Tuesday 28 April 2009

The Jets live at Jolly Beggars, Coventry

The Jets live at Jolly Beggars, Coventry
25th April 2009

Now Coventry ain’t exactly on my doorstep, in fact it’s three and a half hours drive, but that’s what you get for living like Bobby Charles. This trip was planned for my niece Kelly Ann who like all good girls has developed a little soft spot for some rockabilly. She was going to see the ill-fated Stray Cats show Manchester last September, until Slim Jim did the kamikaze stunt the night before. So who better for her to see as her first rockabilly show than the Jets. I’ve seen them probably a dozen times so I knew she wouldn’t be disappointed. So, me and the misses and my sister and niece spent a lovely sunny day before hand in Stratford, where we got to help celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday, along with some totally strange Morris dancers.

The venue in the heart of downtown Coventry is ideal for this type of concert, a long dance-floor and a raised stage with seating all around. The DJ, whose name escapes me did an excellent job of working the crowd up, playing a well thought out set that went through the early days before closing with a couple of recent numbers from the likes of Go Cat Go, Darrel Higham and Bill Crittenden. He also did a few requests, including Billy Fury’s Gonna Type A Letter for my three gals. Him and his misses could cut a rug as well.

I hadn’t seen the Jets since they’ve suffered their health problems, but as soon as they started playing it was obvious that their music hasn’t suffered. They play pretty much anything from the classics to the obscure and their own originals to covers. They have their own unique sound which combines the standard three-piece rockabilly format with exquisite harmony vocals. Highlights of their set would have to include Razor Alley, Love Makes The World Go Around (a request) and an accappella version of Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight. Early in the set they did a great stroller version of Buddy’s That’ll Be The Day which blew me away. Stare, Stare, Stare and Bony Maronie were both excellent but next to That'll Be The Day I would have to say that my favourite was Little Orphan Girl. They encored with Andy Starr’s Dig Them Squeaky Shoes, rounding out of night of rockabilly meets doo-wop in the finest Jets tradition.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Wayne Hancock - Viper of Melody (Bloodshot Records)

Lloyd Maines is the man behind the knobs for the Texas tonkers sixth studio album, and again the pair have come up with the now familiar brand of honky tonk swing. When Wayne "The Train" Hancock came on the scene a decade or so ago, he was a breath of fresh air. His songs and style were so retro you'd have been forgiven for thinking that Hank was still in Shreveport and Webb Pierce was still dreaming of a swimming pool. Six albums later and it's hard to retain that freshness. The music is still pretty much the same, which is good because he'd be lambasted if he changed, but to me, the quality of the songs isn't as outstanding. Don't get me wrong, there are some fine moments here, but nothing like Thunder Storms And Neon Lights, 87 Southbound or No Sleep Blues.

On the positive side, the trumpet seems to have gone, and if you like pure hillbilly music, then Hancock is still about the best around. The highlights here include the up-tempo Throwin' Away My Money, the tale of betrayal and jealous revenge, Your Love And His Blood and Moving On My Mind. I just didn't warm to the title track, the jazzy Midnight Stars And You or the Hawaiian sleeper Tropical Blues, all of which lacked any oomph. There's plenty here that's okay and probably good in isolation, but as an album it just doesn't compare to his first couple of releases, and there's no killer track. While I'm being a grump I might as well admit that I don't think much of the album cover. I still love him though, and his live shows are absolutely mind-blowing.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Occasional Bootleg Series No. 5 - Dwight Yoakam

Occasional Bootleg Series No. 5 - Dwight Yoakam, KPFK FM Los Angeles
Aug. 4, 1985

Tracklist: Honky Tonk Man, Down The Road, Heartaches By The Number, Reading, Righting, Route 23, Miners Prayer, South of Cincinnati, It Won't Hurt, This Drinking Will Kill Me

This is what bootleg's are all about. Rare as hen's teeth, good sound quality and something that is never going to be issued by a bone fide label. This is a radio appearance by Dwight Yoakam and his band when they were peddling for a major label to pick them up. The show, for KPFK FM in Los Angeles in the summer of '85 has some indepth interviews interspursed with songs. The band are the crackerjack crew that first came to my attention with the Guitars, Cadillacs, etc, etc album. They had a pure, honest honky tonk sound with an acoustic feel that had Pete Anderson's twangy guitar cutting through it to devistating effect. They are Dwight on vocals and acoustic guitar, Jeff Donavon on drums, Brantley Kearns on fiddle, J.D. Foster on upright bass and Pete Anderson on electric guitar.

Musically, this show is everything you would expect from mid '80s Dwight, with fans of his first couple of albums likely to be foaming at the mouth with the contents here. If anything, I would say that the version of Heartaches By The Number is arguably, better than the released version, it's underproduced sound suiting both the song and DY and the boys musicianship. The interviews are also what you'd expect of Dwight, i.e. intelligent, articulate and slightly pompous. Not in a big headed way, it's just that with Dwight, his motto seems to be "why use a simple word, when a strange, long one from the depths of the thesaurus will do just as well". Make no mistake, this is a brilliant find and should be easy enough to find out there in internet land.

Saturday 18 April 2009

Jerry Lee Lewis - The Road Begins

Jerry Lee Lewis - The Road Begins
El Toro Records- ETCD1022

1 End of the Road
2 Crazy Arms
3 Born To Lose
4 Turn Around
5 Matchbox (Carl Perkins)
6 Your True Love (Carl Perkins)
7 Silver Threads Among The Gold
8 Hand Me Down My Walking Cane
9 Roll Over Beethoven (Carl Perkins)
10 Straight A's In Love (Johnny Cash)
11 Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On
12 It'll be Me
13 I Love You Because (Johnny Cash)
14 Great Balls Of Fire
15 You Win Again
16 I Want You Baby (Billy Riley & his Little Green Men)
17 Flyin' Saucers Rock & Roll (Billy Riley & his Little Green Men)
18 The Crawdad Song
19 Deep Elem Blues
20 I'm Feelin' Sorry
21 Put Your Cat Clothes on (Carl Perkins)
22 Love My Baby (Hayden Thompson)
23 Mean Woman Blues
24 Dixie
25 Crazy Arms (Million Dollar Quartet session)
26 End Of The Road (Million Dollar Quartet session)
27 Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On (Steve Allen TV Show)
28 Don't Stay Away ('Til Love Grows Cold) (demo 1952)
29 Jerry Lee's Boogie (demo 1952)
30 I Don't Hurt Anymore (demo 1954)
31 I Need You Now (demo 1954)

El Toro Records continue to go from strength to strength with their releases of both old catalogues and some of the best current bands. Obviously this little peach sits fair and square in the first category. Most fans will have everything here many times over but who can be arsed to create a playlist that captures the early years of the Ferriday Fireball like this.

Jerry Lee blew into Memphis with a single minded, confident vision of fortune and fame that he just knew he was going to attain. The compilation features the earliest classics from his time at Sun like Crazy Arms and It'll Be Me, together with some that weren't destined to classics for a few more decades, like Deep Elem Blues and The Crawdad Song. When the Killer wasn't criss-crossing the country on Sun package shows he was used by Sam Phillips as a session man. We get some perfect examples of it here, backing the masters Johnny Cash (JLL's participation is dubious however) and Carl Perkins as well as being a key component in the sides of Billy Lee Riley and Hayden Thompson. The Thompson and Riley tracks stand-up against the others and prove that they could just as eaasily made the big time, if fate (and Sam) had played a different hand.

Elsewhere there's a few from the legendary Million Dollar Quartet session and Shakin' from his tv debut on the Steve Allen Show (see below). The two private accetates from the teenage tearaway from New Orleans in '52 and Shreveport in '54 show that Jerry Lee was already an accomplish pianist in need of a sympathetic ear and a decent studio. Enter, Sam Phillips and his Memphis Recrording studio, where the road really did begin. A brilliant release.

Friday 17 April 2009

Webb Pierce - High Geared Daddy (Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight)

Bear Family's Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight series seems tailor made for guys like me whose main love is rockabilly, but also have the good grace to enjoy their country music, especially of the uptempo variety. I like a good country ballad, but can't stand a singer just whining away. If anyone is going to fit that category, it's Webb Pierce. I find most of his ballads hard to digest but love the hillbilly boogie he was so good at. That makes this CD an absolute treat, with 32 performances covering his golden era from 1949-'59 on Four Star, Pacemaker and Decca. What is striking is how little the music changed over such a long period. If you look at virtually any rock 'n' rollers music over such a period, you can bet it would go from either hillbilly or blues to rock 'n' roll back to country, blues or soul. About the only thing that changed with Webb was the introduction of poppier backing vocals for a brief period in the late 50's. On a couple of these tracks he comes over like Marty Robbins or Sonny James.

Webb owned the country charts during the 50', amassing an astonishing 96 hit singles, more than half of which went into the top 10 including thirteen number 1's. There's reason he did so well is because his beat was so damn infectious, an must have sounded great on every hillbilly jukebox from the Dairy Queen's to the boozy honky tonk bar-rooms. The biggies are here like Honky Tonk Song, Tupelo County Jail, In the Jailhouse Now and I Ain't Never, but there's also some great moments with less heard numbers like I'm Tired and later version of New Panhandle Rag. From the earlier days the highlights have to be a trio of songs that will surely be on the big jukebox when we get to hillbilly heaven, Hayride Boogie, Drifting Texas Sand and California Blues. Hayride Boogie was adapted half a decade later as Teenage Boogie and rightly awarded cult status.

The boogie is relentless throughout - it's a white man's Lightnin' Hopkins or John Lee Hooker. This is a stunning release that rockers and hicks alike can buy with confidence.

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Howlin' Wolf - Shake It For Me

Howlin’ Wolf – if ever there was name that summed up a man’s persona, this was it. When he stands up to play, the guy’s so huge his guitar looks a mandolin. The passion in his eyes. The menace in his voice. His band in this 1964 clip are Chicago’s version of the Nashville A-team. Sunnyland Slim on piano, Willie Dixon on bass, Clifton James on drums and the monstrous guitar sound comes courtesy of his partner in crime, Hubert Sumlin. They say don’t wear white socks with dark trousers and shoes, who’s gonna tell the Wolf that. Sunnyland and Sumlin nearly match the Wolf, but not quite. He’s a freak of nature, from his size 14 feet to his size 28 neck. I love this guy, he’s the ultimate bluesman. If he was good enough for Sam Phillips, then he’s good enough for me. Sam described Howlin’ Wolf as “where the soul of man never dies”. I’d say he was “where the soul of the devil never dies.” This is the type of blues jam that Elvis must have had in mind when he did the sit-down jam on his ’68 Comeback Special. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

Monday 13 April 2009

Lucky Tubb and The Modern Day Troubadours - Damn The Luck

Lucky Tubb is the great nephew of the legendary honky tonk singer, Ernest Tubb. Ernest was one of the biggest stars in country music history who amassed no fewer than 82 hits between 1944 and 1979. Poor ol’ Lucky is going to enjoy about 82 hits fewer than that, not because he’s bad, in fact he’s good, very good, but he suffers from the modern day syndrome of being too country. Let’s be honest, his Uncle Ernie would be laughed out of Nashville nowadays with his chiselled looks and un-CMT vocals delivery.

The fact that Lucky won’t be the darling of the Nashville scene, will no doubt suit him fine. He comes from the Wayne Hancock, Hank III school of hillbilly, happy to tour the bye-roads of small town America in the tradition of the likes of Tubb and Bill Monroe. The other thing to consider is that he isn’t just making a living as an uncle Ernest tribute singer, Lucky Tubb is very much his own man. He’s lived a troublesome life and has his own story to tell. He’s toured as opening act for Dwight Yoakam, Ray Price and Hank III but on this listening, I think he’s gonna be the headliner pretty soon.

Damn the Luck is Tubb’s second album, following Generations, six long years ago. This latest release was recorded live in the studio in just one day! The Modern Day Troubadours are Tubb on vocals and rhythm guitar, Natalie Page Monson on fiddle and harmony vocals, Jericho Renshaw on lead guitar, Casey Gill on slap bass and Steve England on pedal steel, dobro and mandolin.

The album evokes the sounds and smells of lost highway juke joints, ala Wayne Hancock but without that bloody trumpet, that seems to get more and more airplay. What I love about this album is that you can’t see the seams between the songs written 50 years ago and the ones written today. Lucky himself wrote six of the eleven songs, and there’s a quartet of vintage family numbers. Not Ernest, but his Uncle Douglas who wrote three of them between 1952 and 1956, and another relative, Ronnie Wade wrote one in 1957.

As soon as the album kicks off with Used Up Love I just knew I was going to love it. Huntsville sees him in prison (he actually spent 5 years behind bars, including time in Huntsville) where “some Mexican wants to make me his wife – but I don’t think so”. You’ll enjoy the lyrics and you’ll drool over Renshaw’s gittar. Bakersfield pays tribute to the sound that put the city on the map with Renshaw and England taking top honours again.

I could hear a bit of Chet Atkins in Renshaw’s picking on The World Is A Monster which along with Sweet Mental Revenge sees country music’s infamous dark side come to the fore. It ain’t all neon signs and parties with hillbilly gals in denim shorts and cowboy boots.

I love the chugging rhythm of Keeping Time, with it’s Drifting Cowboys lonesome sound and some great honky tonk vocals from Tubb. It’s Your Wagon is fine up-tempo hillbilly with The Modern Day Troubadours showing what a fine country band they are – Casey Gill’s bass driving the whole thing along.

Honky Tonkin’ isn’t the Hank Williams classic, but is an enjoyable slab of hillbilly with Gill again sounding right on the money - “Got my baby by my side, and Bob Wills on the box”. There’s more hot picking on Annie Don’t Work No More with Renshaw’s rocking guitar and the backing vocals giving it a real rockabilly feel. The way he signs “rrrrrrock” is superb. The CD closes with the title track, a honky tonker which along withy Annie, is the highlight of a fabulous album.

The only youTube clip I could find is the one below, and although it only runs for about a minute it gives a glimpse of what they sound like live.

Saturday 11 April 2009

Arlie Duff

Arleigh Elton Duff was born on 28th March 1924, in Jack's Branch near Warren, Texas. Originally nicknamed “Pee Wee” Duff, he was an All-State basketball player his senior year. Later, he served his country in the US Navy for three years during World War II. After his discharge, He continued his education and earned a Bachelor of Science degree as well as a Master of Arts in Education degree from Stephen F. Austin State College in Nacogdoches, TX. While attending college, he continued his basketball prowess, being named to the All-Conference team while being captain of the varsity team.

However, it was his music career for which he was to leave his mark. He strated off as a songwriter before recorded with his Western Cherokees for Starday in 1952. Midway through the next year he went to number 7 in the country charts with the BMI award winning single, "Y'All Come". he originally cut is as the theme tune for the Houston Hometown Jamboree, berfore it bust wide open. He was unable to follow up this hit. Arlie married Nancy White after an 18 day courtship on October 10, 1954, during the Louisiana Hayride, with best man Red Foley singing "I love You Truly" and "Every Step of the Way" to the couple. The ushers for the bridegroom included no less than Hawkshaw Hawkins, Porter Wagoner, Billy Walker and Tommy Sosebee. I had a couplew of tossers fromm work and a cousin - that's life.

Most readers of this Blog will be forever in love with Decca for cutting his stab at rockabilly, Alligator Come Across. It sounds a lot like the early rocking catalogue of George Jones. It's a bibs and overalls stomper with heaps of steel and rocking country guitar. The parody of Elvis halfway through is a classic, but all too brief moment of madness. The fiddle solo adds another loveable layer.

He spent years as a DJ in Colorado and Texas. He wrote Ernest Tubb's last solo hit, "Another Story", which went to number 16 in the country charts in 1966. Also "It's The Little Things", a # 1 C&W hit for Sonny James in 1967. In 1983 he published his autobiography, "Y'All Come" (Austin : Eakin Press), now out of print. Sadly, Arlie passed away on July 4, 1996.

Among the artists to cover were Bing Crosby (!), Patti Page, Bill Monroe, Bobby Bare, Faron Young, George Jones, Buck Owens, Glen Campbell, Porter Wagon and Little Jimmy Dickens.



Rec. No. Side Song Title
29243 A Courtin' In The Rain
29243 B She's A Housewife That's All
29428 A I Dreamed Of A Hillbilly Heaven
29428 B Lie Detector
29589 A Take It Easy On Me
29589 B Pass The Plate Of Happiness Around
29866 A Home Boy
29866 B Oh How I Cried
29987 A So Close And Yet So Far
29987 B Alligator Come Across
302 A What A Way To Die
302 B You've Done It Again


Rec. No. Side Song Title
2861 A In The Big Woods
2861 B Croppo Le Blanc


Rec. No. Side Song Title
1001/1002 A Send Me An Angel
1001/1002 B You're The One For Me
1003/1004 A A Dark Night, A Lonely Street
1003/1004 B Mama, You've Had Your Day


Rec. No. Side Song Title
104 A You All Come
104 B Poor Ole Teacher
106 B Stuck In-A-Mud Hole
127 A When The Saint’s Go Marching In
127 B Country Singin' (Alongside The Road)
132 A Let Me Be Your Salty Dog
132 B Back To The Country
176 A Fifteen Cent's A Sop
176 B Courtin's Here To Stay
302 A What A Way To Die
302 B You've Done It Right

Vince Mira - Cash Cabin Sessions (Lucky Rebel Records)

Track listing: Cold Hearted Woman, Blistered, Lonely Heart, Closer, I Was the Train, Ring of Fire, I Walk the Line (Spanish), Ring of Fire (Spanish)

I hadn’t heard of Vince Mire until recently, when I was blown away by his debut album, Cash Cabin Sessions on Lucky Rebel Records. He’s apparently making a big stir in the States, having already appeared on national tv on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and Good Morning America. Audiences seem to be captivated by such a young guy being so good at doing Johnny Cash you’d swear he was at least twenty years older. While it might have proven a good gimmick to get him some attention, there’s more substance to him than just that. His original songs are great and he’s not so much a JC impersonator, he’s more of a JC interpreter.

Vince Mira was born in Los Angles but raised in San Antonio, Texas. A couple of year ago he was playing for tips in Seattle's Pike Place Market where he was discovered by entertainment producer Chris Snell, owner of Seattle night club, the Can Can. Like a man with a badly broken neck, he’s never looked back. Next came the tv exposure before finally getting signed to a recording contract. Due to his Hispanic roots, he’s been given the wonderful nickname, "Juanny Cash".

His first album is produced by John Carter Cash, the son of Johnny and June. Mira had the privilege of recording it at the Cash Cabin (built by Johnny Cash) in Nashville, Tennessee. The first thing that strikes you is the amazing voice he has for someone so young. He was fifteen when he laid down these tracks! Another highlight is the quality of the band the great sound that John CC has created. Jamie Hartford is hotter than a Vernon Presley cheque and David Roe is about the best in the business, having slapped the bass for Dwight Yoakam and Johnny Cash himself.

The album blasts into live with Cold Hearted Woman, with Hartford playing pure Sun Records rockabilly guitar and Mira proving that he ain’t just a JC soundalike. The ballad Lonely Heart sounds like CMT hit fodder, while there’s an Irish folk quality to Closer. I Was The Train is nothing short of brilliant. A tribute to Johnny and Hank Williams that stands up there with Rodney Crowell’s Walk The Line Revisited or Alan Jackson’s Mignight In Montgomery. High praise indeed, but truly justified.

There’s a handful of Cash covers, and they all work well. Blistered is a stunning version of JC’s much underrated uptempo country bopper. Female backing vocals add the icing on the cake – and what a cake it is. Ring of Fire is good but perhaps he’d have been better doing something like obvious. That’s why Blistered worked so well. The album closes with Spanish versions of Ring Of Fire and I Walk The Line, both of which should find a massive market in pockets of the States. I hope this CD sells by the bucket-load and that Miraa and JCC get to work together on the follow-up.

Friday 10 April 2009

The Boy in Black

Little John & Pleasant Hill Band - Folsom Prison Blues

As the old heroes die off you always wonder where the next generation will come from to keep our music alive. I still think of Dwight Yoakam as the next generation and he must be in his 50's now. Fear not for the music of Johnny Cash because today i've seen two acts that play Johnny Cash muisic, and between them they've probably got a total age of 22. I'll be reviewing Vince Mira later who aim's to take his music to the top. Here though is some little fella from, I assume, Pleasant Hill, wherever that is, who at the moment must be thinking more about when he's going to lose his milk teeth more than what fame awaits him on Music Row. What a talent he looks though, dig his picking on the solo. From December 2008, here's Little John & the Pleasant Hill Band. Take it away, John....

Thursday 9 April 2009

50th Anniversary - Billy Fury - Don't Knock Upon My Door

Billy Fury - Margo (Don't Go)/Don't Knock Upon My Door (Decca F 11128)

Fifty years ago today, Britain's finest Billy Fury recorded his second single, the killer double-sider, Margo (Don't Go) / Don't Knock Upon My Door. Billy was the cream of the UK's rock 'n' rollers and the b-side was perhaps his best rocker. It's the perfect mix for a 1950's single, a ballad on the girlies side and something for the gents, on the flip. Producer Jack Good and musical director Harry Robinson would have known this and probably felt that with Billy's look and stage presence, a ballad would probably sell better as his audience was going to be predominantly female. Margo was a natural follow-up to his debut single, Maybe Tomorrow (backed with Gonna Type A Letter) which had just crept into the top 20. Margo was another beautifully sung plea for love, which amazingly only just managed to break into the top 30. I remember my old art teacher used to talk about Billy Fury to me because she knew I was a fan. I suppose the fact that I was painting Eddie Cochran whilst everyone else was painting flowers and overfilled fruit bowls might have been a clue. She was from Liverpool and she reckoned she was in school with Margo - not interesting but there you go.

Billy's self-penned Sound of Fury album is quite rightly regarded as a classic and whereas the songs there have a Sun records rockabilly feel with the guitar and slap bass, Don't Knock Upon My Door is pure rock 'n' roll. From the guitar intro to the stop-start drumming, it's a great vehicle for Billy's legendary stage act. If I was being ultra critical I would like to hear the piano solo replaced by a slash of guitar but otherwise this is a fabulous record. The two tracks were also released as an EP which collated the first two singles,a nd is very collectable these days.

Below is a clip from Oh Boy where the up-and-coming youngester Billy Fury performs the song to a national audience. This was the Uk equivalent to Elvis' perfomances on the Dorsey Brothers show or Ed Sullivan.

Tuesday 7 April 2009

youTube - Stray Cats-Bring it Back Again/Runaway Boys

From an outdoor concer in Kaivari, Finland on 4.6.1989. The two songs are split by a short black and white interview with Slim Jim who looks so cool, and so young and tells the guy that this reunion was for the long term. He said that the magic they have as a band keeps bringing them back together. Let's hope it does in the future.

The concert footage is high quality, obviously done for television. I'd love to see the whole show as the camera angles are in-their-face and the trio sound superb. There's a boppin' country fell to Bring it Back Again, especially in Brian Setzer's guitar. It's a wondeful version that gives the issued single a run for it's money. There's a neo-rockabilly edge to Runaway Boys and it might just be my ears, but it sounds slightly slower than I'm used to. A great clip, that's the best seven minutes I've spent today.

RIP - Jeff Spencer (Memphis Rockabilly Band)

I've been meaning to do a tribute to the great Jeff Spencer who passed away recently. Jeff was the lead singer of the Memphis Rockabilly Band. I first became aware of them in the 80's when I picked up the Bop´n Roll Party album on Big Beat (I think). Thye had a great rockin' sound and although I find the bands name a bit corny, their music is brilliant. Below is a clip from the 1982 Bop´n Roll Party tv show which also featured Jack Scott, Sonny Fisher and Crazy Cavan.

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.

Sunday 5 April 2009

Battle of the Song No. 2 - You’ve Got Love

Johnny "Peanuts" Wilson – Brunswick 55039
Marty Wilde - (Wilde About Marty LP), Philips BBL 7342
Crickets – (Chirping Crickets LP), Brunswick 54038

The songwriter credits for You’ve Got Love go to Roy Orbison, Norman Petty and Johnny Wilson. I suspect that Norman Petty used as much ink in the process as Sheriff Tex Davis did in “writing” Be Bop A Lula. I think it’s fair to say that the song comes from the other two, The Big O and Peanuts. Anyway, it’s an easy going rock ‘n’ roll song that just oozes West Texas.

So contender number one is the songwriter himself, Johnny "Peanuts" Wilson. He’s sort of an unsung hero of rock ‘n’ roll and one who could have become a hero on the European rockabilly revival scene if he were still alive. Peanuts was born Johnny Ancil Wilson on 29 November 1935 in Riversville, West Virginia but grew up in Odessa, Texas. He joined Roy Orbison's Teen Kings in January 1956 and in doing so became a part of rockabilly folklore. The band included Billy Pat Ellis on drums, Jack Kennelly on bass and James Morrow on guitar and mandolin. Peanuts played rhythm guitar while Orbison was obviously the singer (not a bad one as I recall!!) and an underrated lead guitarist. They cut the now legendary Ooby Dooby and Rockhouse among others.

Sadly the band and Orbison split on December 14, 1956, with the Teen Kings going back to West Texas. On May 26, 1957, Peanuts had his first solo session, at Norman Petty's studio in Clovis, New Mexico. With the remnants of the Teen Kings (plus the rumoured appearance of Roy Orbison on lead guitar) and the addition of the vocal group that Petty was using at the time, the Roses, they cut Cast Iron Arm and You've Got Love. Cast Iron Arm is now acknowledged, rightfully, as a classic, and was chosen as the a-side of Brunswick 55039.

You Got Love swings along with the beauty that seemed to come so easy to the Texas rockers of the time. It could have been sung by any Texan from Buddy Knox to Sid King. The Roses and Peanuts work in perfect harmony and the Teen Kings rock and sway – it’s a stunning piece of work that is so of it’s time and place. If you heard this for the first time, you would probably be able to guess that it was from the Norman Petty stable circa ’57/58. The best place to hear this and a handful of other Wilson rockers is on the Ace Records CD, "West Texas Bop". Highlights include the rockers I’ve Had It, My Heartbeat and Wilson's version of Orbison’s Paper Boy. He had some success as a country writer over the years but died in September 1980 of a heart attack, denying him a chance to enthral rockers across the Atlantic who bopping away to Cast Iron Arm.

It’s over the water we go for contender number 2. Cast Iron Arm and You’ve Got Love were released in the UK as Coral Q 72302 in 1957. which brings us along to contender number 2. By this time, London boy Reg Patterson was making his way as Marty Wilde. From mid 1958 to the end of 1959, Wilde was one of the leading British rock and rollers, appearing regularly on the tv shows, Oh Boy!, Boy Meets Girl and the 6.5 Special. Following a handful of hit singles, his label, Philips, got Wilde and his band, the Wildcats to cover a slew of American singles. The resulting album, Wilde About Marty came out in August 1959 and is an underrated album. It might not be up there with Bill Fury’s self-penned Sound of Fury, but it was the next best thing. The Wildcats were a quality outfit, about the best the UK could offer outside of Cliff’s Shadows. Big Jim Sullivan was no mean lead guitarist and Brian "Licorice" Locking on bass and Brian Bennett on drums, would eventually end up in the Shadows.

The album features some well known covers like Dream Lover, Splish Splash and Mean Woman Blues as well as a few lessor known including You’ve Got Love. Marty may have heard it on the b-side of the Peanuts Wilson, Coral single, but more likely via Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Either way, they laid down a great version. Sullivan replicated the Teen Kings guitar intro and Marty has the high, youthful voice that fits the song to a tee. His voice doesn’t really get the recognition it deserves. It’s slightly nasal which gives it something different and he never seems to be struggling to reach a note. There’s a touch of teen angst in the mix as well which never hurt with the songs he was cutting. He’s a quality act who is still performing to this day. The best place to pick up Marty’s version is the CD which pairs Wilde About Marty with it’s follow-up LP, Showcase.

Finally we have the Crickets version from their wonderful debut album, The “Chirping” Crickets. Buddy Holly and the Crickets had just broken through nationally with That’ll Be The Day and Brunswick were looking to capitalise with an album. Buddy was apeolific writer but at such short notice and with the constant touring, the guys needed a couple of numbers to complete the album. Touring schedules dictated that the only possible time at the end of September 1957, for Petty and the Crickets to get together was in Oklahoma. Petty bought his recording equipment to the Tinker US Airforce Base outside Oklahoma City for a session that yielded four songs, among them, Maybe Baby and You’ve Got Love.

The Orbison/Petty/Wilson song was an obvious choice. It had Buddy’s sound all over it, it was a strong ditty and good ol’ Norm could help himself to some more cash as co-writer (cough, cough) of the song. Holly’s guitar is crisp and the solo rings like a bell. The guitar work is better than Wilson’s but the backing vocals from the Picks seem a bit square compared to the Roses.

I love the song, and think all three versions are excellent but the winner for me, and not because he wrote it, or because the flip side is one of my wife’s favourite songs, is Johnny Peanuts Wilson.

Friday 3 April 2009

Elvis is Everywhere No. 2 - Eddie Murphy

Elvis has always been easy material for comedians since the begining with Bob Hope springing to mind. Some jokes are funny and much as I love Elvis, you gotta laugh. I get a bit pissed off with cheap shot comedians though - I've even seen fat guys taking the piss out of Elvis eating hamburgers. This clip of Eddie Murphy from Delerious is pretty funny though. Check out how he does Elvis walking around stage - brilliant. The fart gag is a bit childish though.

Wednesday 1 April 2009

The Vargas Brothers – Rockin’ Blues

The Vargas Brothers – Rockin’ Blues
Wild Records

Track List: Done Gone/Lend Me Your Comb/Cutting Class/Love Charms/Hello Baby/Should We Tell Him/Wiggle Walkin' Baby/Leaving You/More and More/Hooked On You/Cry, Cry, Cry/I'm Ready (alt.)/Cry, Baby, Cry/Rockin' Blues/More & More (Spanish Version)

I think this is the Vargas Brothers second album, but it’s my introduction to this duo from Huntington Park, California, and I must say, they blew my mind. They also play as the Lonely Blue Boys but as they Vargas Brothers they play, no holds barred rockabilly.

The Vargas Brothers are Alex and Ernie Vargas, who share the vocals and play rhythm guitar and bass. They are driven along by Jose ''Watts'' Rodriguez on some blistering guitar and Jeff Gerow on drums.

The CD kicks off with a pair of fabulous covers. They do George & Earl’s Done Gone full justice, with great vocals and Joe Rodriguez laying down his marker for what follows - a CD chock full of explosive lead guitar. I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, but all I can say about Rodriguez’s guitar solo is, eat your heart out Carl. It’s a brilliant cover that will rock your socks off. Their cover of Ray Stanley’s Love Charms manages to recreate some of the atmospheric sound that made the original such a unique song. Bob Luman’s Hello Baby is phenomenal with Omar Romero taking over on lead guitar and the smoothness of the Everly’s Should We Tell Him is retained and augmented by more firecracker guitar. It sounds like the Everly’s backed by Ricky Nelson’s prime-time backing band.

Their own songs manage to maintain the high standard. Cutting Class is a rocking duet with shithot guitar, blah, blah, blah. I’m sure you’re getting the message here. Wiggle Walkin' Baby is blinding, reminding me of Red Hot ‘n’ Blue at their best. What a song, surely destined for hit status in the rockin’ clubs. Hooked On You is pure 50’s rockabilly as is I’m Ready which is relentless and another “must hear” number. The title track, Rockin’ Blues does what it says on the tin.

More And More suits them to a tee, and it’s great to hear this in something other than flat vocals!! Only joking, I love Webb, but his voice was voice was squarer than most people’s swimming pools – not his own though. JC’s Cry Cry Cry is a strong cover that will please rockabillies of all persuasions. A Spanish version of More And More rounds off the set.

I love this album, and would happily to say this is the best modern album I’ve heard for ages. If there is to be a place for rockabilly in the forthcoming decades, then bands and albums like this will play a big role in keeping youngsters interested. A stunning release.