Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Jay Cee Hill - Romp Stompin' Boogie Boy

I first became aware of Jay Cee Hill on the CBS album, CBS, Epic & OKeh Rockabilly Classics, Vol. 3 in the mid 80’s. I loved Bump and Romp Stompin’ Boogie, the first a brilliant novelty rocker with funny lyrics, the other a buoyant bit of rockin’ hillbilly, or a romp, stompin’ boogie I suppose. The sleevenotes from Stuart Colman offered little information about Hill, and if he didn’t know anything about him, there was little chance of anyone doing so. Things have changed over the ensuing years and a potted history has been put together, mainly through the persistence of Bear Family.

He was born Hillman Baker in 1931 near Nashville in Big Sandy, Tennessee. His stage name has varied from Jay Cee to Jaycee Hill and even J.C. Hill on Argo. By the 1945 he was living in Cleveland before moving to Valley View, Ohio. Together with mate Joe Sway he formed Hill & Joe, the Valley Boys, a little country band who played on the local radio and TV.

Along with Tom, Dick and Harry they started to get hooked on the emerging rockabilly sounds and on July 3rd, 1956, they went to Cleveland’s Audio Recording Studio where they recorded four songs. A Love So Fine and Romp Stompin' Boogie were released on Epic 9185 in September. Since My Baby Left Me was a neat untempo hillbilly that was unlucky to remain unissued for nearly half a century and My Suspicious Heart has still to see daylight. Epic were happy enough to get Jay Cee back in the studio. This time they took him to New York where he worked with producer Joe Sherman and a crack band that included no less than George Barnes and Danny Perri on guitar, Milt Hinton on bass and Panama Francis on drums. The session on October 29, 1956 produced another single (Epic 9193) Bump! and Crash-Out.

Two more singles followed but even an appearance on the Dick Clark Show couldn’t help land a hit. A single apiece on Argo and MGM was about it for Jay Cee Hill, other than co-writing Yea, Yea for the Kendall Sisters and producing the wild rocker, Lorraine for Buddy Covelle.

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