Tuesday 31 March 2009

On this week 50 years ago - Coasters

On March 26, 1959, the Coasters recorded the superb double-header, Along Came Jones and That Is Rock & Roll. It was released two months later (Atco 6141) and went to number nine on the US charts.

Personnel: Carl Gardner, Billy Guy, Will "Dub" Jones, Cornell Gunter (vocals), Mike Stoller (piano, temple blocks), Alan Hanlon and Tony Mottola (guitars), George Barnes (banjo), Wendell Marshall (bass), King Curtis (tenor sax), Gary Chester (drums). Producers: Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

Along Came Jones was the perfect vehicle for the Coasters as a group and Leiber and Stoller as writers. It's a comedy western tale which I didn't realise until a few minutes ago was based on a 1945 cowboy film starring Gary Cooper and Loretta Young. A youTube clip of the original trailor is attached below. That Is Rock & Roll was sensationally covered by Shakin' Stevens - see the link below.

Monday 30 March 2009

Kingcats – Back on Track

Kingcats – Back on Track
Foot Tapping FT069

Track listing: Lucky Night, I Don’t Care If You Love Me, Don’t Come Knockin’, Sea Cruise, If You Only Knew, I’m Counting On You, I Ain’t Givin’ Up, A Mess of Blues, Break Up, Your True Love, I Got Stung, Milk Train Boogie.

I was so impressed with the Bill Crittenden CD that I had to look into the Kingcats to get more of that voice. I know Back On Track has been out for about a year but most of the stuff I review here has been out for 50 odd years, so what the hell. In woman terms, this album ain’t old enough to be a MILF!!

The Kingcats are the afore-mentioned Crittenden on rhythm guitar and vocals (and what vocals they are), Gabriel Allen on lead guitar, Calvis Kush on bass, Kevin Bulford on drums and Rusty Lupton (who sounds like an Elvis movie character) on piano.

A quarter of the dozen songs are originals, including the great opener Lucky Night, a rocker with a couple of piano solos. Don’t Come Knockin’ is a groovy slowie and the CD closer, Milk Train Boogie is piano boogie instrumental. Surprisingly, there’s a couple of lessor known Raul Malo numbers, I Don’t Care If You Love Me, a tasty slab of melodabilly that gives Brittenden plenty of scope to play with the lyrics. If You Only Knew is a piano driven bopper that the Mavericks once excelled at.

The 50’s covers are mainly Memphis based, although we start down in New Orleans for Frankie Ford’s Sea Cruise, which is given a rockabilly treatment which I didn’t like on first hearing, but sounds more hypnotic with each subsequent listen. Ben Hewitt’s I Ain’t Givin’ Up Nothin’ is more laid back than the original and reminded me a bit of James Intveld.

There’s a trio of Elvis covers, with I’m Counting On You being a beautiful version that confirms the quality of Crittenden’s voice. A Mess of Blues (love the understated bass) and a sterling I Got Stung don’t exactly let the team down either. Break Up moves along nicely and the guitar and vocals are top notch, producing a great version that would make Charlie Rich and Ray Smith proud. Ditto, Your True Love which would have had the approval of the Perkins boys.

I love this guy, he’s my new Paul Ansell.

Rockabilly Pride

I was driving home earlier listening to the BBC Radio 2 documentary from a couple of years ago, When Rockabilly Ruled The Waves, OK. I've played it a few times before, but there was something this time that made me feel different. Normally I wonder when, or if, rockabilly will ever become this popular again, and lament it's apparent slow death. This time though, I didn't worry about the future, I just felt proud that I was into rockabilly. I write this site because I love the music and want to do my bit to keep it alive. I admire the record label owners and promoters who put their money where their mouth is, and I marvel at the musicians who play for little reward. I haven't got the dosh or the location to run a label and I can't play an instrument, so all I can do is write about the music I love. About a hundred odd people visit the page everyday, and while that isn't exactly going to cause a musical revolution, I enjoy it and if anyone reads a review that leads to them buying a CD or going to see a band live, then great. As Darrel Higham says in the documentary, you feel so passionately for the music, you just want it to stay alive.

Saturday 28 March 2009

Lux Interior - a belated RIP

I never got around to paying tribute to the great Cramps frontman Lux Interior when he passed a few weeks ago. He was a legend, and will go down as the greatest showman on the psychobilly scene. With wife and guitarist Poison Ivy they were the deadly duo who left crowds breatless with thirty years of rockabilly mayhem around the globe.

This clip is taken from the old Channel 4 programme, The Tube - one of the best UK shows for featuring a bit of rockabilly and psychobilly.

What a wild ride. Rest in peace Lux.

Elvis Is Everywhere No.1 - Banana & Peanut Butter Elvis Beer

I've been thinking about brewing my own beer for a while and just Googled for a banana beer home brew. I couldn't believe that the first site I saw was my some guy in California who'd just brewed his own creation, the Banana & Peanut Butter Elvis beer.

If you like a beer and think that one with a hint of Elvis is right up your street, click here to visit the forum.

Friday 27 March 2009

"Hellfire" - 1982 article in Penthouse by Nick Tosches

It was 3 o'clock in the morning and the master bedroom of Graceland was still. Elvis Presley lay in his blue cotton pajamas dreaming. It was the same old dream. He walked through Tupelo in the late afternoon on a summer's day, toward the home of the virgin Evangeline. He was smiling as he turned a corner and entered a street where lush hackberry trees swallowed the sun. There was the house of her father, where she waited, wrapped in that magic, unholy thing from her mama's bottom drawer. He felt a chill. He was naked. Pleasance became dread, and he flushed with panic. He would retreat across town, where his mother was not dead and there fetch his clothes. If he hurried, there was time. He took a shortcut through a backyard he recognized, but was soon lost, running scared in a strange, unfriendly place, until he came to a meadow like none he had ever seen, and afternoon became night and the meadow became endless and he screamed.

The telephone at his bedside was ringing. It was one of the boys downstairs calling to tell the Boss there was trouble. The Graceland security guard had watched nervously as the 1976 Lincoln Continental sped up the gravel driveway and struck the gate. "I want to see Elvis," the driver shouted, with a voice as harsh as the clang of chrome and wrought iron that preceded it. "You just tell him the Killer's here." The guard recognized him as Jerry Lee Lewis and told him that Elvis did not want to be disturbed. This displeased Jerry Lee. He pulled out a .38 derringer, and his eyes, which were already partly closed, tightened with a further wrath. "Git on that damn house phone and call him! Who the hell does that sonofabitch think he is? Doesn't wanna be disturbed! He ain't no goddam better'n anybody else." Jerry Lee spat in disgust and then commenced yelling anew. He did not relent, and the guard went to the phone. "Elvis says call the cops" the boy at the house told the guard. Jerry Lee howled and waved his pistol toward the manor. The guard did as he was told, and a patrol car arrived in less than a minute.

The officer peered into the Lincoln and saw that Jerry had the Derringer pressed against the door panel with his left knee. He pulled the door open, and the gun fell. He picked it up and found that it was loaded. "I'll have your fuckin' job, boy," Jerry Lee hissed. The officer drew him from the car, frisked him, and locked his wrists. More patrol cars came, and Jerry Lee was taken away. Riding slowly, against his will, the prisoner glared into the slow river of dark night, wondering what had gone wrong. The thought came to him, and just as quickly fled, that there were no Breathalysers in Old Testament days. This must mean something. He thought about singing a song, the old one about meeting in the morning; but he didn't. Then at last he grinned and shook his head, for he knew that the cold, brilliant handcuffs would not long contain him.

By the end of July 1957, the record "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" had sold about 100,000 copies. Then it ran into trouble. Many people feared the song and its singer. Even some who liked Elvis damned Jerry Lee Lewis, as lascivious and evil. Mothers smelled his awful presence in the laundry of their daughters and preachers stood before their flocks and railed against him and his sinful song. Slowly, radio stations began to ban the record and it was heard less and less. Judd Phillips, the Sun Records promotion man, took Jerry Lee to New York and arranged for him to audition for Steve Allen. Impressed by Jerry's combination of musical virtuosity and audacious showmanship, Steve Allen eagerly agreed to have the young man perform on his NBC-TV program the following Sunday night. "The Steve Allen Show" of July 28 opened with a skit by Shelley Winters and Anthony Franciosa in which Franciosa re-enacted his marriage proposal to Winters.

The show grew duller as the hour passed. With less than five minutes left to the show, Jerry Lee was given his signal. He sat at the big piano and looked sideways at the camera, eyeballed it the way he looked at those girls in that Arkansas beer joint, and then began to rake the keys and howl about the shaking that was going on. He rose, still pounding, and he kicked the piano stool back. He played some high notes with the heel of his shoe. Then he stopped and looked at the camera sideways again. Neither he nor Steve Allen had ever heard louder applause.

The very next day, "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" began to rise anew and nothing, not preachers, not mothers, could contain it. At the end of August, the record held the no.1 positions on the C&W and R&B charts - only Elvis before Jerry Lee had a single top both charts. Then it rose to the top of the pop charts. By summer's end the record had sold well over a million copies. Jerry Lee returned in a Cadillac of triumph to Ferriday, the small Louisiana town of his birth. He embraced his father, Elmo Kidd, and his mother, Mary Ethel, and his sisters, Linda Gail, who was ten and very tall, and Frankie Jean, who was almost thirteen and already married. He embraced Uncle Lee Calhoun, the patriarch of the parish; and Lee, who was in his sixties but still riding a horse daily across his many acres of black land, smiled at Jerry Lee and told him that he had done good. The old man was right: Jerry had done good. Less than a year ago, no one outside of Concordia Parish had known who he was. Now his fame was second only to that of Elvis. Less than a year ago, he had been poor. Now he was making more than five thousand dollars a week. He had everything, it seemed. Everything except Myra Gale Brown.

Born in 1935, the son of a Louisiana tenant farmer, Jerry Lee had grown up torn between the Devil and the Holy Ghost. Most of his kin were in the Assembly of God, a Pentecostal sect whose members spoke in unknown tongues. As a teenager he himself had planned to enter the ministry and toward this end had studied briefly at a Pentecostal Bible institute in Texas. But the Holy Spirit had never been able to hold him for long.

Before he was old enough to buy a drink, he had been pumping the Devil's boogie in saloons of Natchez, which lay across the Mississippi River from his Louisiana home. The Devil had also lured him at an early age into the thraldom of female flesh. He had married for the first time when he was sixteen.

Without divorcing his first wife, he married again the following year. This marriage had produced two sons. One of these, Jerry Lee, Jr., was now almost three; the other, Ronnie Guy, not quite two, was and would ever be declared by Jerry Lee to be no son of his but rather the bastard stain of his wife's adultery.

Now there was Myra Gale. She was his 13-year-old cousin and he was in love with her. On Sept 4, he filed for a divorce from his wife, Jane and moved into the Memphis home of his aunt and uncle, Lois and J. W. Brown, Myra's parents.

Jerry Lee's next record, "Great Balls of Fire," released on November 3, became the biggest hit in the history of Sun Records. His fame and his purse grew greater and greater, and fate seemed to be a faithful bride at his feet. Imperiously, he refused to precede any other act on stage.

On the afternoon of May 13 a Memphis judge divorced Jerry Lee and his wife, Jane. Jerry Lee sat quietly in the courtroom. He did not contest the alimony judgment, nor did he mention that he had secretly married his thirteen-year-old cousin, Myra Gale, the previous December. The world was still unaware of that marriage when Jerry Lee arrived in London on the night of May 22 to commence a thirty-seven-day concert tour of Great Britain.

Judd Phillips at Sun Records had advised Jerry Lee against bringing Myra to England with him, but Jerry Lee had spurned that advice. Reporters and photographers set upon them when they stepped arm-in-arm from the plane at London. They asked who she was, this smiling little girl in tight black slacks and a black-and-white jumper. 'This," said Jerry Lee, "is my wife." The reporters wanted to know how old she was. "15" said Jerry Lee. The reporters wanted to know how long they had been married. 'We were married two months ago, and we're very happy," said Jerry. The reporters asked Myra if she didn't think that 15 was too young an age at which to be married, "Oh, no, not at all," Myra said. "Age doesn't matter back home. You can marry at 10 if you can find a husband." Then the flashing lights blinded her and she clung to Jerry. They escaped the newsmen and were driven in limousines to the Westbury Hotel in Mayfair, where they checked into Room 127.

The next day, Jerry Lee was shown a copy of the London Daily Herald. There was a large photo, taken at the airport the night before, of Jerry Lee and Myra Gale embracing, and in bold black letters the words "'ROCK' STAR'S WIFE IS 15 And It's His Third Marriage!" That same day, across the sea, Sam Phillips, the president of Sun Records, picked up a copy of the Memphis Press-Scimitar and inhaled slowly through his nostrils. The headline was: JERRY LEE LEWIS WEDS. After receiving news of the marriage from London, a Memphis reporter had done some digging, and now, in the Press-Scimitar, it was revealed that the marriage took place "almost exactly five months before Lewis was divorced from his second wife," and that "Myra's birth certificate reveals that she was born on July11, 1944."

Jerry and Myra were driven on Saturday night, May 24, to the Regal Edmonton, for the first show. 2000 teenagers sat in a murmurous anticipation so perfect that it seemed orchestrated. The lights dimmed and there he was in a shocking pink suit with sequined lapels and a black ribbon-tie. He was beholding the audience while they beheld him from behind a blind of applause. He felt power then loosened the grasp of his eyes and turned towards Myra in the wing. He raked the keys of the big piano and howled of the fire, and the audience, receiving the Devil's message was no longer murmurous but wild with sound, or silent, according to the bent of their souls. Jerry gave them little more than 10 minutes. "He treats his audience with an attitude bordering on contempt," one British reporter wrote a few days later and the teenagers; those who had been loud with excitement, those who had been silent, began to jeer and hiss as the curtain fell. Someone started to sing 'God Save the Queen," and others joined in amid the jeering and hissing. Finally the curtain rose, and Jerry Lee gave them more, gave it to them hard and frenzied and unrelenting, as a man who lay lustful and betrayed upon a hated wife; and then he left the stage.

On the following morning, Sunday, May 25, the Daily Sketch said hat Jerry Lee 'throws together everything that is bad in rock n roll. Drooling at the piano, Lewis moans, grunts, wails, and sneezes so close to the microphone that he might be eating it." Said the front-page editorial in the newspaper. The People was more hostile, calling for all teenage subjects of the crown to boycott Jerry's concerts and thus 'show that even rock and roll hasn't entirely robbed them of their sanity." The editorial also urged the home secretary to have Jerry Lee deported from the United Kingdom. Jerry Lee and Myra were driven that Sunday to the Kilburn State Theatre; for the second show of the tour. On the following day, the Herald reported that only 1000 of the theater's 4000 seats were filled, adding that, "Those who stayed away missed nothing."

On Monday an editorial in the London Evening Star said 'that, "Lewis should not be allowed to parade his charms before British teen-agers. He should be deported at once. He is an undesirable alien." Later that night, Jerry Lee performed at the Granada Theatre in Tooting, where he was met by cries of "Cradle robber!"

He was scheduled to appear the following night at the Odeon in Birmingham. But that morning the British agent Leslie Grade, who had booked the tour, met behind closed doors with the President of Rank which owned the theaters that Jerry had been booked into for the rest of the tour. After the meeting Grade announced that the tour had been cancelled. At 2:15 that Tuesday afternoon, Jerry and Myra Gale left the Westbury Hotel through a side door. Limousines carried them to the airport, where photographers and reporters were waiting. Leading Myra Gale past them, Jerry Lee picked up a paper at the airport newsstand and glanced at the headline, which proclaimed that France's new premier had averted civil war. "Who's this De Gaulle guy?" he said loudly as the newsmen caught up with him. "He seems to have gone over bigger than us."

As the Pan American clipper headed toward ldlewild Airport, the United Kingdom celebrated the success of its exorcism. Under the headline BABY-SNATCHER QUITS, the London Daily Herald reported in its Wednesday' edition, "The Jerry Lee Lewis circus flew sadly out of London last night." Upon landing at Idlewiid on Wednesday morning, May 28, Jerry Lee found that what awaited him was almost as bad as what he had left behind. As the crowd of reporters rushed toward him, Myra ran into a private waiting room. Photographers flooded Jerry Lee's vision with their white flashing. A reporter from the Daily News asked Jerry Lee if he didn't think it was a bit odd for a man to marry a thirteen-year-old girl. "You can write this down," Jerry Lee said, raising his voice. "She's a woman." He and Myra Gale boarded a Capital Airlines plane, and they were back home in Memphis a few minutes after two in the afternoon.

Thinking that it might placate the press Jerry decided to remarry Myra in a ceremony of impeccable legality. On the weekend after returning to Memphis he and Myra Gale drove south to Ferriday. They filled out a marriage license at the parish courthouse in Vidalia. Since Jerry's last Louisiana marriage, 6 years before, something had been added to the license form, and Jerry Lee filled this new thing out quickly 'and audaciously: "Relation of Bride to Groom: NONE" The press would not relent. Newsweek reported the more lurid details of Jerry's expulsion from England, juxtaposing the report with the news that Pat Boone had recently graduated from Columbia University magna cum laude. In the New York Herald Tribune, columnist Hy Gardner remarked that "the Jerry Lee Lewises are going to have an addition to the family. He bought her a new doll."

The summer passed, but trouble did not. Elvis, whose kingship Jerry had dreamed to usurp, sailed in khaki to Germany. Before departing, a reporter at the Brooklyn Army Terminal asked Elvis how he felt about what had befallen Jerry. "He's a great artist," Elvis said 'I'd rather not talk about his marriage, except that if he really loves her, I guess it's all right." Not long after arriving in Germany, Elvis met and fell in love with a fourteen-year-old girl named Priscilla Beaulieu. He eventually brought her to live with him at Graceland, keeping her, carefully, quietly, waiting till 1967 to marry her without taint.

By the time that Elvis sailed for Germany Myra Gale knew that she was pregnant. On the morning of February 27, 1959, she gave birth to a 7 pound boy. Jerry decided to name this son Steve Allen Lewis, in honour of one of the few decent men he had met outside of Concordia Parish. Soon Jerry moved his family into a new home in the Coro Lake section of Memphis. It was a ranch-style house with a swimming pool. Jerry liked to sit by the pool and not smile and not think. It was only a matter of time till he would once again be on top. He would sit there and know that, and he would clench and unclench his fist.

He rested a hand upon the cold porcelain urinal steadying himself. He was somewhere in Minneapolis. It was Easter Sunday '62. All was not well. Since that ruinous summer in 58 there had been no more big hits, no more big paychecks. But still he pumped onward roaming the country in a Cadillac, howling of the fire and of the shaking, seeking his own salvation. He was no longer the contender to the throne of the kingdom of rock 'n' roll. Things were different now. Elvis reigned in solitude, no longer performing in public, withdrawing into a mystery commensurate with his sovereignty. Rock 'n' roll itself had changed. It was soft and weak. At times it seemed to Jerry that only he himself was rocking on, burning true after all these years.

But his fame had dwindled, and so had his purse. He had once played for thousands of dollars a night; now he played for hundreds. He continued to make records for Sun, but Sun itself was barely there anymore. Yes, it seemed to Jerry Lee as he flushed the urinal and raised his head; yes, it had become strange and unreal, all of it.

900 miles away, in Memphis, as dusk settled on that Sunday of resurrection, Myra sat at the kitchen table making a grocery list. Little Steve Allen Lewis, who had turned three in February, pulled at her skirt for attention. She reached out and rubbed his blond crew cut. She finished the list and looked at the clock. It was 6:40; there was still time to get to the store. Then she noticed that Stevie was gone. She searched the house calling his name and the farther she searched and did not find him, the faster and harder her heart beat beneath her breast. She ran to her neighbour and in terror she asked him to search the pool. In about five feet of water near a little ladder at the edge of the pool, the neighbour met a horrible, gently drifting weight. He raised it and laid it on the concrete patio. Myra felt something that she had never know to exist, and she came apart in shock.

He had always been strict with Myra Gale. Since adolescence, she had been shaped like soft clay within his hands. Jerry Lee dictated what clothes Myra wore and he dictated these clothes according to the precepts of the Pentecostal church. He did not allow her to wear makeup or to cut her hair. He told her which records she might listen to, which TV to watch, which books to read. Once he had caught her with a paperback copy of Tobacco Road, the 1932 best seller in which an older man marries a 12 year-old girl. He tore the book from her and censured her mightily. Myra who knew little of the world, simply believed that all marriages were like her own, and she bent her knee in diffident fealty. Still, he smelled sinfulness in her.

Women had thrown themselves on him for years. Wherever he went, it seemed, cheap-perfumed things parted, lithe and yielding as the wind-blown Mississippi reeds of his boyhood; had parted first to receive whatever scrap of garish, stinking fame and glory they might, then later to receive the grotesque wraith of that fame and glory. Every time he disgorged himself in the mouth of whoredom, he cursed all women for what they had, to him, shown themselves to be. He turned on his wife, unable to see or to believe that she could be any different from the rest. He accused her of adultery, and he struck her.

Now a demon, or demons, inspired him to make accusations of a new sort. He began to imply that little Stevie's death was a heavenly punishment for Myra's sins. In the past, Myra had obeyed her husband's command that she attend church regularly (though he attended rarely). His new accusation brought a chill to Myra's teenage soul, and she ran to the Holy Spirit for comfort, praying no longer in mere obedience but in heartfelt need. A preacher at the Church of God on Highway 61 told her that the Holy Spirit could return the dead to life. For two years following this revelation, she besought the Holy Ghost to breathe miraculous life into her dead son, to wrench him from beneath the dirt and deliver him into her arms. She took to the pulpit and declared her love for the Almighty, as her husband all the while condemned her for her blasphemous hypocrisy. When she was 20 and the Holy Ghost had given her no sign, she unclasped her hands, cut her hair, and wept.

Jerry's contract with Sun expired on Sept 6,1963. Two weeks later he signed a modest deal with Smash, the new, subsidiary of Mercury Records. He recorded prolifically but could not recapture what had been wrested from him in that fateful May of 1958. Hardly anyone outside of Concordia Parish knew if he was dead or alive.

He had drunk and taken pills since he was a teenager, pumping piano in the Natchez honky-tonks, but he allowed neither the liquor nor the pills to reign over him. Since the death of his son, however, he had grown more extreme, and whiskey and drugs were fast becoming as important a part of his life as God and music. The booze and the pills stirred the hell within him.

At times he withdrew into his own shadow, brooding on all manner of things: abominable, unutterable and worse. At times he stalked and ranted in proud and foul omnipotence, commanding those about him as Belial his minions. He was the Killer, damned to be, for as long as there were good and evil to be torn between in agony. He would sit backstage in a thousand dank nightclubs, and he would know this, and he would swallow more pills and wash them down with three fingers more of whiskey, and he would know it even more. He would walk like a man to the stage, with his cigar in one hand and with his drink in the other, and he would then pound the piano and sing his sinful songs, night after night, year after year.

By the end of 1967, the record company had all but given up on Jerry and they planned to let his contract expire without renewal the following year. But on the cold, gray afternoon of Jan 9, 1968, in Nashville, Jerry Lee recorded a song called 'Another Place, Another Time." It was a straight country lament about booze, broads and loneliness, but the way he sang it, it seemed to contain all the sadness in the world. The record hit the country charts in the first week of March, and it rose till it was a Top Ten country hit. It stayed on the country charts for more than four months, and it crossed over to the pop charts. For the first time in ten long years, Jerry Lee Lewis's voice was heard throughout the South and the land beyond.

He narrowed his eyes and watched that returned whore, errant fame, raise her skirt, and he felt her belly warm to his, and he threw back his head and he roared as he had never roared before. The hits kept coming. As '69 began, Jerry Lee was the hottest country singer in the south making more money than he ever had. And he had done something he had not intended to do. He had stirred Elvis from seclusion. Since '65 there had been no Top 10 pop hits for Elvis, no Top Ten country singles. Fewer and fewer people were buying his albums or paying to see his movies. In the summer months of '68, Jerry's voice had once again come to be heard throughout the South, Elvis had gone into the NBC studio in Burbank and taped a television special. Broadcast on December 3, the one-hour show, Elvis, effectively revived his career and his confidence. In July '69 he performed in concert for the first time in almost 8 years, at the International Hotel Las Vegas, bringing an end to his retreat from the public and renewing in Jerry's heart the desire to wrest the throne of that kingdom that now, in 1969, no longer was but behind the uncalm eyes of these two unusual 34 year-old men who lived in opposite parts of Memphis, Tennessee.

Fame continued to hold her skirts high for Jerry Lee throughout '70. His concert price eventually rose to $10,000 a night. He bought his own plane, a DC-3, and hired his own pilot to fly him from city to city, fortune to fortune, night to night. But it was not meant to last. The Devil's joke had just begun. Not long after Jerry's 35th birthday, Myra and he decided that it would be financially wise to make her the legal owner of their home at 5042 East Shore Drive, Memphis. On Oct 21 they signed a document that rendered Myra the landlord and Jerry the tenant of their home. After signing the papers, Jerry departed for a tour of Australia. He didn't know Myra had hired detectives to gather evidence of his sins.While Jerry was in Australia, Myra filed for divorce. Her bill of complaint accused Jerry of various infidelities. She stated that since '64 she had 'been subject to every type of physical and mental abuse imaginable," and that on several occasions Jerry had threatened to 'hire people to throw complainant in the river and to throw acid in her face." She said he "drinks constantly." Shelby County deputies served Jerry Lee with the divorce papers as he stepped from a plane. He stared at the papers, shook his head and swore.

He was still suffering from his loss of Myra Gale when he learned on the day after Easter '71, that his dear mother had slipped into darkness and had been taken to Concordia Parish Hospital. She died there the following week, at the stroke of midnight, April 21, taking with her a piece of her son.

In the first dark hours of April 23, the day after Jerry Lee laid his mother beneath the dirt, a cruel windstorm swept through Memphis. Jerry's Douglas DC-3 was moored at a private airport on Democrat Road. The Hecate wind took that DC3 and hurled it across the ramp, smashing it against a parked Cessna. Jerry went out and bought a bigger plane, a Convair 640 turbojet with twenty-six seats and a full bar. Three weeks later, on May 12, the divorce became final. A judge awarded Myra the house near Coro Lake, $175,000 tax-free, and two Mark Ill Lincoln Continentals. On-September 3, four months after the divorce, Myra married Peter Malito, one of the private detectives that she had hired to investigate Jerry Lee.

A month later Jerry Lee was sued by a woman who claimed that he had verbally and physically assaulted her during his performance at the El Captain supper club in Memphis. She complained that he had insulted her over the pa system, that he had thrown a hardbound book at her, twisted her arm, and tried to drag her across the electric organ he was playing.

On the following Thursday, October 7, Jerry Lee married a pregnant twenty-nine-year-old Memphis divorcée named Jaren Elizabeth Gunn Pate. They separated two weeks later, reconciled, separated again, reconciled. In the spring of 1973, he bought a second plane, a Cessna 340, and a new home, a fifteen-room manor on a thirty-acre tract in De Soto County, Miss. But his wealth had begun again to dwindle. The country hits became smaller and smaller, and none of them crossed to the pop charts. The $10,000 bookings became fewer and fewer. And the night began to wear the scent of sulphur.

It was August 26th '73 and Jerry and his band had just flown to Memphis from a show in NY. They had landed at 1am and Jerry wanted to roar. "We were real wired up and raving around" recalled drummer Tarp Tarrant."We had been in several joints and Jerry had almost gotten in a fight in every place.We finally went down to Overton Square to TGI Friday's. We had just sat down and they were playing Jerry's records. At the table next to ours were two couples from Arkansas. The men were giants and their old ladies were hogs. After a while the men went to the restroom. At that time one of the ladies said 'I hate this Jerry Lee Lewis shit they're playing'. The Killer just turned around and said "Fuck you, you old redneck whore!' and turned back around. "About 2 minutes later a man tapped Jerry on the shoulder and said 'Are you Jerry Lee?' The Killer said 'the one and only.' The man hit him and broke his nose. We were so stoned we didn't think it was broken. I told Jerry to let me take him to the doctor but he said 'Hell, no, I'm rockin'! Besides, ain't nobody can hurt the Killer.' "9 hours passed, and we had gone to several after-hours joints. By this time Jerry's nose was swollen up real big and he let us take him to Baptist Hospital. He just laughed and said, 'One more battle scar won't matter none.' He was laid up in the hospital for a week."

Jerry Lee had given his son, Junior, the jeep for his nineteenth birthday. Now, eleven days later, November 13, Junior fitted a tow-bar to the rear of the jeep and drove from Memphis to De Soto County, Mississippi, to fetch another car, a Ford XL, from a repair shop. He was driving back along Holly Springs Road, near Hernando, at about eight-thirty that evening. He turned. The Ford that he was towing swerved round and hit the abutment of a bridge; It jack-knifed and overturned the jeep. He was pronounced dead at 9:24pm. Jerry Lee claimed the body of his son, and he had the hospital people put it in a rubber sack. He took the sack to his plane, and he laid it in the aisle, and he told his pilot to steer south, toward Ferriday.

On December 3, three weeks after Jerry Lee had laid his son beneath the ground, his wife, Jaren, filed a Circuit Court suit seeking separate maintenance and child support. She accused Jerry Lee of cruel and inhuman treatment and said that he and she had recently separated again. A month later, on January 7,1974, his bass player, Hawk Hawkins, and his steel-guitarist, Charlie Owens, quit and filed suit against him for $8,000 in back salaries. In October the Capaert Investment Corporation filed suit against him for $100,838 he owed in payments on the Convair turbojet he had bought three years before.

On March 11, 1975, he performed at Bad Bob's in Memphis. He began arguing with a girl at the club and ended up taking a fiddle bow to her. Claiming she had been "brutally and savagely attacked," the girl filed against him seeking $100,000 in damages. A judge eventually fined him $25 for striking the complainant, then fined the complainant $15 dollars for breaking the bow. On April 11, Jaren filed for divorce, claiming that Jerry had threatened her with bodily harm.

He came upon Elvis in Las Vegas and said "You don't know what you're doin'. You're just Col.Parker's puppet." "Well," said Elvis "If I'm so dumb and you're so smart, how is it that I'm playin' the main room and you're playin' the lounge?"

On September 29 '76, Jerry's 41st birthday, his bass player, Butch Owens visited Jerry and Jaren at the Memphis house where Jaren resided. He brought a copy of Jerry's new album "Country Class". The two men sat drinking and talking while Jaren watched TV in the living room. Jerry pulled out a .357 magnum and pointed it toward Owens. "Look down the barrel of this," he said. Then he aimed the gun to the right of Owens and said, "I'm gonna shoot that Coca-Cola bottle over there or my name ain't Jerry Lee Lewis." There was gunfire. Owens clutched 2 bleeding holes in his chest and staggered into the living room. Jaren yelled at him for bleeding on her new white carpet. Owens was taken to St. Joseph Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. Jerry was charged with shooting a firearm within the city limits, a misdemeanour.

At nine in the morning on November 22, he steered his $46,000 Rolls-Royce onto Powell Road and kept steering into the turn as if it had never happened. The Rolls flipped over into a ditch. He crawled out. The police took him to jail. He registered zero on the intoximeter, but, according to police chief H. Goforth, "His tongue seemed thick. His eyes were bloodshot, and he was kind of unsteady on his feet." Ten hours after Jerry Lee was released from jail, he drove to Graceland, to the two-leaved gate. He waved his pistol and he cursed the night.

It was August 16, 1977, and Elvis was dead, facedown on his bathroom floor. A thunderstorm crossed Tennessee that afternoon. Two days later, police officers stood in solemnity along Elvis Presley Boulevard and saluted as the white Cadillac hearse rolled slowly by. They, the Killer's persecutors, saluted.

"How did you react to Elvis Presley's death?" the man from the country music magazine asked him. "I was glad. Just another one out a the way. I mean, Elvis this, Elvis that. What the shit did Elvis ever do except take dope that I couldn't git ahold of? That's very discouraging, anybody that had that much power to git ahold of that much dope. All I did was drink whisky. "Elvis. That sonofabitch died on dope. His heart was twice the size as normal. That's how much dope he took. I'm tellin' you what he done. He was a dope addict. I am an alcoholic."

On December 14-15, 1977, he went into the studio and cut fifteen songs. These were the last records he would make for Mercury. Soon he would have a new label, Elektra. It didn't matter, except for the advance.

At one in the afternoon, February 23, 1978, Jerry Lee was rushed to the emergency room of Baptist Hospital, suffering from respiratory distress. Soon after he arrived, reports flooded the Memphis newspapers and television stations. Jerry Lee Lewis, these reports said, was dead.

On February 27, 1979, Internal Revenue agents converged upon Jerry Lee's Nesbit home. They confiscated his cars, his guns, his stereo equipment, and his furniture. "I don't think they'll ever bring my stuff back," Jerry Lee told a Memphis reporter. "And I don't care if they don't. I'll go out and git me some more."

He filed for a divorce from Jaren in the spring of '79, claiming that he and she had "not cohabitated as husband and wife since October 21 '71." On June 8, Jaren filed a counter suit charging him with "cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery, habitual drunkenness and habitual use of drugs." A week later Jerry sat onstage at the Palomino Club in Hollywood. He looked into the eyes of his audience and said, "Elvis killed himself over a broad. It took 5 of 'em to put me in the shape I'm in today." Backstage after the show a writer tried to interview him. "You've been married 5 times: Do you know any more about women now than you did the first time you got married?" "Yeah. Pussy is pussy."

On September 11, after Jerry Lee's repeated failure to appear in court, a US District Court Judge in Memphis ordered the absent and defaulted defendant and his estranged wife, Jaren, to pay $125,000 in damages to Butch Owens, who, three Septembers ago had been told by his employer to "look down the barrel of this." 7 days later, IRS agents returned to his ranch in Nesbit to claim more of his worldly possessions. After leaving the ranch, the agents reported to the county sheriff that quantities of controlled substances were to be found secreted in Jerry Lee's home. He was arrested at noon the next day. Wearing a silk ascot and smoking a corncob pipe, he told a reporter from the Associated Press that the bust was a set-up.

On January 15, 1980, Dr. George Nichopoulos sat before the Board of Medical Examiners in the Memphis City Council Chambers, defending himself against charges that he had prescribed massive doses of addictive drugs to Elvis and several other patients. Listed among them was Jerry Lee. The white-haired doctor told the board that Jerry was a drug addict and he had been hospitalised for his addiction on at least 3 occasions since '77. He said Jerry customarily took eight to ten capsules of amphetamine before every performance. 'He was getting them off the streets," Nichopoulos said. "I was trying to control what he was taking, trying to limit what he was taking, until we could get him off the pills and show him that he could perform without them." A few days later, after deliberating for fifty minutes, the board found Dr. Nichopoulos guilty as charged.

Not long after his 45th birthday, Jerry read in the paper that the IRS had auctioned off all the worldly goods, cars, guns and jewels that they had seized. He read that the money from the auction did not equal his debt and the IRS wanted more. It was Cleveland or Toledo or wherever, it was dark and raining hard. He turned on the television but found nothing but static. The static took on a strange, dreamlike clarity. He began to see a swarm of vile insects: These were the principal demons, loosed from the brass vessel of Solomon. He shut off the TV. His heart beat fast, and he trembled. Turn on the lights, he told himself. But to get to the wall switch he must pass a mirror. He would turn his face away as he passed it; yes, that was it. But he was 45, he told himself, and he must be strong not weak. Jerry Lee Lewis spat out his unclean fear and took hold of himself, and he walked directly toward the mirror. But there was a furious beast in that mirror, and it devoured him.

My thanks to Jerry Lee Lewis fanatic and a personal friend of the Killer, Graham Knight.

Thursday 26 March 2009

Gary Bennett - "Inside and Out" DVD

Everyone remembers Gary Bennett as co-frontman of retro country BR549. Along with Chuck Mead they sang the hillbilly songs that had BR549 touted as the next big thing. In fairness they were big, but not on the Garth Brooks level that us real country fans hoped for. Bennett left the band in 2001 and stepped away from the music scene until 2006, and it's that journey that this CD focuses on. Directed by former BR549er Smilin' Jay McDowell, for his Nashville based company, Vintage Flick Productions, the DVD features live footage together with a bonus feature looking at the making of GB's Human Condition album.

The live concert was filmed in Nashville in May of 2006, and features a selection from the then current album, Human Condition together with a few numbers from the BR549 years. The band is excellent with Milan Miller on guitar and harmony vocals, Jimmy Lester on drums and the great Mark Winchester (Planet Rockers/Brian Setzer) on bass. Special guest for the show was Donnie Herron, professor of the fiddle, mandolin, steel guitar and just about anything that makes a sound. It was the first time they'd played together since the parting of the ways in 2001.

The concert kicks off with Human Condition before moving into the great brisque hillbilly number That’s What I’m here For with it’s 50’s country feel that suits Bennett to a tee. Miller plays some tasty licks and it’s the kind of number that stood BR549 from the crowd. GB’s sounds soooo country on Headin’ Home with it’s 60’s California sound. Ain’t Getting’ No Younger is introduced as the first song he wrote after moving to Nashville, and it shows his massive talent as both a writer and singer. Listen to that voice on Ship In A Bottle and tell me that Nashville can do without stars like this – Big & Rich might live up to their names but they aren’t fit to tune GB’s guitar.

The Ship isn’t my favourite song but it sees Donnie Herron join the band, and his haunting fiddle adds a neat edge to the song. Better Than This is much more like it. The BR549 years are acknowledged with the foot-tapping, While You Were Gone and an brilliant version of their biggie, Even If It’s Wrong.

The bonus documentary on the DVD includes footage from the 2005 recording sessions, interviews, rare BR549 footage, photographs, demo recordings and some home videos. It's all fascinating stuff and you get a real sense of what a great, charming bloke Gary Bennett is.

Nowadays, he's back playing on Nashville's legendary Lower Broadway, at the Full Moon Saloon on Wednesday nights. He's re-formed The McNeills with his nephew Jason Capps. They originally formed the band in Portland, Oregon back in 1991. The street is thriving and he's more than happy to be back there. "It's really changed down there," Gary says of the downtown tourist district. "There are way more good bands than there were when we were down there. People clamour to it now, and it's exciting. That street deserves that level of popularity. This is the most excited I’ve felt about going out and playing live in a long time. We are gonna have a lot of fun! We'll stick to mainly original songs, with a cover thrown in here and there.”

So what you have here is a wonderful DVD that pays homage to a great talent – one that still has more to offer. Hopefully a new album won’t be too far away.

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.

Sunday 22 March 2009

Apologies and sad news

Sorry folks, I'm gonna be away until Thursday with work.

My thoughts go to my buddy and fellow Jerry Lee nut Phil Davies who sadly lost his mum yesterday. Play a JLL for him and keep him in your thoughts.

Saturday 21 March 2009

Elvis was a country boy

Most biogs of Elvis go on about how he was a black man in a white man's body. He was steeped in the blues and his music and clothes said owed more to Kokoma Arnold than Eddy Arnold. Well, all that might be true, but there was plenty about Elvis that had a country tinge. Take a listen to Just Call Me Lonesome and tell me that ain't the countryish song you've heard by anyone. Even ol' Hank hisself couldn't have been more redneck. And what's more country thatn rollin' a girl in the hayloft. Take a look at Elvis and Dolores Hart and then imagine how cool their kid would've looked like if she'd hadn't seen the Light.

Bill Crittenden and the Sweet Georgia Boys - Hard Luck Baby

Bill Crittenden and the Sweet Georgia Boys - Hard Luck Baby
Foot Tapping Records FT081


What a great release this is. Bill Crittenden of the Kingcats has teamed up with two of the hottest musicians on the UK scene for an album of rockabilly with more melody than thrash. Carlos & the Bandidos guitarist Malcolm Chapman is on fire throughout the album, with tasty licks that compliment the songs and Crittenden’s sweet vocals. Mick Wigfall who has graced Darrel Higham and Paul Ansell albums among others provides the bass and produced the album at his Sweet Georgia Brown studios – hence the bands name.

As I said, their sound is from the melodic end of the rockabilly spectrum, sort of like Go Cat Go or the afore-mentioned Paul Ansell. Looking at the line-up you would assume that a three-piece without drums would be playing nothing but slappin’ rockabilly circa 1955, but that’s not the case, they produce a full, well rounded sound.

The set is split between six originals and seven covers. Best of the originals are All I Wanna Do, Lonely Highway and the two versions of the title track Hard Luck Baby.

The covers are all strong with the early Cochran related numbers, I’m Ready and Latch On being spot on replicas with Chapman playing some nice Eddie guitar. Crittenden gives a superb vocal performance on the Bellfuries’ Just Plain Lonesome. Elvis 70’s number For The Heart is an inspired choice, changed from the King’s big ballad into a hopped up slap bass rocker. My two favourites though are the Billy Fury numbers, with You Don’t Know being a heartfelt tribute to the Sound of Fury ballad. The other, Runnin’ Around, the CD’s opener, is the best thing on the album. It’s a great choice and wonderfully performed. It’s up there with Porky’s One More Star in the Billy Fury tribute stakes. A great way to start a great album. I’d love to see them live.

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Furious - The Future of the Teddy Boys

I know it’s been said about hundreds of groups over the years, out of wishful thinking more than bullshit, but Furious really could be the future for rock ‘n’ roll. They’re the best thing to come out of Liverpool since Billy Fury, and that includes that over-rated gang of mop-toppers who screamed more than their girl fans. They have the right look and attitude for a teddy boy band and they are the heirs apparent to Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers when they decide to hang up their crushers – what a sad day that’ll be. The first couple of years saw them playing local dates to any crowd they could - the mind boggles at the thought of these young teds slapping away to the delight of the goths and the skinheads. Nowadays they have such a good reputation on the rocking scene that they now play dates all over Europe.

Formed in 2003, the backbone of the band are the Halligan brothers, Mark and Andy. According to Roy Williams of Nervous Records their Dad drives around in a 1958 black Zodiac, and the first thing you see when you walk in the door of their house is a big jukebox. Their drummer was originally Mark Fazakerly, but is now Yann Gourmelon.

To date the boys have only released one EP, but the good news is they are currently in the process of cutting their debut album. If it can generate half the excitement of their live show it’ll be well worth the wait. I saw them at the 2008 Rockers Reunion and was blown away by them. It’s in your face rock ‘n’ roll, hot, sweaty and bloody good.

Furious EP – (Nervous Records)

1.ASBO Shuffle 2.Don't Change Your Style 3.All Night Long 4.Pretty Little Lilly

Mark Halligan (vocals and piano on All Night Long)
Andy Halligan (guitar)
Chris Hough (bass)
Dave Searson (drums)

For more info including live dates check out their website at http://www.rockfurious.com/

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 51

Los Raw Meat - Shots! (Sleazy Records)

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.

Monday 16 March 2009

Photo of the Week - Three Cool Cats

What a great photo. Found it on the web the othe day and now I can't remember where. I think it was retro-Dame. How young these cool cats look as they embark on a rockin' journey that still continues today. The quiffs are immaculate with Slim Jim looking like Danny Zuko's best bud Kanicci or whatever his name was. Lee Rocker looks like an extra from a Cary Grant film and Brian Setzer looks about twelve years old. He reminds me of the kid in the film American hotwax, the kid who runs Buddy Holly's fan club.

Saturday 14 March 2009

Vince Taylor - Jet Black Leather Machine

Vince Taylor - Jet Black Leather Machine


Vince Taylor is one of those singers who story is probably more interesting than his music. He is a cult hero who to me is like Johnny Kidd, a handful of great songs but nothing that quite matches the hype. Taylor was born Brian Maurice Holden in London in 1939 but moved to the States with his family in 1946. He returned to London when Tommy Steele was the height of British cool. Before you could say whatcha guv’nor Vince Taylor and the Play-Boys were born.

Recent times haven’t seen a lot of activity on the reissue front, but Ace records have put that right with Jet Black leather Machine, a 22 song career overview. Both sides of the first Parlophone single are here, a hot rockin’ take on Roy Orbison’s Sun rocker I Like Love and Ray Smith’s Right Behind You Baby where he sounds a lot like red Hot ‘n’ Blue’s Mouse! Both sides of the follow-up are also here, one of the great 45’s from the east side of the Atlantic. Johnny Ace’s Pledgin My Love is given a strong reading but it’s the flip that has maintained his name over the ensuing 50 years. Brand New Cadillac is a classic, and should be in everyone’s record collection. Written by Taylor it has stood the test of time and has been a highlight of stage shows from The Clash to the Stray Cats. Amazingly the single did nothing so Vince was off to Palette Records where I'll Be Your Hero and Jet Black Machine were released in August 1960. Jet Black Machine is almost neo-rockabilly and light years from Cliff and Marty Wilde. Having said that, it’s okay but not brilliant. I’ll Be Your Hero builds into a forceful stroller with good vocals.

By the 60’s he was a leading light on the French scene, complete with black leather costume and a great live show. Musically, he was starting to get a bit uneven. My Baby Left Me is frantic and very much of it’s 1965 vintage. Another early Elvis number, Baby Let’s Play House is crackin’ and rocks like the clappers, as does Chuck’s Memphis, Tennessee. On the other hand, Sweet Little Sixteen and My Babe are a mess. Twenty Flight Rock is really good despite a drummer working overtime between two guitar solos. Jezebel is an acquired taste that sounds better once the trumpet and drums introductions are out of the way.

Long Tall Sally is too 60’s for me and the twist version of Jeanie Jeanie Jeanie is woeful. Cold White and Beautiful is pure shite, unthinkable that this is the guy who did Brand New Cadillac. The CD closes as spectacularly bad as it started stupendously good. Rock ‘n’ Roll Station is a 1976 collaboration with experimental musician Jac Berrocal that sucks. Despite these lapses, this CD has a dozen great songs that should gladden the hearts of rockers across the globe.

The Wanderers - Bang Bang



The Wanderers are Katy & Pagan Gould and they make ends meet around the Midlands playing a mix of rockabilly and country. They don't so much sing duets as alternate vocals chores. For their debut release on the Foot Tapping label they've been lucky enough to have Darrel Higham on board, and it's his guitar that makes this drives this CD along.

Katy is particularly good on Got A Lot Of Rhythm In My Soul, Bang Bang, Maybe I and Suntan Tattoo. Pagan is okay on the Stray Cats' Gene and Eddie but is much stronger on the Polecats' Rockabilly Guy which also suits Darrel to a tee. His best number is the opener, Crazy Rockin' Redheaded Girl, originally by Two Tons of Steel.

You'll know all the songs in their original form, but The Wanderers manage to give them a freshness that make this more than just a karaoke album. The class of Darrel Higham looms large throughout and I'm sure the Gould's wish they could have him on stage every week.

Friday 13 March 2009

Rockin' Song of the Week - Number 50

Elvis Presley - (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear (RCA)

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.
Recommended listening: I believe he had a few records out - perhaps you might have heard them and got your favourites already!! If not, get back in your hole and turn the lights off.

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.

Thursday 12 March 2009

The Rhythm Aces - Hand Me Down Suits 'n' Hobnail Boots

Track listing: You Lied To Me / 78rpm / Tunnel Of Love / Ten Bob Millionaire / Doin' The Creep / What's The Matter Baby? / Life At The Top / The Fabulous Rosina / Carry On Teddy Boy / The First Teenager / I'm Bad.

Shropshire band The Rhythm Aces are causing a stir on the rock ‘n roll scene are fast developing a reputation as one of the hottest new Teddy Boy bands around. I saw them at the Rockers Reunion and after Mike Sanchez were the best thing on the bill, easily out-performing a woefully pedestrian Sleepy LaBeef, and for my money, a lot better than the showy Lucas and the Dynamos.

Hand Me Down Suits ‘n’ Hobnail Boots is their much anticipated debut album featuring a dozen self-penned numbers. Being a ted band there’s obviously a lot of heavy bass lines and hypnotic rhythms, but they don’t just thrash away aimlessly. They write unusual songs that are never less than interesting and you get the impression that this is a well thought out album. No writing a song in ten minutes on the way to the studio, but actually crafting them.

The opener, You Lied To Me has plenty of drum work going on and the guitar solo has a hint of Cliff and the Shadows. 78rpm sounds like a cross between Tommy Steele and the Riverside trio – if that makes sense!! Tunnel of Love is bopper with a tasty guitar figure running through it. Cosh Boy is in the Stray Cat Strut mould with lyrics to match the menacing stroller beat.
Ten Bob Millionaire is pure rockabilly and a real highlight of the album. What's The Matter Baby rocks along nicely with a couple of guitar nods to Scotty Moore and Luther Perkins. Life At The Top is a great bit of skifflebilly that is one of those unusual numbers that make them different enough to stand out from the crowd.

The Fabulous Rosina is a hard rockin’ tribute to a fit chick with great drums and guitar and - “ a pocket rocker teaser”. Carry On Teddy Boy is a no-holds barred anthem that could become their signature song. The First Teenager thunders along with an Eddie Cochran feel before the album closes out with the atmospheric I’m Bad.

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Brian Setzer Orchestra Tour Dates

Hell's bells (or should that be jingle bells), surely not. The snow is only just melting from this winter and I see Brian Setzer is planning next years winter tour. Am I just being parnoid or are we really only 300 days from Christmas? I don't wanna be a killjoy for all you snow lovers but let's have a bit of sun first. Me and the misses love his Orchestra stuff, and I'd love him to bring the band over to Europe, but I suppose the cost makes it unfeasable - although he seems to play Japan every other month. I'm going to put on Lonely Summer Nights and give Baby It's Cold Outside a miss for nine months. For those of you lucky enough to be able to go, the winter dates are as follows;

Nov. 20 @ Motor City Casino, Detroit, MI
Nov. 21 @ Genesee Theater, Waukegan (Chicago), IL
Nov. 25 @ Sovereign PAC, Reading, PA
Nov. 29 @ Keswick Theater, Glenside, PA
Nov. 30 @ Hammerstein, NYC, NY
Dec. 4 @ Foxwoods, Ledyard, CT
Dec. 7 @ Peace Center, Greenville, SC
Dec. 9 @ Ryman, Nashville, TN
Dec. 14 @ Isleta Casino, Albuquerque, NM
Dec. 15 @ Dodge Theater, Phoenix, AZ
Dec. 16 @ Spotlight 29 Casino, Coachella, CA
Dec. 18 @ Gibson Amphitheater, Los Angeles, CA
Dec. 20 @ Warfield, San Francisco, CA
Dec. 22 @ Table Mountain Casino, Friant, CA

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Jason Lee Wilson - Another Hole In Another Wall

Jason Lee Wilson - Another Hole In Another Wall
Rhythm Bomb Records - RBR5679

You can tell from his song-writing that he’s steeped in the history of hillbilly and rockabilly, little surprise when you consider he born and raised in the hill country of south-east Tennessee. In 1998, he formed the rockabilly band the Cumberland Runners, and although he’s gone solo, they still they occasion gigs together in the South. He singed to Rhythm Bomb Records resulting in the High Country album in 2007 where he was backed in the studio by label-mates, the Round Up Boys. They provide sympathetic backing that perfectly compliments Wilson’s songs. Such was the universal acclaim of that album, Rhythm Bomb have again teemed JLW with the Roundup Boys for this latest album, which regretfully is my introduction to the guy.

I know it shouldn’t matter, but I already loved this guy before I heard him – he’s the grand-cousin of Marvin Rainwater gaddamit. Jason Lee Wilson recorded this fine album in Berlin, Germany in the famous Lightning Recorders studio.

The opener is a chugging honky tonk number. The title track sounds like early BR549 to me with JLW’s voice not disimilar to Chuck Mead. Truckstop Betty has more steel than Pittsburg and is great uptempo country music. I know we keep saying that country music ain’t what it used to be, but songs like this remind us what it could/should be. The Field And The Vine visits Johnny Cash territory with the Roundup Boys giving a spirited nod to the Tennessee Three. I Used To Wish On A Star is stone-cold country with a great 50’s feel with a gentle layer of backing vocals that lifts the song from really good to fantastic – this is so authentic it makes Dwight Yoakam seem like a pop star, and I love Dwight!

Tired Of Being Sorry has a 60’s feel that reminded me of Buck Owens. There’s more hillbilly fever in Tough Roe To Hoe which tells of the woe’s of a gold-digger. He morphs Johnny Cash with Hank Snow for the foot tappin’ Golden Girl. I love the mournful Too Much Walking, with it’s passing nod to Merle and Joe Nichols – this is timeless country music that you wouldn’t believe was cut in the 21st Century.

The album closes out in fine form with the beautiful You Call Me A Fool, Be Warned which sounds like Elvis’ take on Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues and the honky tonker My Last Ride. A great album that should appeal to broadminded rockabillies and will have country lovers frothing at the mouth. I’d love to think this was the future of country music, but we all know the reality.

Monday 9 March 2009

Battle of the Song No.1 - Rockin’ Daddy

Sonny Fisher - Rockin’ Daddy – Starday 179
Eddie Bond - Rockin’ Daddy – Mercury 70826

So who cut the definitive version of Rockin’ Daddy, Sonny Fisher or Eddie Bond?

The song epitomizes everything that makes rockabilly great. It’s full of bravado and images of dressing up in your best cat clothes for a good night of unrelenting rock ‘n’ roll to cure your blues. Both versions are sublime, and although they’re both rockabilly in it’s truest form, they’re both very different.

When Sonny Fisher entered the Goldstar Studios in January 1955, rock ‘n’ roll was still in its infancy. Perry Como was still the rage and outside of the south, Elvis Presley was unknown. The results that day are startling, with Fisher’s Rockin’ Daddy being as raw as music can get. Joey Long’s guitar cuts through the air like a switchblade knife and Leonard Curry and Darrell Newsome lay down a stark beat that holds nearly as much menace as the guitar. In the early days of ’55, a lot of rockabilly numbers were by country singers who were trying anything to get some coin. No such nonsense here though, with these vocals, Sonny Fisher couldn’t be anything but a hard-assed young buck with rockin’ on his mind.

Eddie Bond didn’t cut his version for another twelve months but the wait was well worth it. His version has a fuller sound with a crack band that included future Nashville legends Reggie Young and John Hughey. Young is blistering throughout and don’t be fooled by Hughey being in the mix with his steel guitar, this is rockabilly music – cowboy hats ain’t in sight.

So while Eddie Bond made more great records than Sonny Fisher, and he can justifiably claim to be “a rockin’ daddy from Ding Dong Ten-O-See”, I have to say that if I had to play one version of Rockin’ Daddy to show Martians what rockabilly is all about, I’d have to go with Sonny Fisher’s.

Sunday 8 March 2009

Elvis Mather - RIP

This week we lost our little Elvis, the King of the Hillbilly Cats. When we got him and his sister Missie they were just six weeks old and they stole our hearts the first moment we saw them. Elvis had a beautiful personality, easy going, friends with everyone, never interested in falling out with other cats. As long as there was food and cuddles to be had, he was happy. He started life in brown and black stripes before developing a full black coat and a belly wobble to die for. He always had that wiggle, it was why we called him Elvis. They both loved their mum and they both loved their food. Elvis has spent the past 16 years sleeping on Julie’s neck or lying on her chest. When he could be prised away he would sit on my lap watching the football.
He was Julie’s best friend, a good listener and a wonderful stress toy. He was a celebrity as well, everyone knew him, and people we hadn’t met for ages would always ask, “how’s Elvis”. He's in the sleevnotes of MfP's Gene Vincent CD, The Great Rocker, and was supposed to be filmed by our national tv company until he got stage-fright - shades of Vegas '56 I suppose. The house is an emptier place without him and though our hearts are aching now, we're all the richer for having shared our lives with him. In 1981 Sonny Fisher sang Elvis, I Miss You – he could have written it for me. God bless you Elvie, words can't do you justice - it was a priviledge to be with you, you’re always in our hearts, and we’ll see you, Missie, Billie and George again one day.

Lisa George and The Pedalos

Lisa George and The Pedalos
Blue Eyed Rockabilly Boy
Raucous Records - RAUCD 216

Track listing: Blue Eyed Rockabilly Boy / Ain't Love Addictive / My One Desire / Black Cadillac.

Lisa George is a new name to me but it appears she’s been making a living behind the mic for quite a few years already. She began in the all-gal rockabilly band Helles Belles before joining a soul revue The Rumble Band. She has also an extensive resume with theatre roles ranging from backing that tosser Lily Savage and playing the role of Tammy Wynette in “The Queens of Country” UK tour. Now she’s back on the rockabilly circuit with the Pedalos, a quartet with a penchant for the exotic beat that suits Lisa’s vocals to a tee.

They’ve been signed by Raucous Records with their debut album imminent. In the meantime, Raucous have released an EP to whet the appetite, featuring two tracks from the album and two that are for this EP only. They were recorded by Chris Cummings at his Riverside Studios in Blackpool. Blue Eyed Rockabilly Boy is a storming opener written by Lisa and rhythm guitarist Adrian Shuie McKenna. It launches into life with a grumbling guitar from ex-Slingshots axeman John England, giving it an early Stray Cats feel. The track has that 80’s feel and the heavy bass reminds me of the Blue Cats’ Wild Night. The vocals growl and I could see this becoming a dance floor favourite.

Ain’t Love Addictive will also be on the album and it’s a ballad which gives her plenty of space to clean her pipes. The cover of Dorsey Burnette’s My One Desire is the weakest thing here, it’s not bad but it lacks the drive of the Stray Cats version. No such problem with Black Cadillac which gives Joyce Green a run for her money. England is on fire again, and it’s a great closer for a great single.

Saturday 7 March 2009

Pat Cupp - Long Gone Daddy: The Complete 50's Recordings

Pat Cupp - Long Gone Daddy: The Complete 50's Recordings
El Toro Records - ETCD1019

1 That Girl Of Mine (Demo)2 I Guess It's Meant That Way (Demo)3 Baby Come Back (Demo)4 Do Me No Wrong (RPM)5 Baby Come Back (RPM)6 Long Gonne Daddy (RPM)7 To Be The One (RPM)8 Long Gonne Daddy (Crown)9 Do Me No Wrong (Crown)10 Baby Come Back (Crown)11 That Girl Of Mine (Crown)12 I Guess It's Meant That Way (Crown)13 Baby Come Back (Rollin' Rock)14 Do Me No Wrong (Rollin' Rock)15 Long Gonne Daddy (Rollin' Rock)16 That Girl Of Mine (Rollin' Rock)17 I Guess It's Meant That Way (Rollin' Rock)18 I Won't Remember To Cry (Rollin' Rock)

Pat Cupp was a short-term recording artist who cut a bunch of great records in 1956 never to be heard of again for nearly half a century. Repro singles on Rollin' Rock and the odd track on compilation CD’s have had to suffice, but that’s all changed now as El Toro have grouped all his stuff onto one, breathtaking CD. It’s amazing that this guy didn’t become a star and have a long career in the business. Sods law dictated that once he was discovered, his hearing packed in and he had to retire all together.

Growing up in Arkansas he was able to see and join on stage such rockers as Elvis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, not a bad way to start your career. In early ’56 a trio of demos were cut at the Onyx Studio in Memphis. All three are here and they all show great promise with That Girl Of Mine being a great slab of rockabilly. In April he played the Louisiana Hayride and came to the attention of Joe Bahari of Modern Records who signed Pat to record on the RPM subsidiary. On 13th May, 1956 he was taken to KWKH in Shreveport Louisiana where he laid down a handful of rockabilly gems during a mammoth, fruitful session. Although they made no impact at the time, Long Gone Daddy, Do Me No Wrong, Baby Come Back and I Guess It's Meant That Way have now gained legendary status. Pure unadulterated rockabilly it’s a match for the Sun rockers that resurfaced during the 70’s rockabilly revival. His vocals are excellent, youthful and fresh without ever sounding stretched and the band are red hot, especially Johnny Gatlin who plays a pepper-hot guitar.

The next session was held at Cosimo Matassa’s studio in New Orleans where the sound was changed from rural rockabilly to New Orleans style rock ‘n’ roll. The results were equally impressive. I’ve listened to the rockabilly and New Orleans versions of Long Gone Daddy one after the other and the difference is amazing – but it’s impossible to say which version is the best. You need to listen to them and see what you think – it’s like choosing between your kids. Sadly that was it for Pat Cupp, who joined the US Air Force and retired from the business, unaware that forty odd years later he would be called to Europe where he quickly became a hero. Snap this up, it’s a brilliant release, rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll as good as it gets.

The Best Of Crest Records - Rockin' & Rollin

The Best Of Crest Records - Rockin' & Rollin
Yellow Records – SPV 306652 CD.

1. Wild Man Wild - Jackson, Hal / Chromatics, The 2. Skinny Jim - Cochran, Eddie 3. Can You Bop? - Wilson, Tom 4. Stack A Records - Tall, Tom 5. Been Gone A Long Time - Sanders, Hank 6. Somebody To Love - Bowen, Jimmy 7. Primitive Love - Reeves, Tom 8. Buzzsaw - Gee Gees, The 9. Lovin' Lorene - Garrison, Glen 10. Rock'n'Roll Blues - Skylar, Norm 11. Umm, Kiss Me Goodnight - Lowe, Buddy 12. Spotlight - Frank and Ernie 13. I.O.U. - Lewis, Jack 14. Ballin' Keen - Caraway, Bobby and Terry 15. Pretty Little Devil - Denton, Bob 16. Ridin' The Frets - Desert Stars, The 17. You're The Reason - Edwards, Bobby 18. Rockin' And Rollin' - Bills, Dick 19. Can't Walk Em Off - Cooper, Marty 20. Drowning All My Sorrows - Gene Bo Davis 21. What Happened Last Night - Donn, Johnny 22. Yea, Yea, Come Another Day - Casanova, Tony 23. Date Bait - Skidmore III, Bill 24. Bumble Twist - Baugh, Phil 25. Cool Juice - Law, Tommy 26. You're The Prettiest One - Classics, The 27. Three Carburettors - Carson, Don 28. Function At The Junction - Whitfield, Smoki 29. Don't Be Bashful Little Girl - Four Young Men 30. Three Stars - Dee, Tommy

Yellow Records is a subsidiary of the German label SPV and they are hitting the market with a trio of Eddie Cochran related releases in collaboration with Tony Barrett's long running Rockstar Records. This one is a 30-track celebration of the Hollywood based Crest label. Rockstar released “Talk About A Party” which covered virtually everything on offer here, but it’s likely that quite a few will have missed that as looking at my copy here, I was shocked to see that it came out back in 1999. Where has time gone?

Eddie Cochran was the star name of the label and although he only had one release on Crest he was often to be heard backing some of their artists. His single was the wonderful Skinny Jim, and it’s in crystal clear sound here, exploding from the speakers with all the freshness of the best timeless rockabilly. He also provides the guitar on Gene Bo Davis’ Drowning All My Sorrows which I first heard on a Rockstar vinyl many moons ago, but the version here is different and the guitar doesn’t sound like Eddie. Jack Lewis’ IOU is only a so-so song, saved by Eddie’s guitar which is head and shoulders above the material. Pretty Little Devil is a contry tinged rockaballad duet between Eddie and Bob Denton which hits the spot and features his signature ending. It’s thought to be Eddie playing the solo onm the wild rocker, Cool Juice by one-off artist, Tommy Law, a great slice of unadulterated rock ‘n’ roll.

Ramblin’ Tommy Scott’s Been Gone A Long Time is given a superb rockabilly treatment by Hank Sanders, a full decade after Scott’s original. Glen Garrison’s Lovin’ Lorene has rightly become a rockabilly classic over the past few decades as has Ballin’ Keen by Bobby and Terry Caraway.

Crests biggest hit is here, Bobby Edwards’ You’re The Reason, a perfect combination of rock ‘n’ roll and country. Country fans might be shocked to learn that the hard-edged instrumental, Buzzsaw by the Gee Cees is Glen Campbell - no mean guitarist. Dick Bills was his uncle and Bills has a great rocker here, Rockin’ And A Rollin’ which has two fabulous guitar breaks, which I assume are Campbell as he was part of his uncles band in the early days.

From the black end of the market we get Smoki Whitfield’s sax rocker Function At The Junction and Hal Jackson and the Chromatics whose Wild Man Wild gets the CD off to a flying start, despite a violin solo. You’re The Prettiest One by the Classics is a good doo-wopper that wasn’t on the Rockstar CD. I really liked Don Carson’s Three Carburettors, a strong novelty rocker that sees him backed by a vocal group, believed to be the Four Dots.

The sound throughout is clear and full and the packaging is colourful with informative sleevenotes from Fred James. A great CD which will hopefully do well enough for the label to be encouraged to bring out further releases.

Thursday 5 March 2009

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 (Modern 930)

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 has now turned 80 but 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 Early Times.

Sunday 1 March 2009

Chuck Mead (BR549)

Born: Charles Lynn Mead, 22 December 1960, Nevada, Missouri
Anyone familiar with the retro-hillbilly band BR5-49 will know Chuck Mead as the Robert Redford look-a-like who plays lead guitar, shares lead vocal responsibilities and is pretty much the smooth talking front man of the band. He claims that he and Gary Bennett formed a partnership after they met in a bar and had a contest to see who could sing the most Johnny Horton songs - not a bad reason to form a band.
Bennett was singing in Nashville's bar/boot store Robert's Western Wear when he was joined by Mead, who'd also been playing on Lower Broadway, with the Homestead Grays. They formed BR5-49 in 1993, adding Smilin' Jay McDowell on slap-bass, Shaw "Hawshaw" Wilson on drums and Don Herron on fiddle/steel/kitchen sink/penny whistle/comb/pin-that-drops/clogs/two fingers/harmonica/coconut shells (useful for Tennessee Stud) and dobro. They built up a reputation as the city's best/only real country band, playing covers of Hank/Cash/Horton/Moon(who?)/Faron Young etc. They made their money from a tip jar. Their name came from a sketch on Hee Haw. By '95 they were becoming a tourist attraction and late comers had to settle for a view of the band from outside on the street. The place was so packed that even a few Music City Row executives turned up. Surely they were too country! Regardless, they were signed to Arista on October 13, 1995, and immediately recorded a mini-CD, recorded live at Robert's. Made up of originals and covers, it shows the band were raw, but obviously they wanted it this way. They'd insisted when they signed to Arista that they would only record for a major label if they could retain their hillbilly sound - they didn't want to sell out (just yet!).
They toured with the Mavericks and Junior Brown and in late '96 they recorded their first full length album. The album was a critically acclaimed success, with another high quality mix of originals (Even If It's Wrong) and covers (Cherokee Boogie). Country (ha) radio was typically sceptical of playing anything with a hoe-down feel, but the record still managed to enter the top 40. Other highlights of the album included One Long Saturday Night and Lifetime to Prove.
The next album came in 1998, Big Backyard Beat Show, which followed the same format as the others. Another goodie, it featured tracks that were a staple of their live show, like 18 Wheels And A Crow Bar and My Name Is Mudd. With Bennett and Mead still sharing the lead vocal role, their close harmonies had also improved. I know it's Chuck's birthday, but I can't go on without mentioning the musicianship of Herron, whose all-around work is great, but particularly his steel guitar playing.
In '99 they toured the US with the Brian Setzer Orchestra during which they recorded a full live album, Coast To Coast. When Arista's country division went the way of the dodo, the band were on the street. They were picked up by Lucky Dog (Sony) who proceeded to try to make them sound like 90% of country radio. The album This Is BR549 was a real let down. The band now looked like the Beatles, they had a heavy radio-friendly drum beat and the songs seemed far removed from Little Ramona and Sweet Sweet Girl. For some reason they even removed the hyphen from their name. As with the others, the record failed to sell (despite the drop of the hyphen).

After a long quiet spell the writing seemed to be on the wall and it came as no surprise when a split was announced. Bennett and McDowell left and were replaced by singer/guitarist Chris Scruggs and bassist Geoff Firebaugh. They band produced a mini CD but it's distribution was poor, in fact it was shit - only being for sale at gigs. Now the easy going blond guy with the big smile, the good looks and the tasty guitar licks is going solo and later this week I'll review his new album, Journeyman's Wager.