker lays down a
relentless boogie. The mumbled vocals are a treasure and the only thing that lets the side
down is the guitar solo, which at best could be described as pretty shitty. "One night I
was laying down, I heard mama and papa talking, I heard papa tell mama, let that boy
boogie, coz it's in him and it's got to come out". Classic.
Recommended downloads: Rock House Boogie - if only Eddie Kirkland's solo could be
transposed onto Boogie Chillun.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 19
Conway Twitty -
Make Me Know You're Mine
Conway Twitty really had a fine set of vocal cords, one of the best in the business.
A couple of years at Sun Records had proved more successful artistically than
financially, but his new tenure at MGM had proved fruitful from the get-go with
It's Only Make Believe becoming one of the biggest hits of 1958. Twitty had landed
himself a sympathetic producer in Jim Vienneau, who gave Conway free license to growl
and toy with the words. The sound was less rockabilly, more purified, mainstream
rock 'n' roll. It suited Conway to a tee and when the song was right, the results
were glorious, as is the case with this Shroeder-Hill number. Recorded in December
'58 at the Bradley Studio in Music City, Conway is backed by the cream of the
crop, Grady Martin and Ray Edenton on guitars, Harold Bradley on electric bass,
Lightnin' Chance on slap bass, Floyd Cramer on piano and possibly Jack Nance on
drums. The guitar and vocals purr together, with Conway singing like Duane Eddy
plays guitar. Had the song been around 12 months later I'm sure Elvis would have
cut it for the Elvis Is Back album.
Recommended listening: Apart from the obvious, try, I Vibrate, Long Black Train,
Don't You Know, Give Me Some Love, Is A Bluebird Blue.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 18
Wilbert Harrison - 1960
After spending most of the '50s recording without success for the likes of Savoy
and Deluxe, Wilbert Harrison finally hit the big time in 1959 when his first single on
Fury, Kansas City, became a million selling smash. Frustration followed behind, a
mood that was to follow him for the rest of his life. As great as Kansas City was and
it really is great, my favourite Wilbert song is 1960, the flip-side of Goodbye Kansas City.
An hypnotic stroller with the brilliant Big Apple session man Wild Jimmy Spruill on
guitar and an unknown pianist who takes a marvellously controlled solo. Harrison
sings with such vigour and with the uncontrollable enthusiasm of youth,
telling everyone who'll listen "this is 1960 and today I'm only 21,
you only live but once and when you're dead, you're done". It's a bit of a
porky really because he was 31, but who cared.
Recommended downloads; The Horse, Da-De-Ya-Da, Pretty Little Woman, his great version
of Stagger Lee and does anyone here not have Kansas City.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 17
Frankie Allan -
Just A Country Boy
He might not be the most famous of the Welsh rock 'n' rollers, but none of the others,
Shaky included, have ever come closer to capturing the sound of Elvis Presley.
From the South Wales valley town of Merthyr Tydfil, he fell in love with the music
of the King and by the early 60s was fronting a local band called The Emeralds.
It was following Elvis' death in 1977 that Frankie was invited by Kingsley Ward
to record Just a Country Boy (from Memphis, Tennessee) at his renowned Rockfield
Studios in Monmouth, South Wales. The song is so atmospheric and the sound defies
it's vintage. Apart from the guitar solo (very Kirsty MacColl) the double bass,
drums and Jordanairesque backing vocals, you'd swear it came from 1957 not 1977.
"His music make me dance all night, and his sad songs made me cry, and I'll always
feel the same way 'til I die". If only all tribute songs could be like this -
think about Danny Mirror.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 16
Ronnie Hawkins -
By the summer of 1959 Ronnie Hawkins and his Hawks had displaced from their Arkansas homes
to Canada where Ronnie has remained for the rest of his life. Bass player Jimmy Evans
joined them up north that summer and allegedly sold Hayride to Ronnie for 50 bucks. It was
recorded a couple of months later during an eight song demo session in New York. When the
troupe returned to the Big Apple for a 26th October recording date at the Bell Sound
Studio, Hayride was the only one of the demos to be re-cut. It was a great session that
yielded classics such as Baby Jean, Southern Love and Hey Boba Lou. The band were as tight
as the proverbial nun's snatch by this time with Levon Helm, Luke Paulman and Fred Carter
Jnr pulling the strings. Hayride is a swinging rockabilly hoedown, with Ronnie playing
with the phrasing. Ronnie Hawkins is a really underrated singer, one of the true greats of
rock 'n' roll. Hayride, and the way he sings it, is for me, what Don't Be Cruel was for
Elvis. Pure pop 'n' roll with both vocalists showing complete command over the artistry of
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 15
Lonesome Long John Roller -
Long John's Flagpole Rock
Whereas today's big stars record their songs over a 30 day period full of re-mixing and
adding untold layers of extra guitar, the songs of the '50s were often recorded in half an
hour during off-the-cuff recording sessions. The stories behind some of these sessions
makes for fascinating reading but nothing can quite compare with this little beauty.
Phoenix Arizona DJ, Lonesome Long John Roller spent 211 days and 23 hours in his 1958 Ford
Fairlane 40 feet above the ground setting the world's flagpole sitting record! He had on
board his cat for company and continued to broadcast live on the air. One day the
legendary guitarist Al Casey and his wife Corky were lifted into the Fairlane together
with instruments and a tape recorder and they proceeded to cut Long John's Flagpole Rock.
It's a jaunty rural rockabilly with Casey hitting the heights (sorry about that) on his
solo. Customers who wanted to buy a copy had to put their money in a bucket which Roller
hoisted up to the car and then lowered back down with a copy of the record inside. Totally
unique, and another reason to love our music.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 14
Hawkshaw Hawkins -
Car Hoppin' Mama
RCA 6211 (1955)
Hawkshaw Hawkins is best remembered these days as one of the guys that died in the 1963
plane crash with Patsy Cline. There's so much more to this long streak of sunshine (6' 6"
in his stocking feet) than that though. He was one of the finest country singers of the
50s who enjoyed eight top twenty singles, six of which went top 10. All but one were on
the King label, and it took the morbidity of the plane crash for him to hit his only
number one with Lonesome 7-7203.
He enjoyed great success between 1948 and 1951, but hit a dry spell before hitting the
charts for Columbia with Soldier's Joy. It was during this barren period that he joined
RCA and became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
He cut Car Hoppin' Mama for RCA at their studios on McGavock Street in Nashville on 27th
May 1955 under the production of Chet Atkins. With a crack band that included Atkins on
guitar, Bob Moore on bass, Walter Haynes on steel guitar and the twin fiddles of Tommy
Jackson and Grady Martin, the session produced three numbers, Oh How I Cried, The Love You
Steal and my fave, Car Hoppin' Mama.
Written by Hank Thompson, the highlights of the song are many. Haynes kicks the whole
shebang off in fine style, followed by the lovely soft deep tones of Hawkins. Underpinning
it throughout is the fluent guitar of Chet, playing in the Atkins-style he'd perfected.
Jackson and Martin saw away to great effect. A mid tempo number, the combination of pure
country accompaniment and Hawkins' mellow baritone, make this one of my favourite country
songs. Why it never became a hit (The Love You Steal was on the b-side) is anyone's guess.
Whether it was thought the mama was some sort of hooker or just a honky tonk queen is
never quite clear, but surely that couldn't have kept the public at bay. Whatever, it's a
slab of honky tonk that should be in everybody's collection.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 13
Wild Wax Combo -
Hot Rod Racer
(ABC Paramount (Enviken Records)
Another in a long line of Scandinavian rockabilly bands, the Wild Wax Combo have been going since
1996, releasing 4 albums to date, all of them on the Swedish Enviken label. The trio write most of
their own songs, including Hot Rod Racer, a rockabilly stomper that has set my heart racing this
week. There's blood thirsty guitar solos, primitive backing vocals and above all, pounding drums
which make this the highlight of their 2006 release, Rumble In The Jungle.
This is rockabilly music
for the present day, great energy, full sound and a heart on your sleeve delivery. With songs like
this still being written, rockabilly will never die. The theme might be old with hot rods being part
of the rockabilly fabric since it's earliest days, but the freshness of the sound and the lifestyle
of a lot of rockers keep it relevant.
Recommended downloads: Mad Dog Mama, a great Betty Page tribute Miss Betty and a strolling take on
Billy Fury's Phone Call - a great choice.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 12
Vince Everett -
Box of Candy
(ABC Paramount (unissued)
I love Ral Donner but to me Vince Everett is the greatest Elvisette ever.
Born Marvin Benefield, he took his stage name from the character Elvis played in
Jailhouse Rock, and dedicated his career to singing in the Elvis Presley style.
The beauty is that he never sounds like he's forcing it, it appears to come
naturally and it's pure ear candy. If it's a replica you're after, take a listen
his stunning version of Such A Night or the bopping Baby Let's Play House.
From the pen of Elvis scribes Fred Wise and Ben Weisman, Box of Candy sounds like a
castoff from the Elvis Is Back album. Instead it comes from the relatively late
vintage of 1964, a time when the crappy Beatles were starting to make waves.
This could be the only reason ABC Paramount chose to leave this and the equally
great Sweet Flavours in the can. Box of Candy is mid tempo rock 'n' roll with
Jordanaires ooh-ahs, hand claps and above all, fabulous vocals. It's upturned
collar time, and it's one of those songs that it's impossible to listen
to without curling your lip and leaning into an imaginary mic as your
treat the bathroom mirror to your finest Elvis impression. Surely it's not just me!
Recommended downloads: Such a Night, I Ain't Gonna Be Your Low Down Dog No More,
Livin' High, Sweet Flavours and Baby Let's Play House.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 11
George Thorogood -
Madison Blues (demo)
This demo was recorded at Music Designers Inc, Boston in September 1974.
It's three and a half minutes of pure blues. George sounded so young and raw, much
rawer than his sound today. I know that happens with virtually every band, where they
smooth out the rough edges as the years go by and the band get tighter. I just think
this uncut roughness works really well with hard driving blues like this. His slide
playing shows that he was already there, and his voice hasn't really changed over the years.
I know I've written about Crazy Cavan a lot lately but I make no apologies for mentioning
him here - I George Thorogood and the Destroyers are to the blues what CC and the
Rhythm Rockers are to rockabilly. It's got a heavy backbeat that plods along
hypnotically and a singer that gives it from the soul. It's rough, tough and ready,
and that's what these GT demos proved to any label that heard them.
Recommended downloads: Bad To the Bone, Get A Haircut, I Drink Alone, One Bourbon,
One Scotch, One Beer, Gear Jammer and for some reason I love Ballad of Maverick.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 10
It was January 8th 1958 and Elvis was celebrating his 23rd birthday shacked up in
the arms of his latest Hollywood starlet planning a trip in two days to Los Angeles.
Already out there at the Gold Star Studios is LA rockabilly Glen Glenn,
in the middle of one of the greatest sessions ever to take place.
With his pals Gary Lambert and Guybo Smith, together with drummer
Joe O'Dell and country singer come wannabee rocker Wynn Stewart,
they recorded a foursome of rockabilly classics, One Cup of Coffee,
I'm Glad My Baby's Gone Away, Would Ya and Everybody's Movin'.
I first heard Everybody's Movin' on the 1977 Chiswick album, Hollywood Rock 'n'
Roll. It was the standout track then and it's been the standout track on just
about every release it's been on since. Guybo's bass is a treat and keeps
this Glen Glenn original flowing smoothly from start to finish. Lambert
takes a neat solo and his simple picking proves that less or more.
Great song from a great guy.
Recommended listening: all 4 from the 8 Jan '58 session, Blue Jeans and
a Boys Shirt, Don't You Love Me, Kitty Cat, Kathleen.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 9
Big Maybelle -
From Jackson, Tennessee, Big Maybelle is perhaps best remembered in rock 'n' roll circuits as the
gal who gave the world, well the black part of the States anyway, one of the immortals, Whole Lotta
Shakin' Goin' On. She started her recording career with Decca before moving to King, Okeh and Savoy
among others. She cut Gabbin' Blues in New York on 8th October 1952 with Sam The Man Taylor among
For those who've never heard the song, I'd say it was like this - picture the scene in King Creole
where Elvis is leaning over the balcony whilst the big black woman peddles the streets below
shouting out the song "crawfish". Now instead of young Danny Fisher singing back to her, imagine
he's also a big black woman and he starts singing back to her that the fish she's selling are crap
and that she's nothing but trash!
The bitching starts before the musicians, and just like two woman it doesn't let up until the guy
running the soundboard turns the volume down. "Here comes ole evil chick always telling everybody
she's from Chicago - got Mississippi written all over her". Co-writer Rosemary McCoy plays the
bitchy broad brilliantly, running down Big Maybelle, who drowns out the comments with some of the
greatest blues singing ever committed to wax. This is one of those songs where you just wish videos
had been invented at the time. I'd love to see these two sassy ladies chewing one another out, in a
low-down speak-easy setting - guys in fedoras smoking big cigars in the background, just waiting for
the scratching and clawing to start.
Recommended downloads: My Country Man, One Monkey Don't Stop No Show, Hair Dressin' Women, Candy,
Tell Me Who and obviously, Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 8
Ray Smith -
You Made A Hit
Possessor of one of the finest Presleyesque vocal chords in the whole of Rockabilly
Town, Ray Smith should have been a big star. He did have a fleeting spell in
the charts with the wonderful Rockin' Little Angel on Judd, but I reckon that today
we should be able to look at his old guitars and stage clothes in Cleveland.
To say he should be in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame might sound like I've been
at the Jack Daniels, but I'm serious, and sober. On September 13th, 1958 when he
cut You Made A Hit, I wouldn't be surprised if Sam had put a loving arm around his
shoulders and said "you sure did Ray". Written by Memphis songwriter Walt Maynard,
the song is quintessential Sun rockabilly with its totally engaging beat.
Backed by his own guys Stanley Walker and Dean Perkins on guitar,
together with studio guys Stan Kesler, Jimmy Van Eaton and the quiet guy
who seemed to be his mentor, Charlie Rich on piano. Released a month after
the session, the song went nowhere, much like the singles that preceded and
followed it. Can anyone tell me why Ray Smith doesn't get a mention in what's
considered the Sun bible, Good Rockin' Tonight by Colin Escott and Martin Hawkins?
The same with Dave Marsh's For the Record: Sun Records An Oral History? He did
manage to get a few mentions in Escott and Hawkins' original Sun volume Catalyst,
but they aren't exactly gushing. He had 5 singles on our favourite little label,
not many can beat that!
Recommended downloads: Right Behind You Baby, So Young (great voice), Shake Around,
Rockin' Bandit, Breakup, Rockin' Little Angel, That's Alright, the ral Donnerish Nice
Guy and best of, the glorious Elvisy vocals on Candy Doll.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 7
Runnin' Wild -
Killer Taco Stomp
With it's heavy stompin' beat, Killer Taco Stomp is rockabilly for the 21st Century.
The frenzied vocals are deep and strong, the beat is unrelenting and as menacing
as the vocals. The drums and bass give a hint of how rockabilly is going to
sound once the purists run for the hills. Song kicks of with heavily echoed
slapping bass, before the rockin' western guitar kicks in and the track gets
bops into orbit. The vocals are something else, savage and scary, sounding more
like Link Wray's Good Rockin' Tonight than Elvis'. This is great music to drive
to at night, to bop to, to scare your granny with or to just sit and listen.
If this is the future, I wanna live for years.
Runnin' Wild were formed from the remnants of The Domino's and are the best
rockabilly band Belgium has produced. After early work on Rockhouse and Red
Comet Records they began to make a name for themselves on the European scene
during the late '90s. They joined Rock Therapy/El Toro and made a huge
impression at the May 2000 Hemsby festival, thanks to their wild live show
and Killer Taco Stomp becoming a dancehall favourite. Check out the video
clip below where KTS is used to showcase the Screamin' Weekender.
Recommended downloads: Loretta, Hello, Mr Lowdown Blues, Sure Do Love You
Baby and Here Comes Johnny.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 6
Lavern Baker -
Hey Memphis is Lavern Baker's raunchy tribute to the Tupelo Flash, Elvis Presley,
using his Little Sister note for note. Both were penned by the prolific team Doc
Pomus and Mort Shuman. Elvis had cut Little Sister in June 1961 with Hank Sugarfoot
Garland borrowing Harold Bradley's Fender to get the growling tone that drove the song
along. Three months later Lavern used the equally fabulous Mickey Baker to get the
same growl. Gary Chester plays the DJ Fontana part to a tee and Lavern sings with all
the authority you'd expect from her. Although King Curtis was on the session he sat
this one out, a shame really as a couple of his honks would have been interesting.
Can you imagine what it would have been like if Steve Binder had got Lavern and
Elvis to combine the two songs for Elvis' Comeback Special in 1968. Forget Tweedle
Dee which they both did, this is the song that would have slayed us Colonel
Tom woulda had a heart attack, another reason why Binder should have done it.
Does anyone out there know what Elvis thought of Hey Memphis? How the flipside of
it, Voodoo Voodoo, remained in the can for 3 years is a mystery. An astonishingly
dark rocker it is one of the great fusions of rock 'n' roll and rhythm 'n' blues.
Recommended downloads: Voodoo Voodoo, Bumble Bee, Whipper Snapper,
Humpty Dumpty Heart and On Revival Day.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 5
Janis Martin -
After just two years and just five previous sessions (three in New York and two in
Nashville), Janis Martin entered the RCA Victor Studio in Nashville for the final
time on July 7th, 1958. Under the production of Chet Atkins she was teamed up with
the big boys of the south, Hank Sugarfoot Garland, Bob Moore, Buddy Harman and
the Jordanaires included. The Jordanaires featured heavily on the other
three tracks recorded, but played no role (at least to these ears!) on Bang Bang.
They played a fine role in making "William" a top-notch rock 'n' roller but I think
Chet was on the money when he decided to go without them on the Banger.
Bang Bang is a stop starter with Janis giving Wanda a run for her money as
the queen of rockabilly. Sugarfoot shines throughout before exploding into
a truly memorable solo. Despite the heroics of Janis and Sugarfoot, the star
of the show has to be Buddy Harman whose shotgun-drumming is a showstopper.
Released with the rockaballad Please Be My Love as by Janis and her Boyfriends,
the song failed to chart, whereas it should have launched her into the big time.
Recommended downloads: Drugstore Rock 'n' Roll, My Boy Elvis, Barefoot Baby
and her second best number Crackerjack.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 4
Benny Joy -
Ittie Bittie Everything
Don't get fooled by the cute little title. This ain't the sort of thing thing to play the
sister's little daughter expecting to send her into a peaceful spell of slumber.
This is a "wake all neighbours and let's have a riot" slab of rock 'n' roll. With it's
heavy beat and driving vocals, the song was not the usual fair for Buck Ram's self-named
label who thrived in the 50's thanks to the beautiful tones of Tony Williams and
his Platters. If ever a guy was called the right thing, it was Benny Joy who
in a few short years recorded a dozen solid gone boppers, with his musical
partner Big John Taylor.
After singles on Tri-Dec and Dixie, Buck Ram took him by the horns with the promise
of a career to match the Platters or better still Elvis, who had thrilled Joy
when he'd played his hometown of Tampa, Florida a few years before. Colonel
Tom parker may have been a dog-catcher in Tampa but he let this puppy get away.
Buck Ram shepherded him to his new stable though and the big time looked on.
As is the theme with everything on this website though, the cream seemed
to fall to the bottom whilst the shite rose to the top. Despite big tours,
including a couple to Europe, the hits eluded Benny Joy and he drifted
away from the spot light, becoming a Nashville songwriter for Cedarwood.
By the 70's he was back in Florida where he lived until his death in 1988.
The first track of his I ever heard was Spin The Bottle, a breathless rocker
taken at breakneck speed. Any number of a dozen of his songs were good enough
to go all the way, he had the right voice, the right songs, the right name,
just not the four leaf clover.
Recommended downloads: Crash The party, Miss Bobby Sox, Spin The Bottle,
Steady With Betty, Rollin' To The Jukebox Rock, Money Money, Hey High School
Baby. Best thing to do is just buy the Ace CD (CDCHD703) Benny Joy.
Crash The Rockabilly Party.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 3
Thurston Harris -
Hey Baba Leba / I'm Out To Getcha
More of a single of the week than just a song. Both sides here are prime slabs of black
rock 'n' roll. Following a couple of years with the doo-wopping Lamplighters on Federal,
Thurston Harris went out on his own with Aladdin Records. Formed in 1945 Aladdin was
tailor made for Harris, with a roster than included like minded revelers of the big
beat Amos Milburn, Big Jay McNeely and Shirley and Lee. The first session, cut
in Los Angeles on 27 August 1957 was a scorcher which produced two classics in
Little Bitty Pretty One and Do What You Did. He scored a massive hit at his
first attempt, with LBPO outselling Bobby Day's original and peaking at number 6.
DWYD somehow stalled just outside the top 50, but the standard had been set,
and pretty high it was too. The second session only yielded one track, another
bitch of a song, I Got Loaded (In Smokey Joe's Joint), which was held back
for over six months until released as his fourth single.
So to January 1958 and these two songs of the week. Both Hey Baba Leba and
I'm Out To Getcha feature strong bass lines that drive the songs along. Helen Humes'
Leba rocks like the dickens and the drums keep a relentless back beat. The sax has 50's
r'n'b written all over it complete with a rip-roaring extended solo. Getcha,
from the prolific pen of Otis Blackwell, sees the guitarist wear out the bass strings -
man they must have been bopping when they laid this down. This must have been what the
martians were dancing too as they circulated the skies above the States throughout the decade!
Music for flying saucers. Although the standard of his work remained high for a few
years he was never able to replicate the success of Little Bitty Pretty One and by the
early '60s both Aladdin and Thurston had run their course. What a beautiful ride it was though.
Recommended downloads: Hey Little Girl, Purple Stew, One Scotch One Bourbon One Beer,
Fine Fine Frame and the biggies, LBPO, DWYD and Over and Over. Finally, the brilliant
doo-wop-n-roller-stroller My Last Will Last.
14 January 2007.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 2
Gene Wyatt -
Gene Wyatt got involved in the music industry from an early age as he is hometown was
Shreveport, Louisiana, a hot bed of country music and rockabilly. Gene worked with
local boys Coach Floyd (bass), Leon Post (piano), Ronnie Lewis (drums) and the
future hall-of-fame guitarist James Burton. In 1957 Wyatt fell under the influence
of songwriter Dee Marias who took him to the KWKH studios behind the Louisiana
Hayride auditorium. They cut four tracks with Burton on fire, not for the last time.
They found an outlet for the songs when Ronnie Lewis' esteemed uncle, Stan Lewis
sold the masters to the LA based Ebb Records. The label was hot at the time thanks
to the Hollywood Flames' Buzz Buzz Buzz and the Shreveport boys must have been
dreaming of big things. Ebb owner Leona Rupe chose the fine piano bopper Love
Fever as the a-side with Lover Boy on the flip when it came out in January '58.
Lover Boy has a swampy rockabilly beat with Ronnie Lewis sounding like Lennox Lewis on
the drums. Burton takes two guitar solos that lift the song an extra notch and must
have sounded from another world as it blasted out of car radios along the West Coast.
Wyatt sings with great enthusiasm, but it's that guitar that makes this so memorable
fully 50 years on. Sadly, Gene Wyatt committed suicide in 1980.
Recommended downloads; Love Fever and Prettiest Girl At The Dance, the first song I
heard by him.
Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 1
Jimmy Pritchett -
That's The Way I Feel
Recorded in the spring of 1958 with Nothing On My Mind on the flip, That's The Way
I Feel is one of those feel good rockabilly boppers that became synonymous with Memphis.
The band is believed to be the Clyde Leopard band, a staple of the local Memphis scene
who among others gave a start to Warren Smith. Another legend of the Memphis crowd,
Stan Kesler was hell bent on recording his new discovery Jimmy Pritchett but soon
ran into problems with the equipment at the WHBQ studio. He called his old pal Sam
Phillips who let them use his Sun Studios on Union. Kesler certainly knew his
was around that soundboard and he produced a cracker.
Drummer Jimmy van Eaton is outstanding and dominates the backing like he does on
so many Memphis recordings, whilst. Smokey Joe Baugh takes a flight into the
stratosphere for his piano solo. When the song kicks off in JLL style you half
expect the Killer to start singing. However, it's our man Jimmy, whose vocals
have a great energy to them with the perfect combination of enthusiasm and control.
The song was released on Kesler's short lived Crystal label, while Pritchett's
career was even shorter. Pityfully, this was his only release. He probably came
on the rockabilly scene two years too late to have ruffled Sam's hair, a shame
because he seemed to have the exuberant voice that was made for rockabilly.
January 2, 2007
Page Created January 2, 2007