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EDITOR Michael Leonard Fitting for a man who had an anthem

mike.leonard@anthem-publishing.com called Race With The Devil, Gene Vincent
ART EDITOR Andrew McGregor
lived life at a breakneck speed of
heady extremes. He nearly died in 1960 in
the UK, when he was in the Wiltshire car
crash that took the life of Eddie Cochran.
adrian@majormediasales.com But Vincent survived. Clad in black leather
+44 (0) 1453 836257 and literally limping his way through the
AD PRODUCTION Craig Broadbridge
60s, he was the archetype of tough-nut
survivor, a never-say-die rocker who would
ANTHEM PUBLISHING not be bowed… even when rock’n’roll
started to go out of fashion.
Vincent’s later days are the subject of this month’s
simon.lewis@anthem-publishing.com excellent Vintage Rock cover feature by Jack Watkins who,
CREATIVE DIRECTOR Jenny Cook with the help of Vincent peer and disciple, Graham Fenton
of Matchbox, looks at Vincent’s life in the UK and Europe
gemma.bailey@anthem-publishing.com right up to his death. The advent of teen idols in the US
meant that Vincent made the UK his home — this
Craig Brackenridge, Garth Cartwright, Bill Dahl, relentless rebel needed to find a rowdy port in the sanitised
Vince Eager, Randy Fox, Peter Herndon, John Howard, calm that had washed over the US rock’n’roll scene. In
Garry Letts, Douglas McPherson, Mike Stephens,
Jack Watkins, David West
many ways, the arrested development of the UK was to its
own advantage in this situation: still starved of regular
rock’n’roll visitors and true stars, the UK rolled out the
William Gibbons & Sons Ltd
+44 (0) 1902 730 011 welcome mat for Gene and he jumped right in. It all ended
sadly and tragically of course, after Vincent’s years of wild
Marketforce (UK) Ltd, living seemed to catch up with him after a fall. But for the
5 Churchill Place, Canary Wharf, London, time he was here – and the records he made before –
E14 5HU +44 (0) 20 378 79001
Vincent remains a true, tragic hero of rock’n’roll. Enjoy the
LICENSING feature, starting on page 20.
Regina Erak
+44 (0) 7753 811 622
Before bona fide stars like Gene had arrived in the UK,
regina.erak@googlemail.com there was only the homegrown rock scene to get truly close
to, and we also chart those days with two more fabulous
PLEASE CONTACT: features: the first about the 2i’s cafe in London in the
0844 856 0642* (UK) mid-50s, generally agreed to be the birthplace of UK
+44 (0)1371 853 609 (US)
email: shop@anthem-publishing.com rock’n’roll, and an overdue interview with Marty Wilde
web: anthem-publishing.com/vintage talking about his debut LP which was one of the first real
*Calls cost 7 pence per minute plus your
phone company’s access charge milestones in Brit rock.
All this plus a secret history of Chicago rock’n’roll, a
tribute to rockabilly ‘Blond Bomber’ Ronnie Dawson, a
look inside the new orchestral albums by Buddy Holly and
Roy Orbison and much more. Enjoy the issue!

The Professional
Publishers Association

All content copyright Anthem Publishing Ltd 2018, all rights reserved.
While we make every effort to ensure that the factual content of Vintage
Rock magazine is correct, we cannot take any responsibility nor be held
accountable for any factual errors printed. Please make every effort to
Michael Leonard
check quoted prices and product specifications with manufacturers prior Editor
to purchase. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system or resold without prior consent of Anthem Publishing Ltd.
Vintage Rock magazine recognises all copyrights contained within the
issue. Where possible, we acknowledge the copyright holder.
20 30


50 62
© John Beecher

GENE VINCENT ...................................................................... 2O
As rock’n’roll started to fade away in the US, Gene Vincent
turned to the UK. Matchbox’s Graham Fenton was there and here
remembers Gene’s triumphs… and ultimate tragedy


When London got a shot of the new sounds of rock’n’roll, it was

in the coffee bars of W1. Skiffle king Chas McDevitt takes Vintage
Rock on a tour of the wild West End of the 50s
CLASSIC ALBUM: MARTY WILDE ...................................... 42
The one-time teenager in love reveals all about making his
Wilde About Marty debut: “British records had a special sound”
Forget the blues for just one minute: sweet home Chicago has its
own secret history of rock’n’roll, here unearthed in all its glory

Producer Nick Patrick guides Vintage Rock through the making

of the new orchestral Buddy album True Love Ways…
ROY ORBISON ....................................................................... 66
…and The Big O also gets strings on Unchained Melodies
THE ‘BLOND BOMBER’ RONNIE DAWSON .................... 70
The cult rockabilly hero remembered by his band and friends

ALL MAMA’S CHILDREN ....................................................... 6
The Stray Cats confirm a new album, Billy Fury disappears,
98 76 Elvis’ Comeback comes back, Vintage Rock readers form a
rock’n’roll cinema club and much more
ON THE RADAR .................................................................... 16
All aboard The Dodge Brothers’ locomotive of rockabilly!

84 SUBSCRIBE ............................................................................

Never miss a copy of Vintage Rock!


7" SINGLES & EP REVIEWS ............................................... 76

Explosive 45s from Al Dual, Les Razerbills, Crazy Cavan and more
LP REVIEWS .......................................................................... 78
Ray Sharpe, Ike & Tina Turner and Maxine Brown tear it up
CD REVIEWS ......................................................................... 80
Killer albums from JD McPherson, Lindsay Beaver and more
LIVE REVIEWS : HEMSBY #61 ........................................... 84
Vintage Rock looks back on a landmark live weekend
A LIFE IN ROCK’N’ROLL ..................................................... 92
Vince Eager is asked to act. Does he pass the audition?
SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE ................................................. 96
The Bullets’ Brett Waters reveals his ultimate rock playlist
CODA: CONNIE FRANCIS .................................................... 98
How the canny Connie Francis chose her hits
Martin Philbey/Redferns/Getty

All Mama’s Children

Stray Cats
Are Back
Brian Setzer and co are recording a new
album for 2019’s 40th anniversary

he Stray Cats are back on the Orchestra, whose Grammy-winning cover
prowl. After reuniting in 2018 of Louis Prima’s Jump, Jive An’ Wail became
for a handful of reunion shows, a surprise hit in 1998, has made the biggest
including a lauded headline spot at Viva Las impression of all their individual projects in
Vegas, the rockabilly trio will celebrate their the interim.
40th anniversary in 2019 with both a new But they are promising a return to classic
album and a full-sized tour. Cats style for the new record. “We have an
“Forty years ago, us three teenagers album’s worth of new songs that are classic
started a little band to play a musical style rockabilly while keeping the music and style
that had long since passed and most folks current and fresh, like always,” says Phantom.
had never heard of,” Brian Setzer says in “In other words… a Stray Cats album.”
a statement. “Forty years later, we stand English producer Peter Collins, who also
together and still get that same thrill and oversaw Setzer’s Jump, Jive An’ Wail, will
exhilaration from the music. That feeling work with the band in Nashville. Vance
is what makes the fireworks go off and the Powell, whose credits include everyone
sparks fly. It makes the world go around.” from Wanda Jackson to The White Stripes
Bandmates Setzer, bass player Lee Rocker to Chris Stapleton, is engineering.
and drummer Slim Jim Phantom haven’t There are no confirmed dates as yet, but
released a studio record since 1993’s Original they will surely include the UK given it is
Cool. The frontman’s own Brian Setzer here the band made their breakthrough.

Cineworld? Pah. Odeon?
Schmodeon… Nah, this pub in
Basingstoke’s where it’s at when
it comes to rock’n’roll cinema


ROCK’N’ROLL Vintage Rock contributor

Randy Fox is well known for his
encyclopedic knowledge of 50s
and 60s rock’n’roll and R&B, and
for his new book he has charted
Hat off to Vintage Rock reader Tony West whose ‘Boozinstoke Rockin the history of Excello Records,
Fraternity’ organises plenty of events for rockers around their Hampshire of his own native Nashville.
neighbourhood. “We have had huge successes with a Pyjama Party, a party on Founded by Ernie Young, the Excello label (and its sister
the Thames, an annual Midwinter Beach Party, and a rockabilly car club drive-in Nashboro imprint) became famous for releasing the
movie … as well as a monthly free entry rockabilly party night.” The latest is a tracks of Slim Harpo, Arthur Gunter, Lightnin’ Slim,
cinema club at the Royal Oak pub in Basingstoke. “The idea of booking out a Lazy Lester, and a host of others. By the early 1960s,
cinema screen and filling it with only those from the area’s rockin’ scene… no Excello recordings were reaching the shores of the UK,
public and no supervision? Well, it seemed like a great idea!” where they inspired young Brits such as Mick Jagger,
And it was, as people came from as far as Swindon, Salisbury and Keith Richards and Eric Clapton to launch their own
Bournemouth to gather. The film was 1979’s cult classic The Wanderers. R&B combos.
“For most of us, we had only ever seen this at a mate’s house on VHS from Through extensive research and interviews, Shake
Blockbuster,” says Tony. “But the best thing of all there was no public to shush Your Hips: The Excello Records Story chronicles the tale
the singalongs, or complain about the inevitable aerial popcorn bombardment, of one of the most unusual labels to emerge from the
regressive juvenile behaviour or the cheering at the favourite scenes – this was 1950s, and sheds new light on Nashville’s rich history
cinema at a fun level!” as much more than a country music city. It’s out now as
Want to join in? Find the ‘Boozinstoke Rockin Fraternity’ group on Facebook. part of BMG Books’ new RPM series.

Sad news we weren’t actually aware of until now: but the Billy Fury mural on Billy
Fury Way in West Hampstead has gone. Faithful Vintage Rock reader Andre Hobus
Jim Linwood

of Brussels, on a recent “pilgrimage” to the rock’n’roll hotspots of London writes:

“I couldn’t find it… I knew there was a mural somewhere. I reached the fire station
[which is some walk! – Ed], and asked the firemen who were idling around their big
trucks. Finally, one of the lads asked his superior who knew who Billy Fury was –
hurrah! – and where it [the painting] was supposedly located. I walked back, found
the wild alley named the Billy Fury Way, parallel to the tracks. But no portrait... the
wall was covered with plain paint. You can still see white traces of the former
portrait. Two very young local graphers [graffiti painters] were at work but, of Following a poll the path was
named after Billy Fury in 2010
course, never noticed the portrait when in existence.”


In the
Fri 1st WALSALL Forest Arts Centre 0300 555 2898 forestartscentre.co.uk
Sat 2nd GAINSBOROUGH Trinity Arts Centre 01427 676 655 trinityarts.co.uk
Sun 3rd LOUGHBOROUGH Town Hall 01509 231 914 loughboroughtownhall.co.uk
Wed 6th AYR The Gaiety 01292 288 235 thegaiety.co.uk
Thu 7th FALKIRK Town Hall 01324 506 850 falkirkcommunitytrust.org
Fri 8th PEEBLES Eastgate Theatre 01721 725 777 eastgatearts.com
Sat 9th MOTHERWELL Theatre 01698 403 120 culturenl.co.uk
Sun 10th GLASGOW Eastwood Park 0141 577 4956 eastwoodparktheatre.co.uk
Tue 12th SOUTHEND The Cliffs Pavilion 01702 351 135 thecliffspavilion.co.uk
Wed 13th HAYES Beck Theatre 020 8561 8371 becktheatre.org.uk
Thu 14th BURY ST EDMUNDS Theatre Royal 01284 769 505 theatreroyal.org
Fri 15th BISHOP’S STORTFORD 01279 710 200 rhodesartscomplex.co.uk
Rhodes Arts Complex
Sat 16th CHELMSFORD Civic 01245 606 505 chelmsford.gov.uk/theatres
Sun 17th DERBY Guildhall Theatre 01332 255 800 derbylive.co.uk
Wed 20th YEOVIL Octagon Theatre 01935 422 884 octagon-theatre.co.uk
Thu 21st EXMOUTH Pavilion 01395 222 477 ledleisure.co.uk/exmouth-pavilion
Fri 22nd FROME Memorial Theatre 01373 462 795 fmt.website
Sat 23rd ROTHERHAM Civic Theatre 01709 823 621 rotherhamtheatres.co.uk
Sun 24th STAFFORD Gatehouse Theatre 01785 619 080 staffordgatehousetheatre.co.uk
Wed 27th ST ALBANS Arena 01727 844 488 alban-arena.co.uk
Thu 28th EDMONTON Millfield Theatre 020 8807 6680 millfieldtheatre.co.uk

Fri 1st CHIPPING NORTON Theatre 01608 642 350 chippingnortontheatre.com
Sat 2nd CANARY WHARF Boisdales 020 7715 5818 boisdale.co.uk
Sun 3rd WINDSOR Theatre Royal 01753 853 888 theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk


Photo courtesy of Getty/BMG Records/LDPublicity

This is in no way surprising… but Elvis through interviews conducted for this year’s Howlin’ Wolf’s Little Red Rooster and Bo
Presley’s ’68 Comeback Special is being HBO documentary The Searcher. Which Diddley’s You Can’t Judge A Book By Its
reissued again for its 50th anniversary. pretty much makes it the final word on all Cover. The 42-tracker also features (among
The new package is a seven-disc super- things Elvis and 1968. Price is around £100 others) Little Walter, John Lee Hooker,
deluxe edition box set, with all existing on Sony. The last issue of VR also makes the Jimmy Reed and Buddy Guy. Confessin’ The
audio and video on 5xCDs and 2xBlu-ray perfect companion. Blues is on 2xCD, 4x12" LP vinyl and also as
discs. That means you get the original Also gift-worthy is a new Rolling Stones a 5x10" vinyl book pack (with art cards by
album, both ‘sit-down’ and ‘stand-up’ boxset… even if it doesn’t feature The Stones illustrator Christoph Mueller). The cover
performances, rehearsals and sessions at all. For Confessin’ The Blues, the band have artwork is by The Stones’ Ronnie Wood,
recorded with The Wrecking Crew in June handpicked the key tracks by the artists who and 10% of net receipts go to Willie Dixon’s
1968, including outtakes. The box set also inspired them, so you get Muddy Waters’ Blues Heaven Foundation. This lavish vinyl
includes an 84-page book with the story told Rollin’ Stone, Chuck Berry’s Little Queenie, edition is circa £50.

GOES TRACK- B O ’ S G O O D B collectables
BY-TRACK ove m b e r sa le o f
THROUGH At Ju lien’s Auctions’ N e
rret, a super-rich collector,
g in g to M il to n V
THE KING’S belon e d - p hilanthropist and er.
tr a d e r-tu rn
OUTPUT FROM commodities o n ce a g a in proved the clinch to by
rock’n’roll D N A
1969-1977 ia n a H ay ri d e m ic rophone sung in
An original Louis ays went for $15,000 (£11k), while
“I was far too young ever to Elvis in his early d st stage-used Gretsch guitar
Bo Diddley’s la
went for $16,000.
know who Elvis Presley was
while he was alive,” admits
Matt Shepherd of BBC Radio
Cornwall. “I missed out on
the rock’n’roll explosion, the
movie years and the ’68
comeback. I even missed out
on the Aloha From Hawaii
show and all the mass
hysteria when Elvis died
more than 40 years ago.
Yet I have always been an
Elvis Presley fan. My brain is
like a 24-hour jukebox that
mostly consists of Elvis, Elvis
and yet more Elvis.” But now
the BBC DJ has put all his
enthusiasm into an Elvis
book, and it’s a bit different
as it concentrates on the
King’s post ’68 years. Elvis Did you know that The John Barry Seven were beaten only by The
Presley: Stories Behind The Shadows in sales for a British instrumental group of the 60s? John Barry
Songs Vol 1 is a track-by- biographers Geoff Leonard and Pete Walker certainly do, and the authors
track account of that ’69-’77 of celebrated Barry biog, The Man With The Midas Touch, have now turned
output, mixing song facts, their attention to his early group, The John Barry Seven. We can’t do
quotes, interpretations and justice to Hit And Miss: The Story Of The John Barry Seven in these short
trivia. It’s a great companion words; suffice to say that with 350 hardback pages and many previously
to an era of Elvis that is unseen photos, it’s a supremely-detailed account of the group that also
often overlooked. It’s out sheds light on 50s and 60s rock’n’roll/youth culture in the UK. Highly
now via Redshank Books. recommended, Hit And Miss… is published by Redcliffe Press.

The Grange
+44 (0) 1760 756394 www.grangestudios.co.uk

• Large 4 room recording area •

• 2 inch analogue tape 16 & 24 track •
• Classic Studer 827 & MCI (Quior version)
JH16 tape machines •
• Radar 48 track digital - 96K/24 bit •
• 80 channel analogue automated
Amek Rembrandt console •
• Vintage outboard, Classic 60s & 70s microphones •
Track to analogue - copy to 48 track digital for overdubs
Mix to analogue ½” Studer or 96K/24 bit digital
No multitrack tape charges
Residential with 2 self contained cottages



Rare & Collectable Records | Original Acetates |Stage Clothing | Guitars | Instruments
Posters | Tickets |Programmes | Autographs | Photographs and much more...
'EZ^/E>hZK<͕WZK'͕W^z,͕/E/͕WhE<͕ZK<EZK>>͕:͕&K><͕>h^͕EKZd,ZE^Kh>͕^Kh>͕/^K͕DKdKtE͕&hE<͕>ASSICAL & MORE


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7-10 February 2019

FEATURING: The Blasters, Johnny
Knight, The Original Planet
Rockers, The Paladins, Hot
Boogie Chillun and more.
VENUE: Auditorium Municipal Principe de
Early cuts from Gene Vincent and Eddie Boyd, plus Roy Asturias, Torremolinos, Malaga, Spain
Orbison’s adventures in jingle-land and two rare 7"ers from BOOKING: rockinrace.com/en
James Cotton, courtesy of www.omegaauctions.co.uk…
10–13 May 2019
FEATURING: Gizelle, Charlie
Hightone & The Rock-Its, The
Polecats, The Revolutionaires,
Hightone Rhythm Rumblers, The Neutronz,
Bonesville, The Outsiders and more.
VENUE: Hemsby Beach Holiday Park, Norfolk
NR29 4HR
Very seldom seen is this US Capitol 7" The Big O was commissioned by Coca- 31 May–1 June 2019
from 1960, which was Gene’s only US Cola to record some ‘jingles’ for their FEATURING: Paul Ansell’s Number Nine, Johnny
picture sleeve release. An iconic image of commercials back in 1965 – this 12" Bach & The Moonshine Boozers,
the hardest rocker of his time! contains six ‘radio spots’. The Hayriders, The Bullets, Jack
MINT VALUE: £1,000 MINT VALUE: £350 & The Real Deals and more.
VENUE: Court Farm Country Park,
Banwell, Weston Super Mare
BS29 6DL
BOOKING: rockinroundup.co.uk (tickets on sale
from January 2019)


5-8 July 2019
FEATURING: Hayden Thompson,
The Comets, Jimmy Van Eaton
I’M GOIN’ DOWNTOWN MY BABY C/W STRAIGHTEN UP BABY (first ever UK show), Rip Masters, Crazy Cavan &
(HERALD 406) (SUN 199) The Rhythm Rockers and more.
VENUE: Pontins, Pakefield Seaside Village,
This scorchin’ cut from Eddie was Shortly before Muddy Waters came a
Lowestoft NR33 7PF
recorded a good ‘five long years’ before he knockin’, James Cotton laid down two 45s
BOOKING: tennesseeclub.net / 07976 964086
would travel to Europe with Buddy Guy in Memphis for Sun Records, both now
and find fame. trade for up to four figure sums!
MINT VALUE: £500 MINT VALUE: £1,000 (7"), £700 (10" 78RPM)
Touring: January to June 2019
and beyond
1950s live music review
THE GENIUS OF EARL HOOKER featuring the music of Buddy
(CUCA KS4100) Holly, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry
EARL HOOKER and many more.
Ultra-rare 1967 LP from the slide guitarist VENUES: Queens Theatre, Hornchurch (8 Jan
specialist who played with (amongst others) 2019); Belgrade Theatre, Coventry (11 Jan);
Ike & Tina Turner, his cousin John Lee Hooker Capitol Theatre, Horsham (12 Jan); Palace
and Sonny Boy Williamson… Theatre, Westcliff (15 Feb); Princess Theatre,
MINT VALUE: £500 Hunstanton (2 March). See website for more.
BOOKING: thebluejays.co.uk

The Dodge Brothers (note: they’re not

actually brothers or indeed from Dodge

Adam Prosser
City). From left: Alex Hammond, Mark
Kermode, Mike Hammond, Aly Hirji

home and hardware implements such as

Dodge Brothers bottles and pots and pans, plus the drums.
I play assorted guitars and banjo. The other
rule is that no-one plays anything they can’t
carry. Alex can carry an entire drum kit and
his washboard, so he’s allowed to have a
Southampton’s Dodge Brothers can bass drum.”

play rambunctious rockabilly or If you had to name three musical heroes,

invent a soundtrack to a silent movie who would they be?

Mike: “If I have to narrow it down, it would
at will. Vintage Rock asks the quartet be Brownie McGhee, Geeshie Wiley and
Mississippi John Hurt – they never let
about their train-lovin’ retro sounds… me down.”
Aly Hirji (guitar): “Elvis, The Beatles and
WORDS BY MIKE STEPHENS The Wonder Stuff had the biggest influences
on me musically.”

ike Hammond, Mark Kermode, Aly Hirji and Alex Hammond are Alex Hammond (percussion): “Probably
collectively The Dodge Brothers, the UK south coast’s finest writers Bukka White and Washboard Sam on
of “new old songs” that encompass rockabilly, blues, skiffle and more. Special Steamline, but Bukka White in
They’ve released three albums now, including 2015’s The Sun Set (recorded at, yes, Sun general. And The Who and The Sex Pistols.”
Studios) and 2018’s spanking new Drive Train. They are really very good, and should be
famous for more than just having a double-bassist you’ve already seen talking about movies Why are you so-named? After the cars?
on the telly... Or the city famous for cowboys?
Mike: “We were driving back from our first
Briefly, who are Dodge Brothers and Alex who had been a punk drummer to recording in Mark’s 1956 Dodge Coronet.
what do you do? play the washboard. We are a band with I was in the back seat and as we hit the
Mike Hammond (guitar, lead vocals): rules. One is that everyone has to learn a New Forest I had a reverie, a memory of my
“Our current lineup began in 2007 when new instrument every year. Mark plays the childhood in those cars driving through the
Mark [Kermode] wanted us to take part double bass, various harmonicas, accordion pine forests of Alabama. I suggested The
in a BBC Culture Show piece on skiffle. and bagpipes; Aly plays assorted guitars Dodge Brothers would be a good name.
We needed a washboard player, so we got and mandolin; Alex plays washboard, other It kind of stuck.”

RADAR Early rock’n’roll = punk rock: Discuss.
Adam Prosser

Mark Kermode’s new book,

How Does It Feel? A Life of Musical Mike: “Punk’s ethos is anyone can play it
Misadventures is out now from and everyone’s invited. So is ours. So Billy
Weidenfeld & Nicolson fits right in.”
Aly: “To quote Billy Bragg – ‘Three
Chords & The Truth’. This works for early
rock’n’roll and punk.”

You also play music to Silent Cinema

events. Is that a very different discipline
to a regular Dodge Brothers show?
Mike: “Yes, very different, because you
are there to become invisible and serve
up the film. Kind of the opposite of being
on the stage. But all the films we play have
trains in them, so in that sense it is
similar thematically.”

Tell us a bit about the best gigs you’ve

ever done?
Tell Vintage Rock readers about your You write a lot about trains: what is it Mike: “I’d say our gigs at the Black Box
experience of recording at Sun Studio. about the romance of rail travel you like? in Belfast. I say that every time we play
Like everyone else, did you just think: And would you ever write a rockin’ song there. It’s not that we haven’t had great gigs
well, this is smaller than we thought? about the UK rail system? elsewhere, but there is a connection with
Mike: “Yes, it is smaller than we thought Mike: “Trains are the energy and the the Black Box audience that is genuine.
but in that little space you are challenged rhythm of modern times. They still are, even When you feel that vibe coming back at you,
to drop your inhibitions, look history in the a UK train. When they first arrived they it is very special.”
eye and try to live up to it. It’s never going had the effect of bringing the frontier closer. Aly: “The Minack Theatre, an outdoor
to be the same as it was then, and that’s a Freedom from the confines of where you are theatre carved into granite overlooking the
good thing. Elvis found his sound there, so lies just at the end of that line. So trains hold Atlantic ocean in Cornwall.”
did Howlin’ Wolf and Little Junior Parker in them a hopeful ending but stuff happens Alex: “Years ago, we played a couple of
& The Blue Flames… and none of them along the way. tracks at [BBC DJ] Simon Mayo’s birthday
sounded like the other. We didn’t go in “We like the combination of the rhythm party, then all bundled into a taxi to rush
trying to sound like anything but ourselves, and the possibility of good or bad things across London to the Borderline, for our
but we hoped to stand on the shoulders of happening. We are not original in that of Louisa & The Devil album launch gig. My
giants – and were happy if we could get as course, it’s a timeless combination. You may feet were hanging out the taxi window so
high as their shoelaces!” get there and it’s what you want, or not what we could fit us all in. That was pretty funny.”
you had hoped; you may jump off and find
You made a TV documentary about your something better; or you may just keep on And what about the strangest?
visit too, on YouTube, and you said you riding. Our latest album, Drive Train, finds Mike: “One of the strangest and happiest
hoped recording at Sun Studio “may help some of the similar qualities in automobiles was in a vinyl shop in Tromsø, Norway. We
change the way we play”. Did it? and that great cinema, the front windshield.” were jammed in a corner playing our skiffle
Mike: “The thing about Sun is that it Aly: “There’s no romance in the UK rail stuff and people were standing among the
requires you to play with each other and system anymore!” vinyl record bins as close as two feet away.
listen intently. We didn’t overdub and we Alex: “For me, while The 18:30 Greater A couple had brought their five-year-old in
had no headphones, so we had to listen Anglia Service To London Liverpool Street to watch us, and he was transfixed. People
to the band in the room. It’s like playing Blues might not be a great song title, that were drinking tea and coffee and when
in the kitchen with sound bouncing train does take me back home after working we played a song called Alcohol, Tobacco &
around everywhere.” away. So I’d say there is romance there.” Firearms Blues, which has everyone shout
Aly: “Because we had to get the song perfect out beer names, the parents and the kid
due to recording as they would have in Billy Lunn of The Subways has been a were shouting at the top of their lungs.
1954 – no overdubs – we learned to play regular guest of yours on stage. Later, the parents told me they were in town
with bleeding fingers. We repeated the song for a World Health Organisation conference
until we were happy. And we learned to lip “We hoped to stand on and thought that our song should be the
read, because of no headphones, to work out WHO’s theme tune!” 9
where we were in the track.”
the shoulders of giants Dodge Brothers’ Drive Train is out now on
Alex: “I think it’s helped us look more – and were happy if we Weeping Angel records. They play live in
relaxed on stage – I certainly feel that Belfast (again) in January and Nottingham
because we made a good record at Sun, we
could get as high as in March. See dodgebrothers.co.uk for
can do anything.” their shoelaces!” more dates.

Gene Vincent

Black Leather Rebel: Gene Vincent,

AKA Vincent Eugene Craddock

Gene Vincent

When rock’n’roll’s popularity began

to fade in the US, the legendary Gene
Vincent made the UK his new home.
With the help of Matchbox’s Graham
Fenton, Vintage Rock charts Gene’s
later years of triumphs, plenty of
tragedy and an indelible mark on a
generation of rockers…
Ron Howard/Redferns/Getty

Gene Vincent

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Gene Vincent, rock’n’roll’s

original bad boy

he words saint worsening mental and physical state.

and Gene One man who connects that era to the
Vincent aren’t present-day rockabilly scene is Graham
often seen Fenton. While best known as the lead
together, but vocalist of the hitmaking rockabilly band
if ever there Matchbox, Fenton is also a former member
was a lead of The Houseshakers, with poignant
contender memories of Vincent’s last days in the UK.
for the title In the years since his hero’s death in
Patron Saint of British Rock’n’Roll, it 1971, Graham has subsequently recorded
has to be the man born Vincent Eugene a lot of material which has recreated or
Craddock, in Norfolk, Virginia in 1935. reinterpreted the Vincent sound, including
In the dog days of the 1960s when rock’n’roll the albums A Tribute To Gene Vincent
was considered old hat, Vincent, who and Shades Of Gene, released by Graham
spent so much time living in and gigging Fenton’s Matchbox in 1993 and 2000
up and down the UK and on the European respectively. In the early 1990s, when
mainland, became like an unofficial the 1958 line-up of Vincent’s Blue Caps
spokesman for the cause. He became a flag- reformed for a European tour, he was
bearing hero for fans and an inspiration for a chosen to share lead vocal duties because
generation of European musicians. of his faithfulness to the Vincent style. His
Two of Britain’s best pre-revival annual Gene Vincent tribute nights at the
rock’n’roll bands of the late 60s and famed 60s rockers’ haunt, the Ace Cafe, just
early 70s, The Wild Angels and The off London’s North Circular Road, have been Vincent recorded his first ever
Houseshakers, backed him on a couple of another contribution to keeping the candle song, Be-Bop-A-Lula, in 1956.
his last tours, learning from him at the same burning for the Screaming End. He penned it himself with his
manager, Bill ‘Sheriff Tex’ Davis
time as watching in dismay at their idol’s Meeting up to reminisce at the Ace,

Gene Vincent

Gene Vincent’s most celebrated
recordings major around the 1956
Capitol sessions before Cliff
Gallup’s departure. But Gallup
actually only played on 35 Vincent
recordings, and the latter’s musical
legacy is far wider than those
admittedly historic tracks. Here,
with occasional commentary from
Graham Fenton, are a few gems
from across Gene Vincent’s career.

Bit of a 50s car freak? You gotta
love this one, even more so thanks
to Vincent’s confident delivery.
Along with Pretty Baby - “Uh-uh,
by the way – what’s your name?”
– recorded at the same,
penultimate Gallup session in
October ’56, it’s one of his most
cheeky, swaggering numbers.

Being of an older generation,
producer Ken Nelson wasn’t
exactly wild about rock’n’roll, and
it’s generally accepted that in
those early sessions he saddled
Vincent with a lot of middle-of-
the-road stuff. Yet the singer
responded brilliantly to the
challenge, delivering faultless
renditions of old standards like
Peg O’ My Heart and Up A Lazy
River. Unchained Melody is a tepid
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

little ditty, but worth listening to

for Gallup’s shimmering
accompaniment on his Gretsch
Gene Vincent

Ed Caraeff/Morgan Media/Getty
An older, and noticeably bulkier
Vincent on a photo shoot for his
I’m Back And I’m Proud album in 1969

West London-born Fenton says he first saw used to wear at that time. after he’d touched down
Vincent perform in February 1964. “A friend I’d never seen someone at London Airport.
of mine said he was playing at the Hounslow like that, banging the mic “The image young
Baths. In the winter when the swimming stand and throwing it up in people who never saw
pools shut, they’d board them over, making the air!” Gene when he was alive
it like a big hall. So we were standing on In fact, the year of 1964 have, is this rebel figure with
the top of a swimming pool with a stage came towards the end of a run his collar up, mean and moody,”
Graham Fenton belting
at the end. Gene was backed on that tour that had seen ‘Sweet Gene out a Vincent classic at says Fenton. “But he wasn’t
by an English band, The Shouts. We were Vincent’ achieve levels of London’s Ace Cafe really like that. It was Jack Good
standing at the back, and I remember Gene popularity in Britain, France who put him in leathers. When
brushing past us in the beige camel jacket he and Germany that arguably exceeded you see his early clips with the Blue Caps,
anything he had ever achieved in the States. he hasn’t got leathers on, but he’s wild. But
It had started at the end of 1959 when, when Jack Good first met him, he found
“Jack Good had this
Graham Fenron photo courtsey of Ace Cafe

with the hits and live dates having dried up this guy of average height, mild-mannered,
vision of Vincent as a in his homeland, Vincent agreed to come pleasant and quiet-spoken. He was like a
tragic Shakespearean to Britain to appear on the Jack Good- Southern gentleman, a bit square; ‘Yes, Mr
produced, Marty Wilde-fronted TV show Good’ and all that. Good thought: ‘I can’t
character” Boy Meets Girls. On first sighting, Good had have this!’ He had a vision of Vincent as a
GRAHAM FENTON been dismayed by Vincent’s appearance tragic Shakespearean character.”

Gene Vincent


Johnny Meeks had a choppier,
rougher style compared to his
predecessor, Cliff Gallup. Lotta
Lovin’ came right at the start in
1957, incorporating Vincent’s new
Clapper Boy sound, with Meeks
coming up with the great intro off
the cuff. On Rollin’ Danny on the
same session, his solo work was
stunning, almost Eastern in effect.
Graham Fenton: “Johnny Meeks
said he sat for months trying to get
near Gallup’s style but at the first
rehearsal Gene said: ‘Why are you
playing like that? Play it harder.
I want it like you did when I first
saw you.’ And in the end he played
it different, in his own style.”
Frederick R. Bunt/Evening Standard/Getty

When rock meets mod:

Gene Vincent tries out a Vespa
on the streets of London YOU ARE THE
And so the idea of the supercharged amputate his leg and replace it with a tin one Vincent was influenced by black
rocker with the leather-boy image, hunched and he’d pleaded with his mother: ‘Don’t let vocal groups for his Clapper Boys’
over a microphone, swivelling round and them take my leg away!’ Rather than have it harmonies and visual routines, but
staring dementedly at the ceiling with those removed he suffered with extreme pain for clearly also absorbed that style of
big expressive eyes, was conceived. the rest of his life. The Blue Cats told me he singing into his own. Git It is the
never rested it after he’d had the accident, supreme example in the Vincent
BUT VINCENT WAS a genuinely and was always taking painkillers. Of course, catalogue to meld the style within
tortured soul. The pain from a leg injury it ulcerated and got worse.” a rock number, but he also uses
sustained in a motorcycle accident when It might not just have been pain that falsetto and repetition in a very
in the Navy in 1955 which forced him to caused his paranoiac, self-destructive subtle way on You Are The One For
wear a brace, never left him. Even if Good tendencies, though. The recently deceased Me, recorded in 1958, to build up
envisioned using the infirmity as a gimmick, Chas Hodges reckoned he couldn’t handle the emotional effect.
well before the end of his career Vincent stardom, that he preferred to be one of the Graham Fenton: “I love this ballad.
was a real tragic anti-hero. boys. Did he have low self-esteem? “I think Clifton Simmons played the lovely
“I saw Gene’s leg once,” remembers that was why he drank,” reckons Fenton. piano solo. When you see pics in
Fenton. “It was thin and withered. A pretty “Of course, he drank partly because of the the studio you wouldn’t think he
grim sight. With technology today and the pain in his leg, but it also gave him a bit of was a rock’n’roller, but when they
prosthetic legs, he’d have been bopping extra confidence to go on stage.” He recalls got out there and put the Blue Cap
around. But back in the 50s, they wanted to that there may have been a bit of friction on him, it was a different story.”
Gene Vincent

between him and Tommy ‘Bubba’ Facenda,

one of the legendary Blue Caps Clapper
Boys. “Tommy was a sharp-looking Italian-
American boy, better looking than Gene.
Gene didn’t say anything but it upset him the
way the girls loved him. Tommy upstaged
him for a while. They never argued about it, everything, Gene Vincent was still believing.
but by 1958 they had started to drift apart.” By 1970, it was The Houseshakers who
Chas Hodges saw the alcoholic, self- were backing him, a band fronted by
destructive side of Vincent when his band Graham Fenton, still cutting his teeth as
The Outlaws backed him on his 1963 a young rock’n’roll vocalist, with Terry
tours. But in 1969, when a BBC crew were Clemson, formerly – as Terry Gibson – of
on hand to film the documentary The The Downliners Sect, on lead guitar. Fenton
Rock’n’Roll Singer, Gene seemed like the comes from a musical family, his father before taking him back to meet his mum
subdued, quiet-spoken guy Good had met being a crooner before he got his call-up at his home in Hanwell. “Gene just said:
in 1959. The grainy film is heartbreaking to papers in the Second World War, and ‘Pleased to meet you, ma’am, your son’s
watch, reflecting an artist who, backed by brother Ken a jazz-loving bass player who doing well.’ So polite! He had spent so
The Wild Angels, was still delighting his worked with Don Lang and Rick Wakeman. much time in this country by 1970 he
fans with committed live shows, but then With a background like that, Fenton had developed a lot of Anglicised phrases
undergoing the humiliation of having to appreciated Vincent’s vocal versatility which used to make me laugh. He could be
hang around backstage for payment. This which went beyond that of your average terrifying, but only when he got pissed.
was no way to treat a star. Among several rocker. “His style was unique, and he kind We thought he was going to die in the back
moving sequences in the film is a segment of took me under his wing, told me to put as of my Chevy at one point when he started
of him limping down the street alone at much as you could into an act, to really put coughing up blood. We tried to take him to
night, taking in the lights of London’s West on a show and try to overcome my nerves.” the hospital, and I remember him growling:
End while the soundtrack plays one of his As the proud owner of a 1959 Chevrolet ‘If you take me in that goddam hospital, the
most recent recordings, a cheery reworking Impala, Fenton also found himself on tour’s over.’ He’d have these flare-ups, but
of Ernest Tubb’s country No. 1 from 1946, chauffeur duties, even driving his fellow it was managers, agents and promoters he
Rainbow At Midnight. Somehow, in spite of bike enthusiast into the Ace Cafe forecourt didn’t get on with. He was uppity with them,
he’d got so badly ripped off.”
“Gene didn’t say anything but it upset Fenton saw Vincent one last time

him the way the girls loved Tommy weeks before he died, when he came back
to London for an alimony court case in
‘Bubba’ Facenda” GRAHAM FENTON September 1971. “He’d called our manager

Gene Vincent


So, the British couldn’t cut
rock’n’roll? This was recorded at
EMI’s Abbey Road Studio in 1961,
with Norrie Paramor at the
controls. Sax-driven instrumental
combo Sounds Incorporated,
working a lot with Vincent around
this time, provide the backing.
Graham Fenton: “The intro is great
and it builds up beautifully.”

Wild things: Vincent toured with
British rock’n’rollers The Wild Vincent was a country boy, but not
Angels in the late 1960s really a country singer. Even so he
recorded plenty of songs from that
Earl Sheridan and said he’d like to tour with the stress of the court case, he was probably genre, as well as recording in
the boys [The Houseshakers] again, but he’d drinking more, maybe taking more aspirin Bradley’s Film and Recording
so insulted Sheridan on the previous tour, he for his leg and, bang, something had to give.” Studio in Nashville. I’m A Lonesome
just said: ‘I don’t even want to speak to you, Fugitive was recorded in 1967, after
you get someone else.’ JOHNNY MEEKS, SECOND only he’d left Capitol, for the Challenge
“If Gene had spoken to us direct, we’d to Cliff Gallup in the roll call of Vincent’s album released in the UK as Gene
probably have done it. So he ended with a greatest guitarists, attended Vincent’s Vincent. A recent hit for Merle
pick-up pop band, Kansas Hook. He was so funeral. “The family was arguing, but apart Haggard, it featured some
ill and drinking heavily by then the shows from that Johnny said there were only about Bakersfield-style guitar, and the
fell apart. But I was driving through Perivale three other people there,” recollects Fenton. roving, solitary life on the highway
in my Chevy, when this little Austin pulled “He said it was like a pauper’s funeral. Well, was a theme Vincent would have
up beside me at the traffic lights. Gene was I finally made it to the cemetery in 2001. related to.
in the passenger’s seat and, recognising my His grave is near the San Fernando Highway Graham Fenton: “That whole
car, rolled down the window and called and the headstone is quite eroded. I took album was country style. I had the
over: ‘Hey man, how’s it going? No hard some flowers and just said: ‘This is the only honour of working with Jerry Lee
feelings, shame I couldn’t work with you way I know how to say goodbye. Thanks Merritt, who succeeded Johnny
this time.’ The lights changed, his car went for being a friend.’ The superintendent lady Meeks on guitar, and who wrote
one way, I went the other. Three weeks there said it was now the most visited grave another classic Vincent rocker,
later I heard on the radio he’d passed away in the cemetery. And yet there had been She She Little Sheila, and
from a haemorrhage at his parents’ house virtually no-one outside family to see him performing this with him at a
in California. I know he was ill, but with buried at the ceremony.” Vincent tribute show.”
Gene Vincent


Steve Aynsley, who ran the

Gene Vincent Fan Club in the
1980s and 90s, has done
sterling work in keeping the
great man’s work alive in
the years since. On this
56-track 2-disc CD from
Rollercoaster Records, he
brings together some
lesser-heard Vincent
recordings, others by Blue
Cap members, and songs
recorded in tribute by
musical admirers, including
Vince Eager, Graham Fenton
and Steve Aynsley himself

Gary Merrin/Keystone/Getty
(check out My Little Mama).
Nicely packaged with a Vincent, pictured signing
44-page booklet. autographs shortly before
his death in 1971

Even though a couple of tracks Vincent the Clapper Boys’ Tommy Facenda and the Today, younger British rockabilly
recorded at Morgan Studios in Willesden late Paul Peek. He even met up with Ken bands are still drawing inspiration from
with The Houseshakers (a re-recording Nelson, the producer of Vincent’s Capitol the music of Vincent. At the time of
of his classic, yet unaccountable 1958 flop recordings. “I was with the Blue Caps and speaking, Fenton was looking forward to
single Say Mama and Hank Snow’s I’m it was a very emotional occasion for them going into Sugar Ray’s vintage recording
Movin’ On for an album The Battle Of The because they hadn’t seen Ken in years. studio in Essex to put down the vocals
Bands on one of his off days) suggested a They were still calling him ‘Mr Nelson’. for an album of Cliff Gallup-era Vincent
voice shot to bits: other recordings he made He was a sweet old guy. He was 93, and he numbers with the band Race With The
nearer the end, including an incredible lived to be 96. He had to put his hearing aid Devil. “People who never saw him are still
home recording The Rose Of Love for Ronnie in but his mind was still really sharp.” discovering Gene’s music and when they
Weiser in Los Angeles just two months realise those Capitol recordings were made
before he died, show he was still able to cut
it, with all the old vocal touches intact. Like
“The lady there as long ago as 1956 they know the sound on
them is phenomenal. I think Gene Vincent
his old mate Eddie Cochran, Vincent died said it was now the is probably bigger now than when he was
still having so much more to give. most visited grave alive.”

in the cemetery”
In subsequent years Fenton not only The Ace Cafe’s annual Gene Vincent
performed with the Blue Caps, but became Tribute night is on 9 February 2019:
friends with drummer Dickie Harrell, plus GRAHAM FENTON www.london.acecafe.com/news


The legendary 2i’s in London’s

Soho. Never before had a simple
coffee bar had such a seismic effect
on British popular culture

In 1950s London, early skiffle bloomed into rock’n’roll in the
coffee bars of the West End. Vintage Rock travels back with
skiffle king Chas McDevitt to days of gig fees paid in
spaghetti and the nascent careers of Cliff Richard, Tommy
Steele, Terry Dene, Wee Willie Harris and more…
Alex Dellow/Picture Post/Getty

Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen on stage in

1954, including a young Lonnie
Donegan (second from right)

here was the birthplace he wouldn’t even have an electric guitar in Some of their earliest performances
of British rock’n’roll? his band,” says Chas. were in a church in a London back
Could such a thing ever be That may be so, but Colyer was street near Marble Arch. The Church Of
linked to a single venue? If there is an old undoubtedly something of a catalyst for The Annunciation is still there today, a
cliché that is guaranteed to wind up any what was to follow. Shortly after, in the dowdy, brooding red brick hulk. But that
unreconstructed fan of early rock’n’roll, early 1950s, he and Lonnie Donegan came appearance belies the music that was played
it’s the one about how, on this side of the together as members of The Chris Barber in its crypt for a few months in 1953, making
Atlantic, it only properly kicked off with Band which, on account of Colyer’s heroic it another key venue for those tracing rock’s
The Beatles at the Cavern in 1961. But, just status in jazz circles at the time, took the root performance sources.
as Muddy Waters’ line “the blues had a baby name of Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen. In this unlikely building in the spring
and they named it rock’n’roll” is a gross
simplification of the music’s beginnings, so
are the origins of the performance of rock
music in the UK complex and tangled.
Ken Colyer is regarded as the “spiritual
godfather” of skiffle. But in 1949, when his
Crane River Jazz Band first started playing
in a tin hut next to the White Hart pub in
Cranford, outer west London, beside the
Thames tributary from which they got
their name, their roughneck approach,
energy and lack of technique was arguably
“rock’n’roll in spirit”, as Peter Frame has
written, before the term was known.
But Chas McDevitt, another of the skiffle
greats, winces when the thought is run by
him, saying the phrase would have had
Colyer “turning in his grave”. Colyer hated
the cult of personality and the idea of the
Charles Hewitt/Getty

showy frontman, believing firmly in the Tommy Steele breaks into an

collective. “He was a purist, devoted to impromptu performance at the
Bread Basket Coffee House, 1957
performing Leadbelly songs. To begin with,

John Pratt/Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty

Future Beatles collaborator Tony Sheridan

rocking out at the 2i’s, circa 1958

Tommy Steele at the

2i’s in October 1956

the voluptuous Italian sex symbol Gina

Lollobrigida, it boasted its own espresso
coffee machine. But while it was quickly
Rick Hardy/Redferns/Getty

followed by others, as Chas McDevitt says,

“these places didn’t have skiffle groups. The
Moka, and the Moulin Rouge in Hanway
Street, had Cypriot guys playing Spanish
guitar and pretending they were Spanish.”
Opened by the voluptuous Italian sex According to Chas, it was the Gyre &
Gimble, otherwise known as the G&G, a
symbol Gina Lollobrigida, The Moka basement coffee bar in John Adam Street,
ȳɀȲɄɅȶȵȺɅɄɀɈȿȶɄɁɃȶɄɄɀȴɀ̿ȶȶȾȲȴȹȺȿȶ just off Villiers Street and a few paces up the
road from the favourite skiffle buskers haunt
of that year Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen began fans they were initially aimed at. In time, under the railway arches at Charing Cross,
a series of regular Monday night shows. reflecting the music’s rising appeal, gig that can lay claim to having been one of the
Essentially these promoted Colyer’s posters promoted the line-up as Ken first real basement skiffle coffee bars. Even
favoured New Orleans style of jazz, Colyer’s Jazzmen & Skiffle Group. We so, McDevitt says, there were others. “When
defined by the way the front line of players shouldn’t get too carried away. Skiffle would my group came to London we played at the
improvised collectively. However, the remain an underground movement until the Fantasy in Chelsea. To begin with, it was
sets also included some of the earliest success of Donegan’s breakthrough single, just one or two of us playing, and instead
skiffle, or break-down, sessions heard Rock Island Line, recorded in 1954, but not of paying us, they’d give us a spaghetti. But
in central London. These brought the released by Decca until the end of 1955. But when we finished up as a group of five, all
impassioned vocals and banjo strumming of those gigs in the old church crypt marked a we got was a coffee. But it was to the G&G
Lonnie Donegan to the forefront, backed by special moment in time. that people seemed to drift to because they
Colyer on guitar, and with his brother Bill knew there would always be music there.”
Colyer on washboard, and Chris Barber on HISTORY BOOKS LINK the forging It was at the G&G, not the 2i’s, that
string bass. of British youth’s musical culture to the Tommy Hicks (the future Tommy Steele)
With the emphasis on acoustic guitars, rise of the coffee bars which fanned out was initially “discovered” by Bill Varley and
rhythm and energy, Donegan’s break-down from the London West End’s Soho district, Roy Tuvey in 1956, says Chas. “Bill had a
interludes began attracting a far broader around the same period. The first one was little recording studio on the top floor of
audience than the more ruminative jazz The Moka, at 29 Frith Street. Opened by 6 Denmark Street. They tried to knock


Adam Faith performed at the 2i’s when
he was first starting out, as lead singer
of skiffle combo The Worried Men
Derek Berwin/Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty

Wee Willie Harris and Shirley Douglas of The Chas

McDevitt Skiffle Group at the 2i’s, 15 November
1957. They are rehearsing for TV’s Six-Five Special,
broadcast live from the bar the following day



The arches where skifflers used to

busk, under the Charing Cross
bridge at the bottom of Villers
Street, have now been infilled with
shops. The Gyre & Gimble, just up
the road, is no more. 59 Old
Compton Street is now a fish &
chips restaurant, though a plaque
marks it as the historic location of
the 2i’s. The World War II bombsite
opposite the venue, visible in the
evocative photo of Chas McDevitt
and Nancy Whiskey’s Freight Train
float in the Soho Fair of 1957,
(see opposite) has been built on.
But if most of the era’s West End
London basement music venues
have gone, a notable exception
being the 100 Club in Oxford Street,
the battle is on to save Denmark
Street, or Tin Pan Alley, centre of
Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Getty

Britain’s music industry for much

The 2i’s boss Paul “Doctor of the past 100 years. Once filled
Death” Lincoln said of Tommy with recording studios, music
Steele, “He didn’t impress me publishers, and the offices of
one way or the other”
promoters and showbusiness
The 2i’s was originally founded by two writers, as well as the prestigious
weeklies, Melody Maker and
Iranian businessmen, hence the New Musical Express, these days
clever name it’s mainly dominated by guitar
shops, and with half the street
the building down recently, but it was saved The 2i’s was originally founded by two currently hidden by scaffolding,
because The Sex Pistols used to rehearse in Iranian businessmen, hence the clever the future looks grim. Music writer
the basement!” says Chas. “Matt Monro, a name. But in the spring of 1956, the lease Henry Scott-Irvine is leading a
bus driver at the time, used to come along on the café at 59 Old Compton Street, campaign to raise awareness and
and do all the demos for music publishers. opposite what was then a World War safeguard the future of this
Bill had a portable recording machine and II bombsite, was taken on by a pair of precious part of the national
went around the coffee bars looking for Australian wrestlers, Paul “Doctor Death” music heritage and a documentary
promising new talent, and it was at the Lincoln and Ray Hunter, retaining the name film, Tales From Tin Pan Alley, has
G&G where he first recorded The Vipers, from its previous owners and refurbishing just been made. Read up on the
around the same time as my own group did the café, while allocating the flats above history here: www.savetpa.tk.
some demos for him. The G&G had a very as somewhere visiting foreign wrestlers And keep up to date with the
different sort of layout to the 2i’s, which was could stay. At the time, the 2i’s was outside campaign and future screenings
just a long, narrow room. At the G&G there the beatnik and skiffler circuit of the day of the film at:
was much more room to move about.” and, with stiff competition from hipper www.facebook.com/savetpa
Kurt Hutton/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty

A busy day at The Moka, London’s first

espresso bar, in 1954. At its height, it was
serving over 1,000 glasses of espresso a day

bars in the area, business was slow. Lincoln G&G. In the summer of 1956, The Vipers about stoking up a bit of audience reaction.
had tried various ruses such as bringing in took part in the annual Soho Fair, joining Noticing the way The Vipers cut through to
someone who performed Burl Ives-style the parade through the West End, before the youngsters, Paul Lincoln invited them
folk songs, but nothing had pulled in the stopping outside the 2i’s, where they to come and play inside the 2i’s on a regular
younger crowd. However, fate was about to started to play, immediately drawing an basis. Adopting an old Appalachian song Sail
play its hand. enthusiastic young crowd. Unlike many Away Lady and, via some rewritten lyrics,
Wally Whyton had put together his Vipers of the more intellectually-minded jazz or transforming it into the more raucous Don’t
skiffle group having become frustrated by folk artists playing in the coffee bars of You Rock Me Daddy-O, they quickly built a
the constantly changing personnel of the the time, Whyton was from a non-musical following at the establishment.
group of associates he played with at the background, and had fewer hang-ups Meanwhile, with a repertoire that was
slightly ahead of his contemporaries
The annual Soho Fair, 1957, with and already acknowledging American
Chas McDevitt and Nancy rock’n’roll, Tommy Hicks – when on shore
Whiskey’s Freight Train float
leave from his employment in the Merchant
Navy – was spending time playing and
singing with Whyton and his mates. But it
was at the G&G, not the 2i’s.
“Everyone talks about Tommy’s
‘discovery’ at the 2i’s, but my washboard
player was also a photographer and he took
the earliest pictures of Tommy, playing
guitar in Al Burnett’s Stork Room in Mayfair,
where all the ladies and men about town
went,” remembers Chas. It was at the
Stork, too, that Larry Parnes first spotted
Hicks. Still, Steele and the legend of the 2i’s
holds good to the extent that it was indeed
there that he did a guest spot with The
Vipers which so impressed Decca A&R
man John Kennedy that it paved the way
Photo courtesy of Chas McDevitt

for him landing a recording contract with

Decca Records.


Photo courtesy of Chas McDevitt

Photo courtesy of Vince Eager

Vince Eager’s skiffle group, The
Vagabonds, enjoyed a residency
at the 2i’s. It was here they were
spotted by Larry Parnes

The Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group at the 2i’s

in 1957, with Chas stage left and renowned
washboard player Marc Sharratt in centre

IN THE MASS of media publicity that

accrued from this, the 2i’s became the place
to be, even though Steele would only ever
perform there twice. The Gyre & Gimble
might have been a bit darker and edgier, but
the teenagers were now flocking to the 2i’s.
Paul Lincoln was rubbing his hands with
glee, even though he would later admit to
being “completely indifferent to Tommy
Steele – he didn’t impress me one way or the
other.” Business was so good, he was even
able to open up a second venue, the New
2i’s, a weekend-only club in a dank cellar
at 44 Gerrard Street, on the south side of
Shaftesbury Avenue.
By 1957, The Vipers had a residency at the
2i’s, as well as a contract with Parlophone
Records, where they would work with
producer George Martin. That was also
the year the Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group
featuring Nancy Whiskey scored a fabulous
cross-Atlantic hit with their recording of
the Elizabeth Cotten song Freight Train.
Both they and The Vipers knew how to
work a crowd, having fewer qualms about The late Paul Lincoln with Vince Eager
outside the site of the 2i’s, circa 2006.
incorporating rock’n’roll numbers into their The City Of Westminster Green plaque
sets than some of the more purist skifflers. was added to the building that year.
“We were regulars at the 2i’s when we were
in town,” recalls Chas. “We and The Vipers who made it big coming directly though melody, whereas other skiffle guitarist guys
were the highest paid groups there.” the skiffle movement. “He joined my band like Denny Wright (who worked a lot with
Both groups had busy touring schedules, for a few weeks and then Lonnie Donegan Lonnie Donegan) and Bill Bramwell (an
however, and so a group of students known grabbed him,” he recalls ruefully. “We important member of The Chas McDevitt
as Les Hobeaux were recruited as the 2i’s had new photographs taken and he did a Skiffle Group) played a lot of jazzy chords
resident band, the only one of the leading broadcast with us, but within a couple of and really swung.”
skiffle groups of the time to have a multi- weeks Lonnie had nicked him. But he was a It was at the 2i’s that Britain’s first real
racial line-up. Chas reckons their lead good skiffle player. He had that single string would-be answer to Elvis Presley, Terry
guitarist Les Bennetts was the only one technique that allowed him to pick a lot of Dene, got noticed. The Les Hobeaux bass
player Brian Gregg had become friends with
“We were regulars at the 2i’s when we the aspirational singer, then known as Terry

were in town. We and The Vipers were the Williams, when they worked in HMV on
Oxford Street, discovering a mutual love
highest paid groups there” CHAS MCDEVITT of skiffle and rock’n’roll. When Terry




Wee Willie Harris (see Vintage Rock issue 37) was one of the 2i’s more eccentric performers. Along with
his outrageous outfits and dyed pink or red hair, he kept a pet monkey which he tethered outside, where
it proceeded to fascinate pedestrians by running up and down the lamp post. Willie also wrote the bar’s
theme song, Rockin’ At The 2i’s, released by Decca in 1957. Rollercoaster Records recently released a
biography, I Go Ape! The Wee Willie Harris Story, along with a 30 track best-of CD, including Rockin At
The 2i’s. Rob Finnis’ book opens the window on a fascinating era in the Soho musical environment of
the skiffle/early rock’n’roll era.
Photo courtesy of Vince Eager

Beverly Lebarrow/Redferns/Getty
Cliff Richard And The Drifters (from
left: Hank Marvin, Tony Meehan, Cliff
and Bruce Welch) made an instant
impact when they appeared at the 2i’s
Photo courtesy of Vince Eager

Skiffle giants The Vipers were

the bar’s first resident group

Silver Screen Collection/Getty

Val Guest’s 1959 movie Expresso
Bongo perfectly captured the
sleazy allure of 1950s Soho

came along to the 2i’s to see Les Hobeaux with his skiffle band The Worried Men, from skiffle, and the music became more
perform, he ended up singing on stage with before eventually settling for Adam Faith commercial, attracted larger audiences
them. Before long, he had landed a contract when he subsequently went solo. Wally and required bigger venues – the age of the
with Decca, making tame records that belied Whyton was fond of recounting the story coffee bars would soon pass. Yet if the 2i’s
his genuine talent as a visceral rock’n’roller. about how a dejected Nelhams once told is associated with the mid-to-late-50s, it
The 2i’s boss Paul Lincoln had seen this him: “I’ve been playing the 2i’s for three would make a further contribution to the
and lost no time organising what was, in months now, and I’m still not a star.” era that followed. Tony Sheridan was an
effect, the first British all-teenage package East Anglian-born skiffler who’d decided to
show featuring Dene, The Chas McDevitt THE MOST FAMOUS of the all the try his luck at the 2i’s in 1957, just as the
Skiffle Group and Rory Blackwell And The rocking outfits to be hatched at the 2i’s was, skiffle craze was beginning to burn out.
Blackjacks, at the Romford Odeon in March of course, Cliff Richard And The Drifters in He played guitar in Vince Eager’s group The
1957. Dene, though, was the first victim of 1958, even though Cliff, like Nelhams, at first Vagabonds, and then in the band of one of
UK rock’n’roll, destroyed by the press and didn’t think much of the place, having spent the last stars of the 2i’s, Vince Taylor, before
his own instability. “We were touring with “a week there with nothing happening, forming his own group.
him the week he went berserk, smashed a I got fed up.” A year later the big screen When Bruno Koschmider of the
shop window and got arrested,” remembers adaptation of the play Expresso Bongo, with Kaiserkeller Club in Hamburg, having heard
Chas. “That’s when Colin Hicks took his Cliff in the starring role, would perfectly of the 2i’s reputation as a nursery of young
place on the show.” capture the shady Soho music mileu of the talent, crossed the Channel to sample what
Among others for which the 2i’s acted like period, with its teenage bars, strip clubs and was on offer, it was Sheridan and a couple
a magnet was Acton-born Terry Nelhams, dodgy record hustlers. of associates he brought over to Germany.
or Terry Denver, as he called himself when Rock’n’roll increasingly took over The success of Sheridan’s ensemble, the first
British group to play Hamburg in June 1960,
“We were touring with Terry Dene the brought in a flood of beat groups, including

week he went berserk, smashed a shop The Beatles, for whom the trips would help
shape the sound that would transform the
window and got arrested” CHAS MCDEVITT British pop and rock landscape. 9

Harry Hammond/V&A Images/Getty

Skiffle great Chas

McDevitt, 1957

All 3 volumes of The Elvis Years + 4 A4
art cards from just £34.98 (inc.P&P)

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Marty Wilde: Wilde About Marty
GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty

Cliff Richard and Marty Wilde

rocking it out on Oh Boy!

‘It may not be American, but it’s ours’ British. Others such as Tommy Steele, Wee
Willie Harris, Terry Dene, Vince Eager,
thought British teens as wannabe and even Tony Crombie, merit honourable
mention, too.
rockers emerged from the UK None of them, to be fair, except perhaps

suburbs. At the forefront was Marty Donegan, claimed to be producing work on

a level with their American inspirations.
Wilde, who recalls cutting his own Marty Wilde, publicly critical at the time
of the sound on many of his 50s singles,
1959 debut LP with a sense of remains so today. “Yeah, well, they all had
their own style in the end,” he reflects. “But,
the impossible… to be honest, I wouldn’t want to hear Cliff’s
Move It, for example, played by a proper

t’s a badge of honour among some of the Atlantic are Lonnie Donegan, whose rock’n’roll musician. It wouldn’t have
in the rock’n’roll fraternity that early skiffle recordings were rock’n’roll in sounded the same. It was similar with my
they never touch the early British spirit and energy, Marty Wilde, Cliff Richard own hit version of Endless Sleep. They were,
stuff. It’s true that much of what was made and Billy Fury, followed by Vince Taylor for me, two songs of the era that sounded
over here was derivative and reliant on and his Playboys, and Johnny Kidd & The right, that sounded like we’d got it.”
re-recordings of American songs. But while Pirates. They weren’t all teenagers, but all
many efforts at recreating the sound of made recordings that stand in their own UNLIKE THE YOUNG white American
American rock in British studios in the late right, while retaining something peculiarly rockers, Wilde and his cohorts didn’t
50s were laughable, no less daft is the view
that nothing worthwhile came from the “To be honest, I wouldn’t want to hear Cliff’s
homegrown response to the phenomenal
new sounds coming out of the States.
Move It played by a proper rock’n’roll musician.
The godfathers of the music on this side It wouldn’t have sounded the same” MARTY WILDE
GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty

Marty was performing under the

name Reg Patterson at London’s
Condor Club in 1957, when he was
spotted by Larry Parnes (left)

have the advantage of some old black him to classical music. As a teenager, he “It gave me a slight advantage, I feel, and I
guy sitting in the porch teaching them a describes going to a record shop in his native have always had an appetite for music of all
few blues licks, or even much idea of live Greenwich as “like entering a cave full of kinds. I’m a lucky man in that way because
rock’n’roll performance before they faced diamonds.” The owner sold him the latest a lot of people in the rock’n’roll world were
the ordeal of entering a studio and nudging Bill Haley and Elvis Presley singles, and just rooted into that one style.”
more seasoned musicians towards the new introduced him to the blues of Big Mama And, like many rockers of his generation,
style. As Wilde says, “It wasn’t like we were Thornton and Muddy Waters. he knew how to carry a tune, adoring pre-
living near Beale Street… we were from rock’n’ roll singers like Frankie Laine and
places like Hounslow or Greenwich. You “I loved Frankie Laine Guy Mitchell. “I loved Frankie Laine to
had to feel the thing yourself.” bits. Tracks like Blowing Wild (The Ballad
But, despite a lack of formal training,
to bits. Tracks like Of Black Gold)… so very dramatic, such
Wilde had a well-developed musical ear. Blowing Wild… so very powerful stuff. That sense of drama was one
He’d picked up harmony singing from his of the things I picked up from him.” Wilde
father as a child, and at secondary modern
dramatic, such powerful later recorded Jezebel as a tribute to Laine,
school a music teacher had introduced stuff” MARTY WILDE adding a superb new pulsing rhythm, which

Marty Wilde: Wilde About Marty

Marty taking a break on the set of the 1959

Edward Miller/Getty

movie Jet Storm with, from left, Dame Sybil

Thorndike, Jackie Lane, Harry Secombe and
the future Mrs Sean Connery, Diane Cilento

got him his last Top 20 hit in 1962. Less convivial towards the 18-year-
Wilde’s all-round musicality is old Wilde was seasoned jazz drummer
evident in the singles that led up to Phil Seamen. “We had a right bust up,”
his debut album, Wilde About Marty, Wilde remembers. “We started the song,
released in September 1959. Signed and after the guitar came in, I could hear
to the Philips label, his first single, this swishing sound. Phil was playing the
Honeycomb, came out in October 1957. drums with brushes. I thought: Silly sod,
A cover of the Bob Merrill-penned what’s he doing? So I said, ‘Excuse me,
Jimmie Rodgers hit, it’s been written can we have sticks?’ He said, ‘Whattt?’ I
down by some. But that’s just another
example of the default tendency, especially MARTY WILDE said, ‘Can we have sticks, instead of brushes?
We’re playing rock’n’roll, and it just doesn’t
prevalent in the 1950s, to assume something WILDE ABOUT MARTY sound right to me.’ He just snapped back,
American must always be better. In fact, 1959 • PHILIPS and I didn’t get my way... and a good job too,
Wilde was clearly the superior singer, and because what he did worked.”
accordingly, so is his version of Honeycomb. Still, these experiences were enough
He penned the flipside, Wild Cat, and while to ensure that when Wilde went in to the
he dismisses it as “just a young guy writing Down The Line Philips studio to cut his first long-player,
rock’n’roll”, it’s a good example of British Love Of My Life Wilde About Marty, he insisted to A&R man
efforts to make Bill Haley-esque rock. Put Me Down Johnny Franz that he be backed by his own
Wilde’s boyish, pent-up energy works well, Blue Moon Of Kentucky band, The Wildcats. “I put my foot down.
played off against the slightly stiff horns, and Dream Lover I’d tried to have my band in from the
Bert Weedon’s clean, jazz-based guitar. You’ve Got Love beginning. I’d asked Johnny to let me to use
Endless Sleep gave the singer his I Flipped my musicians on Honeycomb, but it had
breakthrough hit, rising to No. 4 in the gone wrong, we couldn’t get the tempo or
summer of 1958. Again, miles better than chords right. But I wouldn’t use session men
the Jody Reynolds original, Wilde invested on the album, they couldn’t get that feel.
it with real melodrama. “It was moody, and All American Boy We were struggling to get it ourselves.”
I had a kind of sulky, moody face,” he recalls. Mean Woman Blues Even so, Wilde remembers Franz, who
“I was that sort of man back then, so it Are You Sincere? also produced Dusty Springfield and The
suited me image-wise, sound-wise, High School Confidential Walker Brothers in the same studio, with
story-wise.” Don’t Pity Me warmth. “Along with my manager Larry
The guitarists on the session were Splish Splash
Weedon, again, and Ernie Shear, soon to So Glad You’re Mine “Endless Sleep was
work on Cliff’s Move It. “But it was Bert that
did that ‘ba-a-ung’ intro. To start with, they WILDE’S BAND THE WILDCATS INCLUDED BIG JIM moody, and I had a kind
were playing it as ‘jay-ing’, using chords, but GUITAR), BRIAN ‘LICORICE’ LOCKING (BASS), AND of sulky, moody face.
I said, ‘Bert, there’s a guy called Duane Eddy BRIAN BENNETT, BOBBY WOODMAN (DRUMS).
who is playing all single notes on the bass LP PRODUCED BY JOHNNY FRANZ I was that sort of man
strings. Can you do it like that?’” back then” MARTY WILDE
Silver Screen Collection/Getty
Marty Wilde was born Reginald
Leonard Smith in 1939. The ‘Marty’
in his stage name came from the
1955 smash film Marty

Marty Wilde: Wilde About Marty




A sublime, so-called Despite his commanding An example of Wilde’s CLOW N How could anyone better
swamp-pop Stateside hit stage personality, Wilde ability to unearth magic Another self-penned Frankie Laine’s version?
for Louisiana artist Phil has spoken of a lack of in unlikely places. This classic epitomising Wilde’s tenor is lighter
Phillips, with The confidence. Bad Boy was had been a song by the Wilde’s taste for the than Laine’s, but he
Twilights, in 1959, it was the song that truly operatic tenor Richard dramatic. In fact, he deftly sidestepped
Wilde’s version that convinced of his Tauber, and the Wildcats wrote it for Roy Orbison, comparisons to his hero,
charted in England, songwriting capabilities. didn’t even realise they and when The Big O by giving it an
reaching No. 3. Wilde’s With a vocal delivered in needed a licence to wasn’t available, did it arrangement fit for the
poppier take introduced his inimitable style, release their recording of himself. One of his 1960s, with a moody,
a harp, celestial choruses Wilde pared back the it. Who knows what definitive vocal pulsing bassline. Still a
and Big Jim Sullivan’s production to feature just Tauber would have made performances, with a feature of his shows
guitar to stunning effect. himself on acoustic of it, and how it got by typically big intro and today and, yes, he still
Tricky to make, though. guitar, aided by Wildcats Johnny Franz, but finish, it should have takes the roof off with
Sullivan said it required Sullivan and Brian somehow Wilde rocks up been a bigger hit than the big finish.
70-odd takes and that, Bennett. A Top 10 hit in a stodgy ballad without it was.
only after hopping up to December 1959, it also losing the emotional
Joe Meek at Lansdowne gave Wilde his only punch. Rough and
Studios, did they nail it. American hit. ready, this was the face
of British rock’n’roll
to come.

Parnes, he was very important in my another Jody Reynolds song whose original on the tracks as the Wildcats line-up was
life at that time. He was often guided version Wilde smashed out of the park – undergoing changes at this time before
by what I said, unlike some of the more and a superb cover of Donna, a hit for him settling under the classic line-up of Tony
dominant A&R men. He was very fair with early in 1959, were feats of excellence. Belcher on rhythm guitar, Brian ‘Licorice’
me. He was a great musician himself, a “They could get great sounds and yet they Locking on bass and Brian Bennett on
phenomenal pianist.” were only using little four-track machines,” drums. There’s no doubt, however, that
says Wilde. the electric guitar solos and fills were the
THE PHILIPS RECORD company was The choice of songs on Wilde About work of Big Jim Sullivan, who’d joined The
barely a dozen years old in 1959, having Marty were all the singer’s, reflecting a love Wildcats from Vince Eager’s band. He, along
begun by pressing and distributing other of American rock’n’roll, but nodding to with Hank Marvin, Tony Sheridan and Joe
companies’ releases. Ironically, the first wider tastes. Unfortunately, there is some Moretti, was one of the first rock-dedicated
British No. 1 single on its distinctive blue confusion as to the personnel who played British axemen to emerge in the late 50s, in
label was Frankie Laine’s I Believe in 1953. contrast to old-school players like Weedon,
The studio was on the ground floor of an “They could get great Shear and Eric Ford.
old mansion at 2-4 Stanhope Place, near “The thing Jim had over Hank Marvin,”
Marble Arch. While the studio regularly
sounds and yet they remembers Wilde, “was he’d do a run on the
had 32-piece orchestras in to record, its were only using little guitar so fast, his fingers would be a blur.
technicians had no experience of recording He had that natural talent, but he didn’t have
rock’n’roll. The sound on Wilde recordings
four-track machines” Hank’s great musical ideas. At shows, you’d
such as Endless Love, The Fire Of Love – MARTY WILDE get a row of girls at the front looking

piano for a kettledrum, and stamped his
own vocal signature on it by dropping his
voice and drawing out the words on the
punchline. Some stinging breaks from
Sullivan rounded off an excellent recording.
“The lines are funny,” argues Wilde. “What
does ‘she’s like a cannonball’ mean? But
it’s effective. I loved Elvis’s work but it had
that kind of Frankie Laine impact where it
reaches out and hits you on the nose!”
All American Boy was a talking blues
by American country singer Bobby Bare,
sending up Presley’s US Army draft. Wilde,
who accompanied himself on acoustic
guitar on the recording, performed it
live on Oh Boy! and at the Royal Variety
Performance before the Queen Mother, his
easy swagger reflective of a man who has
acquitted himself well on stage and screen.
On some of the tracks, Ivor Raymonde was
brought as arranger. Raymonde went to his
grave in 1990 still with questions to answer
for Gene Vincent’s all-time worst recording,
the appalling Humpity Dumpity, recorded
with his orchestra in London in 1963, but
After a hard day’s work, Marty liked
nothing more than to relax in a floral on the plus side he did fine work with such
armchair with a fag and a dog on his lap artists as Billy Fury on Halfway To Paradise,
and he was effective enough on Wilde About
at me, wiggling around, while four or five something of yourself coming through on Marty. One for the squares, but well done all
guys stood watching what Jim was playing, a recording.” the same, was the ballad Are You Sincere?,
never taking their eyes off the fretboard, just Never a screamer, he had his own style, a hit for Andy Williams, on which probably
mesmerised by his fast playing. Hank never midway between Elvis’s earthiness, and Johnny Franz contributed some upmarket,
did that. He was much cooler, more Scotty Billy Fury’s yearning and The Everly nightclub-style tinkling on the ivories.
Moore style… but Jim could play faster.” Brothers’ purity, and the album had a fine
Sullivan later criticised Johnny Franz version of the latter’s Love Of My Life. The FOR ALL HIS affability, Wilde is not easily
for the dryness of the sound production Wilde singing persona also came across on satisfied, and says this debut album, a steady
on Wilde About Marty, and Wilde partially Dream Lover. “That was a song I liked, but rather than a big seller, left him with no
agrees. “Yes, Johnny did probably flatten the I sang it my way. I had my own tone and it great sense of pride. “I would have wanted it
sound, but, again, these were early days. came across on that. I sung it in a lower key to be better. I aimed as high as I could, and it
He was a stunning, probably classically to Bobby Darin, which suited the timbre of felt like pushing a train up a hill. You could
trained musician, and this music was alien my voice.” never get exactly what you wanted and you
to him, I guess. But, as I say, it was this The one outright rockabilly number Blue were educating musicians and sound men
conflict that gave the British records of the Moon Of Kentucky stuck close to Presley’s all the time.”
time that special sound.” Sun reworking, but as The Wildcats had an Whatever its shortcomings, Wilde About
The flatness of sound, characterised as the electric bass, rim shots on the snare drum, Marty is a historic album as well as a classic
absence of echo, is evident in the opening Bill Haley-style, replicated the click of slap one. In 1959, rock’n’roll LPs by British artists
track, which is, even so, a full-throttle bass. More interesting was the take on were rare. Tommy Steele’s Stage Show and
take on Down The Line. It begins with a Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup’s So Glad You’re Cliff Richard And The Drifters’ Cliff, had
suspenseful drum roll, from the Wildcats Mine, again familiar to Wilde thanks to both been recorded live. Steele’s The
drummer, either Bobby Woodman or Brian Presley’s version, but which sat well with Tommy Steele Story (1957) was, the odd
Bennett, some menacing rhythm guitar and his love for the blues. Like Elvis, he recorded highlight excepted, milk-and-water stuff.
Wilde’s fiery vocal coming in over the top. it as a shuffle, but ditched the barrelhouse Wilde About Marty was a proper rockin’
Other outright rockers on the album, Put Me album, and also marked the real entry of the
Down, Mean Woman Blues and High School “I would have wanted it first generation of British rockers into the
Confidential followed the similar formula technical environs of the recording studio
as head arrangements of raw, visceral
to be better. I aimed as and the process of production. Marty Wilde
excitement, not unlike the rockabilly high as I could, and it was a pioneer, and every single rock album
revivalists in the late 70s. Although Wilde’s that has since been produced in the UK ever
vocals obviously drew on Elvis and Jerry
felt like pushing a train since is the spiritual descendent of Wilde
Lee Lewis, as he says, “You can’t help up a hill” MARTY WILDE About Marty. 9

Hayley Madden/Redferns/Getty
Marty Wilde: Wilde About Marty

still regularly performing and your voice

is remarkable, still hitting and holding
the notes.
“Yes, the remarkable thing is my key is
unaltered. I gave up smoking at 50 and
I think that helped. I still love performing.”

Can you remember the first rock’n’roll

record you heard?
“Probably by Bill Haley. This guy had a
record shop in Trafalgar Road, Greenwich,
where I grew up. Rock Around The Clock
is still one of the great rhythm tracks of all
time. But although Haley’s image and style
of singing was great for that record, I knew
it wasn’t me. And I didn’t think it was going
to be Elvis Presley at first because I didn’t
like his voice the first time I heard it, on
Heartbreak Hotel. Too much echo. I couldn’t
make up my mind, did he have a voice, was
he any good? But then I heard Hound Dog
and Don’t Be Cruel. Trying To Get To You still
blows me away. I’ll just sit in total silence.
Some music just reduces me to tears.”

You, having changed your name from

Reg Smith to Reg Patterson, were one
of several people who auditioned for
Dick Rowe at the Decca studio in West
Hampstead and got turned down.
“Yes, I’d have been playing something like
That’s All Right, or some other country blues
number. Ted Heath’s great bass
Hard to believe, but Marty Wilde
will be 80 in April 2019. Not quite player Johnny Hawksworth backed me,
a teenager in love anymore… playing the most remarkable double bass,
but I failed! But, in the meantime, Larry

WALK ON THE musically he knew nothing. He’d say,

“That’s a good brass sound” and we’d say,
Parnes moved quickly to get me under
contract. Changed my name to Marty Wilde.

WILDE SIDE “No, that’s a guitar.” But he had a kind of

magic that made things happen. He was a
I thought Marty sounded like some poncy
American college guy and Wilde I couldn’t
N E A R LY 6 0 Y E A R S A F T E R T H E homosexual who didn’t show it. Even his work out at all, until I saw it in print and
RELEASE OF WILDE ABOUT mother didn’t know it. He had this Jewish, thought, “That’s a star’s name.” Only my old
M A R T Y, T H E 7 9 - Y E A R - O L D M A R T Y homosexual, worldly mix. He wasn’t like buddies in Greenwich and Blackheath still
WILDE IS STILL ROCKING… Brian Esptein, who committed suicide. call me Reg.”
That wasn’t in Larry’s nature at all. He was
Unlike many of your generation you a complex, wonderful, magical, pain-in-the- Any new activity on the record front?
weren’t a 2i’s graduate, were you? butt manager!” “Cherry Red are bringing out a 4-CD box
“No, I was at The Condor Club, across the set soon, all my songs, including demos,
street. Different audience, kind of upmarket, You didn’t have a formal musical some things I’d forgotten I‘d ever done. I’m
where all the luvvies went, racing drivers education. When did you realise you also putting the finishing touches to a new
like Stirling Moss, and I heard Princess were blessed with this natural voice? album, my first one of all-new material in 15
Margaret would sneak in. I was doing a lot “I never thought about it. I’ve never liked years. I had a song I was going to do with the
of Elvis’ repertoire, maybe the odd Haley my voice, to be frank. Now and again I’ll late Chas Hodges, a great rock’n’roller, but
thing. I didn’t like that club, it wasn’t my record something I quite like. I’m currently I never got round to it. One song that will
scene, but I had to get myself noticed.” recording a new album of self-penned be on there is a tribute to Eddie Cochran,
songs, and finally I’m finding, at the age of who I got to know well on the ill-fated 1960
You are one of those who speaks warmly 79, that my voice is expressive. I’ve finally tour. I’ve had it in my shows for a while and
of Larry Parnes, who saw you at The discovered that... but I still don’t like it.” it’s become a cult part of the act. I’m really
Condor and became your manager… excited about it and looking forward to 2019,
“I’ve a lot of affection for Larry, although But you’re one of the few 1950s originals when I’m also touring with Eden Kane.” 9


Chicago of the 1950s is forever associated with

the blues of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and
the genius of Chess Records. But behind the
bluesmen, early
early rock’n’roll
rockk’n’’rolll also
allso thrived
d in
in the
windy city as V
intage R
ock ttracks
rackks d
own ssome
lost stars of US rock history…
The untold story of Chicago rock’n’roll

18-year-old Ral was an instant national star when his

single cracked the Top 20 in the spring of 1961. Presley’s
influence remained strong on You Don’t Know What
You’ve Got (Until You Lose It), which sent Ral into the
Top 5 that summer, and he closed out the year with
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

another hit, She’s Everything (I Wanted You To Be).

Ral Donner’s influence was so great, he Barry Goldberg, then a keyboardist with the house
was even cited by Robert Plant at Led
Zeppelin’s induction into the Rock And band at Teenland on the far North Side, still marvels
Roll Hall Of Fame in 1995 at Donner’s charisma. “Ral Donner pulled up in a pink
Cadillac convertible,” he says. “Ral Donner was the
hink Chicago, and you think blues. coolest!” Donner waxed a slew of Elvis tributes later in
Without the stardom of Muddy Waters, his career before lung cancer claimed him in 1984.
Howlin’ Wolf, the songs of Willie Dixon, Gene Vincent was Ron Haydock’s main man. Hailing
and the recordings of Chess and Checker from west Chicago suburb Brookfield, Haydock
records, it’s true to say that modern music modeled his act around Vincent’s after seeing The Girl
would be a whole lot different. But for all Can’t Help It; his band, The Boppers, even donned
the celebration of Chicago’s blues, doo-wop blue caps. “He looked just like Gene Vincent,” recalls
and soul legacies, the city’s late 50s and James Holvay, then Ron’s pre-teen neighbour, and the
early 60s rock’n’roll scene traditionally flies whole block knew of Haydock’s obsession. “Right on his
under the radar. Not so here. corner, there was a signpost,” says Holvay. “He wrote a
And we begin with one name from sign and he put on there: Bop Street!”
Chicago who actually Don DeLucia’s Cha Cha Records on
did become famous. the South Side pacted The Boppers and
Northwestsider Ral Donner
became an Elvis disciple at 14. He led his “RIGHT ON HIS CORNER, THERE WAS A produced Haydock’s first session in
April of ’59 at a studio in suburban Alsip.
own band, The Rockin’ Five, at Taft High SIGNPOST. RON WROTE A SIGN AND Haydock’s debut was a rocking 99 Chicks,
School, and built a devoted local following,
soon joining Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, HE PUT ON THERE: BOP STREET!” with its risqué couplet “Ninety-nine
chicks, it’d be just my luck / not one of
and Jerry Lee Lewis on an Alan Freed- JAMES HOLVAY the girls I’d wanna…” ensuring a lack of
sponsored bill at the Civic Opera House. airplay. But at live dances and concerts,
Donner even earned an invitation from the colourful Haydock was a draw –
Sammy Davis Jr to perform at the Apollo Theatre… and Holvay recalls a show at a roller rink where Haydock
all before he had a record out. split a bill with local rocker J Mikel And The Hepcats,
Photos courtesy of the artist unless specified

Donner journeyed to Memphis to wax his debut who cut Bettyjean Rock for Ed Cody’s Sonic label in 1958.
single That’s All Right With Me in early ’59, just prior to “I think that was his territory,” says Holvay of Mikel.
his 16th birthday, for the Scottie label. Ral’s managers “He got a bigger response.”
liked the way he sang Elvis’ Girl Of My Best Friend and After a Cha Cha encore called Baby Say Bye-Bye,
sent him to Miami to cover it. George Goldner’s New Haydock headed to Hollywood in 1960 to pursue his
York-based Gone Records picked up the master, and other passion, horror movies. He wrote for fan

The untold story of Chicago rock’n’roll

magazines and starred in low-budget films; he even

Chicago blues maestro,
co-scripted 1965’s Lemon Grove Kids Meet The Monsters. and Chuck Berry-alike,
True horror followed: a truck killed Haydock at just Eddy Clearwater
37 as he walked along a Route 66 offramp in 1977. BELOW 1965’s Lemon Grove
His passing got little news coverage, though: Haydock Kids Meet The Monsters. Time were more Berry soundalikes. The Duck Walk,
It failed to win any Oscars
was buried the day that Elvis died. Clearwater’s 1965 single for USA, even introduced a
new dance modeled after Chuck’s signature stage move.
CHICAGO BOASTED CHUCK BERRY’S mirror image in Eddy remained a local hero in Chicago, gigging at North
lanky Eddy Clearwater. Born in Mississippi, Edward Side hillbilly bars and in the suburbs before finally
Harrington – as he then was – was living in Alabama achieving stardom as a bluesman. He died 1 June, 2018.
when he picked up his uncle’s acoustic guitar, playing Along the way, Eddy’s slashing axe was spotlighted
left-handed and upside-down… just like Albert King with Eddy Bell And The Bel-Aires. “He got to see me
did. That uncle, the Rev. Houston H Harrington, later doing some Chuck Berry stuff,” said Clearwater.
moved to Chicago and sent his nephew a bus ticket to “He thought that was pretty fantastic.”
join him in Chicago in 1950. Eddy soon made headway Bell’s real surname was Blazonczyk and before
as a blues guitarist, singing Elvis covers as well, until he
heard Chuck Berry’s Oh Baby Doll while driving along Eddy Clearwater would often
Chicago’s famous magnificent mile, Michigan Avenue. perform in a Native American
headdress, acquiring him the
“I said, ‘This guy is really different, he’s special!’” he nickname “The Chief”
recalled. Drummer Jump Jackson changed Eddy’s stage
name to Clear Waters, and he debuted on wax in 1958
with Hill Billy Blues on his uncle’s own Atomic-H label.
The Chuck Berry sound defined Clearwater’s ’61
single Cool Waters, cut at Hall Studios in the Loop in
Chicago’s downtown. The guitarist waxed two 45s as
Eddie Clearwater that year (for Ohio’s Federal Records),
and the auto-chase rocker I Was Gone and A Real Good


James Fraher/Redferns/Getty


The untold story of Chicago rock’n’roll

Hayden Thompson was born in 1938,

just a few miles north of Elvis Presley’s
birthplace of Tupelo, Mississippi

The untold story of Chicago rock’n’roll


‘Bell’ formed his Bel-Aires, he trafficked in polka music,
a genre beloved on Chicago’s Southwest Side, where his
folks owned the Pulaski Ballroom. Clearwater played
Berry-style axe on Bell’s The Masked Man (Hi Yo Silver)
and Knock, Knock, Knock (Knocking On My Door) for
Mercury in 1960 and Johnny Be-Goode Is In Hollywood
on Lennie LaCour’s Lucky Four label. After his brief
flirtation with rock’n’roll, Blazonczyk later re-entered West side teens The
the polka field under his own name to great renown. Deltones were Chicago’s
first white doo-wop outfit
Lennie LaCour may have been just one label owner
to release Eddy Clearwater’s records, but he also had
recording ambitions of his own. Originally from Westmoreland. “He was a local boy out of Mississippi
Natchitoches, Louisiana, LaCour migrated that had been up in (nearby) Zion for a long time,” he
to Chicago and sang pop music before says. “We worked together for 20 years.” A label honcho
winning a contest to do an Orange Crush stopped by. “There was a guy that came into the Tally
jingle: his 1956 debut single, Rock-N-Roll Ho and said, ‘Boy, I’m gonna make you a star!’” says
Romance, was a one-sided cardboard 7" Thompson. Dream Love on the B.E.A.T. label didn’t do
78rpm pressing attached to six-packs of that, nor did a ’61 single for Mike Oury’s Profile logo,
Orange Crush soda. A remake quickly turned Watcha Gonna Do. A local uptick in country music
up on Frank McGovern’s Academy label on a interest led to Thompson’s 1966 album on New York’s
real 45 with a B-side, and Lenny encored on the Kapp label. After a performing hiatus, overseas interest
Academy label with Rockin’ Rosalie. Lenny launched his in rockabilly got Hayden touring again and he was a
own Lucky Four label before moving to Milwaukee and welcome visitor to weekenders in the UK.
establishing his Magic Touch logo.
Hayden Thompson moved to Chicago from BANDSTAND MATINEE WAS Chicago’s answer to American
Mississippi and made his name when he joined The Bandstand. Host Jim Lounsbury emceed countless
Southern Melody Boys, a country band whose manager record hops. “That became a regular little side business
ran the Dixieland Jamboree at Booneville’s Von Theater. for him,” says Chicago star James Holvay. “He’d bring
Thompson debuted with I Feel The Blues Coming On a PA system with him, and then he’d have a
in 1954 for the Von label. When rockabilly got hot, live band.” That combo was often The
Thompson formed the Dixie Jazzliners. “We went on Millionaires, who waxed Haunted Train
the road with Rock Around the Clock,” he says. “We’d for Shar Records in 1959. “They were all
go into a town and do a show and they’d play the movie Italian guys from Taylor Street,” notes
and we’d do another show and pick up the movie and Holvay. “Joey Russo on drums, Bob
load up the trailer, and away we’d go to the next town.” Garritano on lead guitar, Vic Cerny on
That led to his big break in 1956. “They had a great big bass, a guy named Frankie Roberts on
drive-in over in West Memphis, Arkansas,” Hayden says. tenor sax.” Lounsbury was married to
“We did a four-day deal there, and [Sun’s] Jack Clement singer Penny Stevens, who cut the Bill
came over one of the nights. He introduced himself and Haley-penned I’ve Got News For You in
he said, ‘If you’d like to stop by Sun, we’ll have a chat 1955 for the Ka-Hill logo, headquartered in
and see if we can come up with something.’” northwest suburban Des Plaines. She was known as
Sam Phillips issued Thompson’s Clement-produced Debbie Stevens when she sang Jerry with The Deltones
remake of Little Junior Parker’s Love My Baby on his in 1958, then changed her moniker to Debbie Dean as
new Phillips International subsidiary with Jerry Lee Motown’s first white female singer in 1961.
Lewis on piano. “Sam stuck that up on the shelf The Deltones themselves may have been Chicago’s
and released it one year later,” notes Hayden, first white doo-wop group, and they got to record at
who split town. “This was early ’58,” he Chess Records studios. The teenagers hailed from the
says. “A guy offered me a job up north of West Side. “Tommy Burton and I started singing when
Chicago, and I came up and checked it we were about nine or 10 years old together in grammar
out. I ended up coming up and worked school,” says tenor Sammy Basile. “We used to emulate
at this club for almost five years.” Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers and the groups
The Tally Ho was located in north back then.” The other members joined when Sam and
suburban Highwood. Tommy were attending Marshall High School. “We
Thompson found a guitarist in Travis met another fellow named Ronnie Howard,” says Sam.

The untold story of Chicago rock’n’roll

Hank Mizell’s 1958 single Jungle Rock was

reissued in 1976 and reached number three in
the UK and number one in the Netherlands

Hank Mizell came to Chicago from Montgomery,
Alabama in 1956. He teamed with guitarist Jim Bobo
and secured a residency at the Napoleon Lounge.
They were heard there in 1958 by Gene Parsons, owner
of the Eko label. Mizell waxed the throbbing Jungle
Rock at Parsons’ garage studio. Eko miscredited Bobo
as its singer but fixed the error on a subsequent
pressing. A King Records rep heard the 45, his label
reissuing it in 1959. A Dutch bootlegger included
Jungle Rock on a 70s compilation LP and the club
airplay it garnered in Great Britain caused Charly
Records to reissue it – giving Mizell an unexpected UK
smash in 1976.
Tennessee was originally home to Wayne Worley,
who migrated to Chicago at age 18. There was enough
local interest in rockabilly in 1961 for engineer Ed Cody
to record Wayne and his Worley Birds’ revival of Sonny
Burgess’ Sun rocker Red Headed Woman for Cody’s
Western Springs-based Elbridge label. His Elbridge
encore Hully Gully Twist (She’s Quite A Dish) was
driven by Jesse Harvey’s rollicking piano.
Memphis product Eddie Cash cut a couple of
unreleased Sun titles. The Lansky Brothers, Presley’s
favourite clothiers, formed Peak Records and issued
Eddie’s Doing All Right in late ’58. The song stirred up
action in Chicago, and Cash moved there, gigging
everywhere from the Baritz Lounge on North Sheridan
to the west suburban Aurora Hotel. Eddie’s agent gave
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

his stomping demo of Stormy Weather to Roulette

Records in 1961, and it came out as a single.

The untold story of Chicago rock’n’roll


Conventioneers, gangsters, Sidemen to become their saxist Peter Strazza rounded
hookers, and anyone in new organist after they out the band, Goldberg
search of a good time arrived in Chicago. covering bass lines on his
flocked to Rush Street just “They were creating a organ’s foot pedals.
north of the Loop in 50s/60s sensation on Rush Street,” Goldberg later segued
Chicago. When the Twist says Goldberg. “They all had into blues with his childhood
exploded, the swinging matching uniforms, purple pal, guitarist Michael
Rumpus Room booked and gold. And they dyed Bloomfield. Future guitar
Robby And The Troubadours. their hair different colours god Johnny Winter sat in
They’d started in Connecticut every night.” Vidone was with The Troubadours during
as Bob Vidone And The electrifying. “Robby was his eight months of playing
Rhythm Rockers, cutting sort of like the white Jackie in Chicago. “There wasn’t
Frankie And Johnny and the Wilson,” says Barry. “He’d any blues scene on Rush
instrumental Weird before leap off the stage, and Street,” lamented the late
changing their name and they’d do songs like Shout albino axeman.
waxing The Lemon Twist in and Tossin’ And Turnin’.”

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

’62 in Florida for the Block Drummer Tony Neri was Barry Goldberg famously played
logo. Barry Goldberg came replaced by Eddie Hoh; keyboards at Bob Dylan’s
over from Sal And The guitarist Carmine Riale and controversial Newport Folk Festival
appearance in 1965

“We got another kid. Ronnie knew him. His name was A Lovers Prayer, the quartet moved to USA Records in
Ronnie Buonaro.” 1961 for Please Talk To Me. Their USA farewell, My Only
The group impressed Lounsbury with a performance Love, hit the street under the name of The Parlaments.
at his record hop. “He said, ‘How about you guys coming Lounsbury was inspirational to another Chicagoan,
up to my studio on Randolph Street?’ It was an ABC Carl Bonafede. “I’ve run so many dances, and he kind
affiliate. ‘We’ll talk some music, and maybe we can of motivated me into that thing,” says Carl. “When I
record you guys. You got any music?’ We had none at saw him doing it and I didn’t see anybody else doing
all that we wrote. No originals. But I said, ‘Oh yeah, it, that’s when I put my foot in the door.” In addition
we’ve got about four or five songs,” says Basile. to emerging as one of the city’s top promoters and
“We went by Ronnie Buonaro’s house on Taylor Street. managers, Bonafede cut a handful of records as a singer.
Me, Tom and Ronnie Howard actually wrote Early Living in an area known as Little Sicily and later on the
Morning Rock, our first record, in about five minutes. North Side, Bonafede played accordion at age eight.
And then we wrote a slow one. We locked ourselves in “I was up in the window across the street from the
his house from Sunday night until Tuesday morning. ballpark, playing songs like Doggie In The Window,”
We even cut school until Tuesday morning and he remembers. His focus changed when he met Eddie
early afternoon.” Thomas, manager of the Impressions: “He kind of got
Lounsbury brought The Deltones to Chess Records’ me motivated in rock’n’roll.”
studio, cutting six sides on them including two with Bonafede’s 1958 debut single, the self-penned
Debbie Stevens. “We were in there from seven o’clock Halloween rocker Were Wolf, came out on Bill Hall and
at night to about six in the morning,” says Sam. “We’re Stu Black’s TEK label and was cut at Hall Recording
doing Early Morning Rock, the first one, and on that one, Studio, in the Loop. Carl was backed by the Gem-Tones,
we took 26 takes.” Lounsbury sold the Stevens sides to featuring saxist Harry Manfredini. “Harry used to live
Roulette and the Basile-led Early Morning Rock and its right across the street from me,” says Carl, who released
flip to Vee-Jay; both came out under the group’s name. his encore, Baby Sittin’ Blues, on his own Impala imprint
R&B deejay Sam Evans appreciated the prominent under the handle of Carl Bonn. Impala also pressed up
mention of his program Jam With Sam in Early Morning Carl Bonafede has Bonafede’s Two Months Out Of School, with John Sills
Rock, making it one of his themes for the next two years. recorded and produced And His Rhythm Jets in support.
over 200 records
After one Vee-Jay follow-up, the group-penned ballad A priest gifted Carl with his distinctive nickname.
“I sang at a Catholic school dance, and the guy comes up
to me. I used to sing a lot of stuff like Jerry Lee Lewis,
“THIS GUY SAYS TO ME, ‘YOU WANT TO KNOW SOMETHING? I’VE GOT Elvis Presley,” says Bonafede. “He says to me, ‘You want

A FEELING THAT I’M GOING TO CALL YOU THE SCREAMING WILDMAN!’ to know something? I’ve got a feeling that I’m going to
call you the Screaming Wildman!’ And it stuck on

The untold story of Chicago rock’n’roll

The MayBees were an

Aurora-based rock’n’roll combo
(James Holvay bottom right)

Growing up in Brookfield, James Holvay was knocked

out by Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock and Elvis on
the Dorsey Brothers’ TV show. He picked up a guitar
and formed a band in seventh grade. As a sophomore
at Lyons Township High School, James signed on as
lead guitarist for the MayBees, an Aurora-based band Since his father operated an Italian
fronted by George Torrens. ”He was from Puerto Rico,” food store on East 18th Street, around
notes Holvay. “He was a real good-looking guy, and he the corner from Record Row on South
sounded like Elvis.” Michigan Avenue, Phil Orsi grew up
The MayBees debuted in 1960 on Bill Friedl’s Terry close to the action. “Muddy Waters
Records. “He was the brother-in-law of the drummer, would come in, Howlin’ Wolf…
Don Dalton,” says Holvay. “He was a contractor in My dad would make sandwiches for
Naperville. So he came and saw the band at some record them,” says Orsi, who listened to
hop, and said, ‘Hey, I want to help you guys, and I was Frank Sinatra, Elvis, and doo-wop.
thinking of starting a record label!’” Mary Lou was the He started playing in 1958. “I was a guitar player, and I had a bad accident.
45’s topside. “Mary Lou sounded like a copy of Betty Half of my hand was paralysed,” he says. “So I became a bass player.”
Lou Got A New Pair Of Shoes by Bobby Freeman,” says Someone New, Orsi’s 1961 debut 45 with the Uni-Beats, came out on Scarlott,
James. It was followed by TR-3, penned by the band’s another Bill Hall/Stu Black-owned label. “We had the Sheppards singing
other guitarist, Chico Ledesma, and saxist Gary Beisbier. background,” he notes.
“TR-3 was a copy of [Eddie Cochran’s] Something Else,” Although he wrote several of his singles, Orsi displayed a late-50s rock’n’roll
says Holvay. The MayBees’ ’61 Terry farewell was an allegiance into the mid-60s, reviving Huey “Piano” Smith’s Don’t You Just Know
instrumental treatment of Buttons And Bows.” It for Lucky and the Impalas’ Sorry (I Ran All The Way Home) and Maurice
After the MayBees folded, Holvay, Beisbier, and Williams & The Zodiacs’ Stay for USA. “I liked to take old songs and redo them,”
their trombonist Larry McCabe hooked up with singer says Orsi, whose Larry Nestor-penned ’67 release Loving On Borrowed Time on
Jimmy Peterson to record Kathy My Darling in 1963 his own Wise World imprint still garners spins on the Northern soul scene.
at Sound Studios for Mercury’s Limelight subsidiary “We were right there, but it wasn’t meant to be,” says Orsi.
(the other side of Peterson’s single, Half The Time,

The untold story of Chicago rock’n’roll

Willy Henson, AKA Tobin Matthews. You can

read more about Henson’s musical life on his
blog, earlyrockandroll.blogspot.com

featured backing by trumpeter Jimmy Ford and the ABOVE Ruby Duby Do was some studio musicians together and recorded it, and it
Kasuals). Peterson called his new band The Chicagoans, used as the theme to the became a hit.” Released on Mel London’s Chief label,
1960 crime thriller Key
though they masqueraded as The Livers on their 1964 Witness, starring Jeffrey the instrumental cover was credited to a pseudonymous
instrumental Beatle Time for Constellation. They also Hunter and Dennis Hopper Tobin Mathews. “Paul Glass had a son, and the son’s
played on Inside Of Me, Jimmy Peterson’s 1964 Chess 45. name was Tobin Mathew Glass,” Henson says. “He said,
‘Now here’s my problem: I know you’re really popular,
TOBIN MATTHEWS HAD a national hit in 1960 before he but what I would like to do is use you to help promote
even existed. It all started with a phone call to local this record for me, and you could be Tobin Mathews.
rocker Willy Henson from USA Records boss Paul Then when this little run is over, I promise you, I’ll put
Glass. “They had heard Charles Wolcott’s version of you on USA Records, and we’ll do some vocals.’”
Ruby Duby Du,” says Henson. “They liked it, so they got Henson grew up in Calumet City, Indiana and East
Chicago. “Along comes Bill Haley and then Elvis, and it
was just natural for me to like rock’n’roll,” he says. A trip
“ALONG COMES BILL HALEY AND THE COMETS, AND THEN to Poppel’s Under 21 Tropicana Club in south suburban

ELVIS, AND IT WAS JUST NATURAL FOR ME TO LIKE Riverdale was the turning point. Henson sang three
Elvis numbers, and the owners dug him. “They said,
ROCK’N’ROLL” WILLY HENSON ‘Well, we have a band that needs a singer.’ The band was

The untold story of Chicago rock’n’roll

Chicago radio listeners have luxuriated in
Steve King’s dulcet tones for the last 50 years.
But before that, he was a young rocker himself.
The South Sider’s formal guitar study only lasted
a year. “The rest of my guitar lessons were from
Chuck Berry and Scotty Moore and Cliff Gallup and
Duane Eddy on a turntable,” says King.
Cha Cha issued King’s debut 45 in 1962.
“Kitten Twist was a Kal David song. It was
originally called Do The Twist, and Kal did a demo
session for it. And I played lead guitar on Kal’s
version,” says Steve, who did the same on his
own rendition. “I broke a string, but we didn’t
stop playing.”
Mercury Records A&R man David Carroll signed
King that year. “We did a song called Satan Is
Her Name,”says Steve, who wrote it about his
then-girlfriend. “I was walking home from her
house. This would have been about 11 o’clock at
night, and I was walking just by myself and
started putting together some lyrics and
humming a melody,” he says. “By the time I got
home, I had the song pretty well worked out.”
Cut with his band, The Echelons, Satan Is Her
Name nearly broke nationally.
King moved to Mercury’s Limelight logo the
next year, writing and producing A Thing Called
Love. He used an informal group of backing
singers. “Those were literally the girls who were
our girlfriends,” he says. The band on the flip, an
original titled Strange Love done at Sound
Studios, featured Kal David on lead guitar (he cut
Forgotten Dreams with his Exceptions for the
Ardore label in ’61) and future Chicago (the band)
mainstay Peter Cetera on bass.

called The Rhythm Rockers.” was a male vocal group there,” says Henson. “The one
Then Willy fronted Jimmy And The Jeepers. “I liked guy came up and he said, ‘Did you ever hear Think It
them way better than The Rhythm Rockers,” he says. Over by Buddy Holly?’ And I said no. He said, ‘That’d
“They had that pounding, driving beat.” Jimmy McHugh be a good one for you to do!’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t know
and Ron Lane were the guitarists, Frankie it.’ He said, ‘Well, let’s go in the john and
Gage was on bass, and Norby King was we’ll teach it to you!’” In 1962, Tobin
on drums. “Jim Lounsbury made some
connections,” says Willy. “We were his
“I LIKED JIMMY AND THE JEEPERS signed with Columbia Records and
moved to New York. He cut two Columbia
favourite record hop band.” London WAY BETTER THAN THE RHYTHM 45s and two more for Warner Bros.
booked Chess Records’ studio to cut three
ROCKERS. THEY HAD THAT POUNDING, Chicago’s rock scene exploded during


vocal singles that Matthews (with the mid-60s with national smashes by
two ‘t’s) had on USA in 1961. “Jim The Cryan’ Shames, The New Colony Six,
Lounsbury wanted us to do Oh Julie, The Shadows Of Knight, the Bonafede-
which was a Crescendos thing. We always managed Buckinghams (their chart-
used to do Little Richard’s Slippin’ And Slidin’, so I said, topper Kind Of A Drag and most of their other major hits
‘Let’s do Slippin’ And Slidin’!”’ were written by Holvay), and The American Breed.
The last Matthews USA platter, done with a band But the groundwork for their ascension had been laid
called the All Stars, was brainstormed at Chess. “There long before... 9

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Buddy Holly and the RPO


ith a ne w
is b a ck w ic
d d y Ho lly ilh a r m o n
ss in g, B u R o y al P h
ft er his pa s y of T h e e st o ry of
ty y ears a
es , c o ur te te lls u s th
Six ic al clo th k P atr ick e W a y s ...
s c v
set of mustra. Producer Ni w album, True Lo
Orche h on ic ne
lly ’s s y m p

n Sunday 21 October, 2018, walkers on atmosphere of the truly great. They need to be able to
Primrose Hill came across a giant pair of carry the day and the orchestra just supports them.”
horn-rimmed glasses and the seductive
voice of Buddy Holly, wrapped in velvet strings, Buddy had just started working with strings
wafting across the sunny London skyline. before he died. How did those recordings
The al fresco performance of True Love Ways influence this project?
marked the 60th anniversary of Holly’s final recording “I’ve always viewed these records as if the artist is in
session… and heralded the release of a new album the room and we’re making a new album, rather than
that revitalises a dozen of his classic recordings revitalising old catalogue. And, interestingly enough,
with new symphonic arrangements by The Royal you can learn so much more about the artist by hearing
Philharmonic Orchestra. their performance than you perhaps would by having a
The album was produced by Nick Patrick (Seal, discussion with them. Words can often be interpreted in
Michael Ball, The Piano Guys) who previously united different ways, but with a performance you’re getting a
the Royal Philharmonic with the voices of Elvis Presley, direct emotional connection with the artist that words
Roy Orbison and Aretha Franklin on a string of hit in a conversation can sometimes hide.”
albums that began with Presley’s chart-topping If I Can “A lot of time was spent studying tracks like Raining
Dream in 2015. In My Heart and True Love Ways that had wonderful
string arrangements on them already. Buddy had a
When you did the Elvis album, was Buddy Holly very specific style of string writing, where there’d be a
always on a wish list of other artists to record with lot of those rhythmic pizzicato parts – like that iconic
the RPO? pizzicato rhythm that goes through It Doesn’t Matter
“No-one knew what would happen with the Elvis album, Anymore. We tried to maintain that style on the songs
but after the success of it, one naturally thought, ‘Who that didn’t originally have strings but felt as if they
else would this work with?’ It was Tom Lewis, the head easily could have. On the up-tempo stuff we very much
of artist development and A&R at Decca who decided channelled the spirit of It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.
that Buddy would be great, because of his amazing There’s a lot of bouncing pizzicato and simple little pop
songs and the affection people have for him. Here’s a guy lines. Rather than a carpet of symphonic strings it had to
who had such a short career but so many hits. I think be pop interjections, so it didn’t interfere with the spirit
with these things, the artist has to be in that rarefied of the original records.”

Buddy Holly and the RPO

Buddy Holly had begun using strings

© John Beecher

on tracks like Raining In My Heart

shortly before he died

Buddy Holly and the RPO

What are the technical challenges of working with

60-year-old recordings?
“This one was more of a challenge than the Elvis
albums, because there were no multi-tracks – Buddy’s
voice was never separate. There’s quite an extensive
technical process that we’ve developed over a period of
time that allows us to reduce the backing tracks against
his voice and allows you to restore the voice – to add
clarity and give it a warmth that wasn’t necessarily there
in the context of the original record.”

Did you re-record the rhythm parts as well as

adding orchestra?
“We did re-record the rhythm section, but it’s a
combination of the original performances and the new.
The process starts with us creating a tempo map of the
original record, which often moves up and down all
over the place – many of these old records may finish up
considerably faster than they start. They’ll lurch around
in tempo, which sounds wonderful, so it’s been very
important to preserve that, because it’s part of the spirit
of the vocal performance. We never moved the vocal
to fit into a new track, everything was fitted to the
original track.
“We’d then record new drums, bass and guitar over
the original track and there’d be a very extensive editing
process where we’d microscopically edit the new
performances to the old performance. That gave us the
opportunity to push up the instruments and create a
more contemporary sonic quality that isn’t possible with
the original master.”

Are we hearing Buddy’s guitar? ABOVE Members of The grateful that María Elena has been so enthusiastic and
“We kept all the significant solos that Buddy did, Royal Philharmonic supportive of it. The first tracks we did were True Love
Orchestra at work giving
because those are very specific. We used the original Holly’s hits a 21st century Ways and Raining In My Heart and I was incredibly
track at that point, using the extraction process again to makeover nervous about playing them for her. Thank goodness,
give us a bit more control over warming up the guitar she really loved them and felt it was something Buddy
solo a little bit and treating it in a way that works with would have done, should he have had that opportunity.”
the new elements. So you get a sense of never knowing
where the old finishes and the new begins. It’s a One of the lesser known tracks is Moondreams.
seamless stream that goes through the tracks.” Why did you choose that?
That was actually a suggestion from Buddy’s estate,
It sounds like a painstaking labour of love. How long along with Words Of Love. They weren’t on our list,
did it take to make the album? initially, but they’re really great contributions because
“It took about three months, but the orchestra took it gives people an opportunity to have not just a
about two days. It’s all the other stuff that takes a long, ‘Greatest Hits’ but to discover some songs they
long time. It’s like a film where the actual shoot doesn’t might not necessarily have been aware of. It’s got an
take forever, but it’s all the pre- and post-production opening guitar riff that appeared on so many of the early
stuff that moves around the artist to make it sound Beatles records. It really was an influential record
coherent and not bolted on. It’s very important that for them.”
everything is a fit for the artist and nothing sounds out of
whack, sonically.” Do the classical musicians of the RPO enjoy rocking
through things like Oh, Boy! and Rave On?
Was Buddy’s widow, María Elena, involved in “They love it. It’s not every day that you get to have
the project? the voice of an absolute icon coming through your
“It’s very important that these things don’t appear to be headphones. It lifts everybody’s game. People suddenly
in any way opportunistic and that they have the support think, ‘Blimey, that’s Buddy Holly!’ I had to pinch myself
of the remaining close relatives, as was the case with constantly and think, ‘Can you believe this?’ It’s been an
Priscilla Presley on the Elvis albums. That’s been a big enormous honour to get that close to being in the room
thing for us on all these projects, so we’re enormously with Buddy Holly.”

Buddy Holly and the RPO

...OH BOY,
It takes just a minute to
realise that Buddy Holly’s
posthumous date with The
Royal Philharmonic
Orchestra is a marriage
made in rock’n’roll heaven.
That first minute is spent in
the company of a sweetly vulnerable orchestral
overture that slowly builds in power and provides the
perfect curtain raiser for what’s to come.
While Buddy was one of the most delicate balladeers
of the 1950s, he was also a fierce rocker and some
rock’n’roll purists may question the wisdom of adding
violins to such raw and energetic singles as Rave On
and Oh, Boy!. They shouldn’t worry, because it’s on the
rockers that this album’s good taste is most evident.
On Peggy Sue, for instance, the orchestra stays out
of the way completely for the first third of the song,
allowing one of the most iconic drum intros in history
to bash away as brightly as ever. When the strings
finally arrive, in the chorus and behind Buddy’s
blistering guitar solo, they’re added with a delicate
touch that adds sparkle and sheen to the performance
without taking over.
Are there any moments from the sessions that BELOW Producer Nick Patrick Rave On similarly still begins with Buddy’s famous
particularly stand out for you? at his mixing desk in stuttering vocal, and the plucked violin adornments
London’s Angel Studios
“I think the first time we did True Love Ways with the have an energy fit for the dance floor. At every point
orchestra. It felt so beautiful, warm and rich, and seemed it’s easy to imagine Buddy and The Crickets on stage,
to enhance his vocal performance. It’s funny how that with their instruments up front, driving the tracks,
sometimes happens. The vocal has a new clarity and a while the orchestra follows them.
new emotional depth, because you can hear more of his The less familiar symphonic ballad Moondreams
voice. You can hear all the tonal quality that is sometimes mixes with popular favourites like Heartbeat on an
lost in some of his earlier recordings, purely because the album that puts a new frame around Holly’s artistry
technical stuff wasn’t available at the time.” and takes nothing away from it.

Are there any guest duets?

“It’s not actually on the album, because it came in too
late, but we’ve done a beautiful duet with Gregory Porter
on Raining In My Heart, which will be a track that goes
to radio. We gave him the choice of True Love Ways and
Raining In My Heart and he wanted to do Raining In My
Heart. We sketched out an idea of how the vocal could
be split up and he recorded it in his home in Bakersfield,
in California.”

Will there be a Buddy and Royal Philharmonic tour,

as there was with the Elvis albums?
“I hope so. I’m really hoping there will be a significant
reaction to this record and that it will bring Buddy
not just to his existing fan base but expand that and
introduce people to an artist who deserves to have a
real resurgence of popularity.” 9

Roy Orbison

Buddy-plus-orchestra may
be a first, but the new Roy
Orbison album Unchained
Melodies is a repeat team-
up with The Royal
Philharmonic Orchestra.
Vintage Rock looks at the
‘new’ Big O album and
revisits some of the
original recordings…

f a ‘with-orchestra’ collaboration was likely
where Buddy Holly was headed, it was
something that Roy Orbison already
mastered in his own lifetime. So it was certainly
no surprise when A Love So Beautiful – an album
which saw archive recordings of Orbison overlaid
with fresh orchestral arrangements courtesy of The
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – was released in 2017,
becoming The Big O’s highest charting record for almost
30 years. And so a follow-up, Unchained Melodies, once
again with the RPO, makes total sense. Whether it is
“rock’n’roll” is another matter. But Orbison’s rockin’
years were brief anyway: with that voice and a taste
Evening Standard/Getty

for the lovelorn romantic ballad, The Big O and a big

orchestra were always a match made in heaven and
were a part of his sound from the early 60s onwards.

Roy Orbison

“I grew up
listening to my dad
sing Roy Orbison.
Those melodies are
so ingrained in
my soul” CAM

Roy Kelton Orbison, AKA

‘The Big O’ (1936–1988)

Roy Orbison

Recorded and released to mark 30 years since

Orbison’s death in December 1988, Unchained Melodies:
Roy Orbison With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
digs a little deeper into the Orbison catalogue, with
the first album already symphonically expanding his
biggest hits. It’s fully ‘approved’ again: it was overseen
by Roy’s Boys LLC, the Nashville company founded by
Orbison’s sons to administer their father’s catalogue,
and it includes performances by Wesley, Roy Junior and
Alex Orbison. The recordings were again produced by
Don Reedman and Nick Patrick, and tracks such as Walk
On, Leah and Crawling Back were included after a poll of
Orbison fans. It’s a broad range of material, though, with
songs dating from the early 60s to the year of Orbison’s
passing all making the cut.
Roy Junior says he hopes the project will again
“break new ground” for his late father’s music.
“From the control room in Studio Two at Abbey Road
back in June, I indeed tried to close my eyes and guess
at which song we were recording next based on the
prelude building from the room below,” he says. “Listen
closely to Danny Boy and Unchained Melody for perfect
examples of where we tried to break new ground with
this record.”


acknowledge: “The challenge was, how do we make an
album that equals and goes beyond what we achieved on
A Love So Beautiful? We knew we needed to delve deep
into the vast body of work that Roy had created in his
recording career.
“There were exciting moments where I felt that
we could make something that would be a natural
progression, but also surprise many of Roy’s fans with
songs that were new and fresh sounding. To therefore
make our new album exactly that… a new album.”
There is one new duet on the album. Last time, on
A Love So Beautiful, it was UK country-pop twins Ward
Thomas on I Drove All Night. For 2018’s Unchained
Melodies, it’s a version of the rarer track Heartbreak
Radio which features the vocals of both Orbison and
current country star Cam. Heartbreak Radio itself was
only released posthumously, on the 1992 Orbison album
King Of Hearts that compiled various demos and works-
in-progress that Roy had recorded with producer Jeff
Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra and, of course, the
Traveling Wilburys. It may seem a surprise, but Cam
– born Camaron Ochs, 34 years ago in California – is
perhaps typical of latter-day Orbison fans for whom ABOVE Roy Orbison in his like I was in the back seat of my dad’s car. It’s a big deal
Roy’s music was then ‘new’, and had more vintage prime: “The Caruso of rock” and I’m really grateful they asked me to be a part of it.”
Orbison music passed down by family. Wesley Orbison, co-founder of Roy’s Boys and son of
She recalls: “I grew up listening to my dad sing Roy the late singer, said: “It’s nice that we get to have Cam
Orbison. Those melodies are so ingrained in my soul. sing on the new record. Heartbreak Radio sounds like a
Singing on Heartbreak Radio with him is unreal, I can’t new, fresh track, which it is. She really brings a terrific
fully believe it. It felt really natural to jump into it… I felt energy to it – just so bright and creative.”
Whatever the reasons for pairing Orbison master
“We knew we needed to delve deep recordings with new orchestral arrangements and

into the vast body of work that Roy

even new singers, the massive success of the In Dreams
hologram tour suggests there’s a hungry fanbase.
had created” DON REEDMAN Are you ready for more of The Big Orchestra? 9

Roy Orbison

The Great Pretender was
1961 (RELEASED 1963)
Co-writer Joe Melson
From the same three-hour
BACK 1965
Busy Nashville arranger Bill
KNOW 1966
One legendary Acuff-Rose
already a standard when initiated the creation of session as Orbison’s epic McElhiney got the call to do songwriter paying
Orbison recorded it for his Blue Bayou, later In Dreams, Falling was the charts for a good album-length tribute to
Crying album. A 1956 hit by completing it with Orbison, another massively portion of Roy’s MGM another; that’s what
The Platters, with Tony who took two cracks at the orchestrated ballad, with long-player The Orbison happened when Roy
Williams on lead vocals, its song (the first one, from Orbison wracked with Way, that alternated Orbison Sings Don Gibson
words and music were June of ’61, is lost, so we’ll romantic doubts over his between band tracks (with was released in January
written by Buck Ram, the never know how it head-over-heels descent The Candy Men) and huge 1967. Gibson, who had
group’s manager in (he contrasted with the into a love that threatened orchestral ballads. The plenty of insight on pain
said) “about 20 minutes”. extraordinarily to be strictly one-way. latter included lush opener and heartbreak, had
Jackie Riggs, the US atmospheric released Nashville producer Fred Crawling Back, which sold recorded for MGM before
doo-wop singer, also version). It’s one of Roy’s Foster booked two quite a bit better in the UK switching over to RCA
released a version in ’56, story songs; he’s a poor drummers, Buddy Harman than in the US. Its pleading, Victor in 1957 and finding
then Sam Cooke recorded boy pining for his girl and a and John Greubel, either to down-and-out narrative stardom. Too Soon To Know
the song in 1960… but it return to his beloved Blue double the percussive and Roy’s stratospheric was a song from Don’s
seemed a song custom- Bayou. Floyd Cramer added attack or else to give one a vocals were tailor-made for second RCA session, the
built for Orbison. Bob rolling keyboards and breather while the other one another – this was a B-side to his C&W
Moore’s Orchestra featured Charlie McCoy trilled away took on the challenges of real tearjerker – but the chart-topper Blue Blue Day,
on the original, which is a on harp while an all-female Orbison’s arrangements commercial returns and Orbison recorded it
pretty straight cover, but vocal backing chorus (bassist Bob Moore couldn’t compare to his nine years later. Orbison
the more impressive cut is decorated the edges of the remained his studio incredible sales figures at cut the moving ballad only
on the Crying album, where delicate ballad. Why Foster bandleader and orchestral Monument. This was a time five days before his wife
Orbison and his team kept Blue Bayou in his score kingpin). Falling was when Orbison’s lusher Claudette was killed in a
indulged in a much more archives until the summer huge in the UK, but less so material was trying to tragic motorcycle accident,
elaborate and expensive of 1963 and then buried it in Orbison’s home country. compete with the sharper making its heartbreak
recording than Nashville on the back of Mean rock sounds of The Beatles prescient and even
studios normally practised. Woman Blues is anyone’s et al. more poignant.
Fifteen strings players in guess. Linda Ronstadt
1961 to 2018’s full RPO isn’t certainly recognised
actually much of a leap. its beauty.

She’s A Mystery To Me remains

acclaimed as one of Roy’s greatest
tracks, despite its unlikely source –
it was written by Bono and The Edge


Mystery Girl was Orbison’s final album, completed just a month before his death at
the age of 52 in December 1988. She’s A Mystery To Me remains acclaimed as one of
Roy’s greatest tracks, despite its unlikely source – it was written by Bono and The
Edge of U2. Bono later explained how, during a restless night in June 1987 in
London during U2’s Joshua Tree tour, he had slept with the soundtrack to the
movie Blue Velvet on repeat. Aptly, Orbison’s own In Dreams is featured, and
when the U2 singer awoke from his half-slumber with a tune in his head he
assumed it was from the CD. He soon realised it wasn’t, so wrote down the basic
song structure. Later that day at U2’s Wembley soundcheck on 2 June 1987, a
nascent song was born. And then? After that very evening’s show, Roy Orbison
paid U2 an unannounced visit. Convinced of the song’s final destiny, Bono played
it to Orbison... The pair met later in LA to write more lyrics together, and the rest
is history.
Ronnie Dawson

RONNIE His underground classic Rockin’ Bones was released
in 1959, but Ronnie Dawson had to wait until the
1980s to gain true acclaim. To mark 20 years since
his induction into the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame,
Vintage Rock profiles the late, great Blond
Bomber… and speaks to those who knew him best

onnie Dawson was a rare Visit any European real roots r’n’r club Koumis was integral in helping him pick
rocking talent who seemed to today, and it remains the case. Dawson’s raw, the right material and musicians (such as
operate in reverse: the man rhythmic and kinetic tracks sounded like The Polecats’ Boz Boorer) and getting him
known as the Blond Bomber actually a more subversive version of the 50s, and exposure that spanned John Peel recording
got better as he got older. He achieved packs a mean contemporary punch. sessions at the BBC in 1993, performing
regional success in his native Texas back in It must have seemed on the Conan O’Brien
the 1950s, but it was between 1988 and his surreal to receive the primetime American
premature passing in 2003, that the singer adulation that he deserved chatshow, playing at
enjoyed heroic cult status across Europe’s so late in his career. Yet Carnegie Hall; and later
revivalist circuit. While many of his peers’ according to collaborator Yep Roc recordings
careers had packed up early, Ronnie burned guitarist Tjarko Jeen, that featured in the
more brightly second time round. “Ronnie didn't consider movies Primary Colors
“Ronnie’s UK fans were very important his albums a comeback and Simpatico.
to him,” his wife, Chris, tells Vintage Rock as such – he just saw On his Rockin’ Bones
today. “He received more recognition from them as a continuation of CD liner notes, Dawson
those fans than he ever received here in the what he considered to be confessed to having
US. Actually, all over Europe he was more unfinished business.” been “a wallflower” in his pre-musical
appreciated than at home. I am so grateful That unfinished business began when, youth, but by the 80s and 90s, he
for that, as was he.” out of the blue in 1986, No-Hits Records transformed onstage into wildfire
With a handful of hot albums including founder Barney Koumis knocked on personified. Importantly, he was still
Monkey Beat (1994), Just Rockin’ And Dawson’s door at his apartment in Dallas, evolving and generating fresh material.
Rollin’ (’96), and Live At Texas. Koumis was already Uniquely relevant to the rockabilly
The Continental Club (’98), a major DJ on London’s revival, Dawson delivered real rockabilly
Ronnie returned with a rockin’ scene, and with a distinctly modern twist of hard
bang. From London to the essentially brought Dawson blues, country and garage rock. His vocal
Netherlands, cuts such as back from the wilderness was unique in markedly improving with
Still-A-Lot-Of-Rhythm, in 1990 by releasing the age, lending a gruff, rugged swagger to
Rockinitis and the wildly Rockin’ Bones compilation that startling, scorching sound. Fans still
urgent Up Jumped The Devil album. Co-producing a wax lyrical online, describing his music as
became UK clubs’ bopping clutch of subsequent new “just the way this stuff should be – rough,
anthems in those later years. recordings with Ronnie, edgy, and sounds like it was recorded in

Ronnie Dawson

As a teenager, the young Ronnie

appeared regularly on Dallas radio’s
Big D Jamboree show
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Ronnie Dawson

With his boyish voice

and cute platinum
blond crew cut, 21-
year-old Ronnie was
primed for teen-idol

someone’s bathroom.” Elsewhere they say

it was “like being hit by a truck, in a good
way”, or the definitive “If this doesn’t move
you, you’re dead.”


Dawson had nearly made it big back then,
having first formed a band in ’56, and
appearing on the popular Big D Jamboree
talent show in his local Dallas, Texas. As he
explained to the Phoenix New Times in 1995,
“If you won the contest 10 times, you were
invited to be a regular on the programme,

Robbert Bleys
and they would offer you a recording
contract… I won 10 times, and in three
months I was looking at a record with my
name on it.” In terms of screaming girls, he
held his own against other upcoming Big D REMEMBERING
acts of before, including one Elvis Presley.
Billed as Ronnie Dee & The D-Men,
Dawson signed to the R&B-oriented Back
Beat label and delivered Action Packed b/w GUITARIST WITH RONNIE FOR 12 YEARS
I Make The Love in 1958. Despite a lengthy
promotion – even a place on an Alan Freed How did you first get to play with him there, which I did for several
package tour – the single only gained with Ronnie? years, joining his band with Lisa Pankratz
scattergun airplay, as did 1959 release, “Aged 13, I was in a rockabilly band from on drums, and Kevin Smith on bass.”
Rockin’ Bones, this time credited to Ronnie the Netherlands called The Tin Stars.
Dawson ‘The Blond Bomber’. But despite Within a couple of years we were playing Any particular highlights of your
only ripples back then, both tracks are today all over Europe, backing many visiting US time together?
regarded as highly influential. original 50s artists. “It’s hard to pick favourites, though shows
After a spell playing sock-hops with “At 16, in 1989, I met Ronnie at our in New York, Chicago, Austin and New
Western swing group the Light Crust Slagharen Rock & Roll Weekender. I Orleans were always extra-special – those
Doughboys, Ronnie shared the same gathered all my courage, introduced myself were real music towns back then. The
manager as Gene Vincent and toured and said: I know all of your songs and I’m crowd went with us all the way, I can only
nationally with him. By 1960, he witnessed going to play in your band. He looked at explain it as going on a trip to another
Vincent’s American career nosedive as me with that big smile and said, ‘Oh yeah?!’ place together! That just doesn’t happen
rock’n’roll turned into teen-tuned pop. With “A few weeks later, I was playing a gig at very often. In that respect, as a performer,
his boyish voice and cute platinum blond another festival, and from the stage Ronnie was in an elite class, up there with
crew cut, 21-year-old Ronnie was primed I saw Ronnie watching me. Boz Boorer people like James Brown, Aretha Franklin
for teen-idol stardom. Signing with Dick – Ronnie’s regular guitar player at the or Ray Charles. Unfortunately it wasn’t
Clark’s Swan label, he cut two pure poppers: time – started getting busy with Morrissey. witnessed by large crowds… So at this
Summer’s Comin’ and Hazel, showcasing Fast-forward a few months, and I get a call: point it almost sounds like legend.
both on Clark’s famous could I play the next day with Ronnie at “The Continental Club shows in Texas
American Bandstand the Cruise Inn in Amsterdam? When were always fantastic, and I remember the
TV show. But I got to the club, Ronnie said, ‘So you know time we played the Hemsby Rock’n’Roll
just as his career all my songs, huh? Well, let’s see!’ I then Weekender was especially great.”
was about to be played with Ronnie regularly – first with
pushed, the my band The Tin Stars, and on a tour with Which of Ronnie’s recorded tracks did
Payola scandal The Planet Rockers replacing Eddie Angel. you play guitar on?
hit, and Clark had At 21, Ronnie moved me to the USA to tour “I played on three Ronnie Dawson albums:
to get rid of his

Ronnie Dawson

Monkey Beat, Just Rockin’ & Rollin’ – both Milton Brown, to the Nat King
myself and Eddie Angel together on Cole Trio, Al Hibbler, Duke
guitars – and Live At The Continental Club. Ellington and Count Basie.
The first thing I recorded with Ronnie in “As to his European ‘comeback’,
1992 was Up Jumped The Devil, during his he loved it, was grateful for it,
UK tour with The Tin Stars. I was initially and completely embraced it. We
miscredited on Monkey Beat, finally talked about it often but I can’t tell
properly credited on the subsequent 45. you what his opinions were. To
me, it’s because we Europeans are
On tracks such as Up Jumped… and nostalgic and tend to look back

Al Shelton
Rockinitis, did Ronnie detune his into the past and embrace our
guitar to get that distinctive choppy own history, and even the history
riff sound? of others, whereas Americans generally It immediately was business as usual. He
“Yes, Ronnie tuned his guitar down, look forward to the future.” gave us all his customary, one-by-one ‘are
regular Spanish tuning but from C to C. you ready?’ look, and sang and played his
He would call that sound ‘funky’!” What are your favourite Ronnie tracks? ass off. People in the audience were crying
“I like the Live At The Continental Club and laughing and singing along.
Do you agree that Ronnie came into his album as representation of what Ronnie It was incredible; a testament to what
own second time around, when he was live shows were about. The records the human spirit can do. When Ronnie
in his 40s and 50s? were good, but the live shows were often was in remission after the first time, he
“Unlike many of his contemporaries, magical. Tracks that I didn’t play on that asked me to join the band again full-time.
Ronnie never stopped playing. He was I particularly love are Shim Sham Shimmy, It wasn’t to be. The cancer came back
a musicians’ musician who just never Yum Yum Yum, Rockinitis, Party Time and and he was gone not long after. It’s one of
happened to get famous. He was an Bad Case Of A Broken Heart. Of the early the big regrets in my life that we couldn’t
excellent guitar player, on both rhythm stuff, I especially love Jump And Run and make that happen. He had big plans for
and lead. Ronnie could sing pretty much Do Do Do but also, of course, Rockin’ Bones, the future.”
anything – rock’n’roll, blues, rhythm & Action Packed and Congratulations To Me.”
blues, country, folk, jazz and standards, How would you sum up Ronnie’s lasting
and that’s a rarity. Some of my favourite Onstage, Ronnie performed like a musical impact?
memories are of Ronnie singing backstage man possessed… What are your more “Ronnie showed a whole generation how
warming up, or simply in his living room: personal impressions of him as a man? it’s really done, and set the bar. People
usually Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s “He was calm and grounded – and also still tell me all the time that Ronnie shows
Talkin’, Frankie Miller’s Backland Farmer knew how to have fun. I saw Ronnie dance were the best shows they’ve ever seen.
or Mickey Newberry’s Why You Been one time. It was after a show in Germany His records, old and new, are still much
Gone So Long. Plus standards like Scotch & at the Life Club, and he was relaxing, loved. He showed us that new records
Soda, or his no-nonsense country singing talking to fans and enjoying some Cognac. could be as great and as exciting as the
reminiscent of Jerry Lee Lewis’s Smash Next thing, I look over and he’s dancing original records; that every show should
era… Jerry was one of his favourite with all of us to Carl Perkins. Ronnie was a be played giving it your all; that you can be
country singers.” great, loving, supportive spirit. Everybody a skilled musician and also flat-out rock.
that worked with him long-term had a “To me, Ronnie was the greatest
During the 1980s rockabilly revival, deep personal connection with him – and exponent of all the 50s rock’n’roll artists
Ronnie became a cult figure in Europe. became a better musician. To me, he was a still active after the 50s: impressive in a
Why do you think he was bigger here mentor as well as a friend, in some ways, a contemporary way, without sounding
than in his native United States? father figure.” like a throwback. Ronnie is not so
“It’s important to note that Ronnie didn’t much underrated as overlooked.
considered himself originally as rockabilly. When was the last time you saw, or “Nobody rocked harder or did it
In his opinion, the only rockabilly he ever performed, with him? better than Ronnie, and I know that
recorded was on the comeback albums. “The last time I saw him was a couple of many who had the privilege of seeing and
He regarded his 50s sides as blues, and days before he passed away, in 2003. The knowing him feel that way. He didn’t have
rhythm & blues-based rock’n’roll records, last show I did with him was also his last any kids, but he saw all of us – his band
and that was really his first love. The only at the Lonestar Roundup in Austin, Texas. – as his kids, and his continuing musical
rockabilly he really loved was Carl Perkins, It was very emotional, one of the most legacy. I think that the impact Ronnie
although of course he respected the hell moving experiences of my life. He and all had on all our lives says it all.”
out of Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. of us knew he didn’t have much time left.
He loved Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Before the show he could barely walk or For more on Tjarko Jeen’s projects –
Richard, Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker, talk. I was worried – how were we going The Modern Don Juans, Shaun Young
Gatemouth Brown, and also Jimmie to pull this off? He somehow reached deep & The 3 Ringers and The Hunt Sales
Rodgers, Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, within, and got onstage totally charged. Memorial – see www.reverbnation.com

Ronnie Dawson


“The very first gig I ever did with him and High
Al Shelton

Noon – at the Continental Club in Austin, Texas – was

insane. It was full, everyone in a frenzy for Ronnie.
I had a bunch of used drumsticks, and passed them
out to the audience. For the ‘cliquey-clack’ part on
Rockin’ Bones, they all joined in!
“Our live CD here is a real testament to the fun and feeling at those
shows. It is very live – a few mistakes, some crowd noise – but the band is
burning, and you really feel you are there. No fake overdubs or sweetening
later, just a great sound. If it had to be the only recording I got to do with
Ronnie, I’m proud of it.
“The Conan O’Brien appearance was also memorable. It felt like a
victory to get this real roots music on national TV. Ronnie’s crowd showed
up and packed the place. The feel and sound of our performance on
Monkey Beat City is a perfect moment. It keeps surfacing on YouTube and Comeback kid: Ronnie

Paul Harris
people get so happy when they discover it!” found his popularity grow
in the 1980s and 90s

non-Bandstand interests. rockabilly’s Ronnie (centre) with his latter day

Ronnie later reflected originators. touring band, High Noon, including
Lisa Pankratz (left) and Sean
this did him a favour, in Thanks to Mencher (second left)
taking his music in his psychobilly group
own direction. The Cramps’
Recording under 1981 recording of
various guises as Ronnie’s Rockin’
Johnny And The Jills, Bones, interest
Snake Monroe, and grew in Dawson’s
Commonwealth Jones back catalogue.
for Columbia and Riding a wave
Do-Boy, he also played of reissued
drums on sessions recordings, he
including Bill Channel’s Hey Baby, and Paul embarked on his first ever tour of England
& Paula’s Hey Paula. Mid-60s, he joined in 1986. Reflecting on the sensational
Dallas based folk/blues band The Levee reaction, he said, “All these people started
Singers, who were successful enough to embracing me. It was heaven. I didn’t want
guest across network TV. By the early 70s, to go home.”
Ronnie established a Buffalo Springfield- Mid-90s, exciting new material for
style country-rock band Steel Rail, which Koumis’ No-Hits label (leased to Crystal
he juggled with a more lucrative line in food Clear in the US) followed. Ronnie mentored
and drink jingles. promising new acts, notably his own
Come 1977, and the death of Elvis support crews – The Tin Stars and High
triggered a renaissance of interest in Noon – plus Boz Boorer and The Frantic
Flattops. In 1999, came More Bad Habits
(Yep Roc), his final album. Keen to keep
Thanks to psychobilly pleasing his fans, the inveterate trouper
group The Cramps’ 1981 continued to work. He toured as and
when, despite the onslaught of cancer, and
recording of Ronnie’s in 2003, at the age of 64, went out just as
Rockin’ Bones, interest he’d come back: like a light, in true rebel
grew in Dawson’s rocker spirit. 9
For up to date Ronnie Dawson news, visit
back catalogue www.ronniedawson.com

Ronnie Dawson


“At Carnegie Hall with Ronnie,

we appeared alongside TD Bell,
Erbie Bowser and Mingo Saldivar,
representing the music of Texas.
It was just brilliant, each delivering
a different set. Ronnie was on
last, and at the end invited all the
musicians back out for a Texas-style
jam, everybody rockin’! It was like
music heaven. Ronnie, who had a
wireless guitar, beckoned to Mingo,
who had a wireless accordion, and
Ctd 2005

they both jumped off the stage and

into the cheering, adoring crowd to
rock’n’roll with the audience! For the usually formal Carnegie, it was just
Al Shelton

amazing, jaw-dropping… and once in a lifetime.”

Singles & EP Reviews

----- SUPERB
 ---- RECOMMENDED Al Dual Les Razerbills
 - AVOID --- ----
From the title alone you can be Although this four-track EP has a
Rock’n’roll is a universal pretty sure what you’re about to Gallic theme, it is actually from a
receive on this EP and you do combo based in Bradford. Within
language this issue, as rockin’ indeed get four original songs these grooves are a series of spooky
7 "s fly in from Germany, recorded in Memphis’ most
legendary studio. On this 7" the
surf instrumentals with a splash of
B-movie sensibility and a hint of
Austria, Spain and the French- Spanish singer/guitarist offers a stiff the exotic. Organs wail, guitars
measure of rockabilly served hot twang and horrific sound effects
speaking quarter (huh?) of alongside a large portion of deep whisper in the background as we
Bradford. Label names of twanging riffs. With a few releases
already under his belt, Dual took the
take a trip on a West Yorkshire
ghost train while Joe Meek’s eerie
Migraine, Hip Shakin and Fury award for Best Rockabilly Male at
this year’s Ameripolitan Awards.
spirit hovers above us. The whole
package is wildly entertaining,
tell their own story… His train keeps a-rollin’ with this wrapped in period French artwork,
release and it finishes off his most and comes complete with your own
REVIEWS BY CRAIG BRACKENRIDGE successful year so far very nicely. Razerbills mask and business card.

Trini Lopez
The Hip Shakin label is an offshoot
of the well-respected Pink’n’Black
Records, and they focus on reissues
with a more soulful twist. This 45
features Trini Lopez on the A-side
with his Latin-infused song Sinner
Not A Saint from 1964. Although
this record failed to set the US
charts alight on its initial release,
it’s a real dancefloor filler from the
Texas tornado and one of his last
real rockers before he moved off
into more folky territory a year
later. Over on the other side is the
very exotic swinger Palm Of Your
Hand by Dolly Lyon, a real slow
burner from 1957 that positively
seeps with sauciness. The single
comes in a die-cut retro sleeve and
it is well worth checking out the
label’s previous releases which
include other reissue singles from
the likes of Fats Domino, Wanda
Jackson, The Sapphires and Big
Mama Thornton.

Singles & EP Reviews

The Royal Flush Crazy Cavan & The Cheating Hearts The Rusty Robots
Europe continues to offer a rich ----- Rock’n’roll comes in many varied -----
seam of fairly new rockabilly Fury Records continue their series forms and this duo from St Pauli, With two full-length albums
combos and this Swiss four-piece of 7" reissues with this two-track Hamburg’s raunchiest quarter, have already under their belt, The Rusty
prove the point with style. The band offering featuring a double helping a stripped down guitar and drums Robots are a relatively youthful
have been in action since 2007 but of Crazy Cavan’s finest recordings sound that is raw and rowdy in German trio with a sound that
have really turned up the heat on from 1975. The title track is a Ted equal measure. This is a powerful drags you right back to that period
their career in the past few years. anthem oozing with menace and package featuring four original and in the early 80s when the
This is only their third single and some violent lyrical content that very twisted love songs delivered pubescent psychobilly movement
both All Night Long and the flipside, reflected the reality of life on the with a spiteful sharpness and with was still closely entwined with the
Running Square, are written by the streets for many UK revivalists in all of the rough edges intact. rockabilly scene. The three tracks
band and have that solid foot- the 1970s. Over on the B-side is a Don’t expect any low-key acoustic featured on this 7" are all original
stomping beat that they describe as good-time floorfiller in the form of musings here as this couple create a compositions, and if you have a
“wild and raw rockabilly”. Judging the short, sharp shock of Teddy Boy raucous wall of sound that can put taste for the frantic early recordings
them on these two tracks alone they Rock’n’Roll. If you’ve yet to discover most full bands to shame. Only 300 of bands like The Ricochets, The
have obviously got that description the brilliance of Crazy Cavan, this of these have been pressed, all in Sharks and Batmobile then this
bang on. single is an ideal starting point. luscious light blue vinyl. is unmissable.

Louisville Boppers Merle Kilgore Various Artists Fia Sco & The Majestics
---- --- --- ---
Proving that there is no generation As well as releasing new material, This 7" EP captures three great Austria is a stronghold for a great
gap in the world of rock’n’roll, Spanish label Sleazy also bring rockabilly acts live onstage in variety of rockin’ acts and here is a
Louisville Boppers are a father and many original rock’n’roll whoppers Austria. Jetting in from the UK, John welcome blast of female-fronted
son guitar duo accompanied by a back onto vinyl. On this single, they Lewis And His Trio get two tracks on hillbilly boogie from the wild Alpen
bass-slapper. This is their debut have partnered two of Merle one side while local boys Crazy backwoods. Both Icebear! and the
single but these South German Kilgore’s finest moments from the Cubes and Chili And The Baracudas B-side Shame On You take you back
rockers have already built up a period when he had been bitten by get a track each on the flipside. to those pre-rockabilly times when
strong live reputation. They have a the rockabilly bug. Everybody The disc is presented in a unique country folks had real class! The
drummer on board for this Needs A Little Lovin’ is a jiver from 8" ring-bound hardcover which vintage sound of this single reeks of
recording and Meanest Thing is a 1955 and Ernie is a stripped-down includes additional info and pictures authenticity and harks back to the
rock-hard blues bopper while the rocker from the following year. from the event itself. It must have very roots of rock’n’roll. Fia’s vocals
B-side, Rockin’ Rolla Mama, features Unless you are determined to track been a lively night out and this sound as if they are slipping
a delightful driving twang. Both down the original releases on chunk of limited edition blue vinyl straight off a shellac 78 and the
tracks are lifted from their LP, Imperial Records, this is a great way offers a perfect snapshot of that atmospheric steel guitar slides
Howlin’ To The Moonlight, and the 7" to capture these rockin’ nuggets on evening’s entertainment in just comfortably close to the slapping
is a hand-numbered limited edition. 7" once again. under 10 minutes. bass and hot club drums.
Vinyl LP Reviews

Various Artists Ray Sharpe

- ----
 -- PATCHY JUNO RECORDS Ray Sharpe was a unique hybrid on
 -- ---- the late 50s rock’n’roll scene: an
- AVOID This LP certainly delivers on the African-American performer with a
 promise of its title: 16 tough electric mile-wide Texas drawl that was
This month, it’s vintage soul blues from the 50s and early 60s,
led by Lightnin’ Hopkins’ blasting
tailor-made for rockabilly crossed
with a stinging lead guitarist that
and R&B, wacky 50s weirdness Had A Gal Called Sal, Champion Jack exhibited more than a bit of Lone Star
Dupree’s thundering Shim Sham blues influence. A dozen of Sharpe’s
and best-ofs featuring the likes Shimmy, and Chicago harpist Billy best rockers for the Hamilton and
of Bill Haley, Ike and Tina Boy Arnold’s Rockin’ Itis. There’s
plenty of pungent blues harmonica
Jamie labels are here collected on a
10-incher by the French Minigroove
Turner, Vince Everett, and courtesy of Papa Lightfoot’s Mean
Old Train, Sonny Terry’s Hoopin’ And
label. Sharpe’s best-known number
from 1959, the driving tongue-
many more… Jumpin and Kid Thomas’ The Wolf twister Linda Lu, is aboard; so are
Pack, while slashing guitar abounds the title track, Long John, Silly Dilly
REVIEWS BY BILL DAHL on Bobo Jenkins’ Tell Me Who. Millie and Kewpie Doll.

Various Artists Various Artists

---- ----
If only for its scalding lead-off There’s no shortage of albums
Tex Harper 10-incher with a gatefold cover track – Gloria Jones’ incredible paying tribute to the UK’s Northern
DIG ME LITTLE MAMA and Martin Hawkins’ notes, gospel-tinged original version of Soul heritage, but this anthology
BEAR FAMILY features both sides of his two Tainted Love – this Northern Soul socks it home extraordinarily well
----- killer 4 Star singles— Cat Music anthology from Outta Sight would with a cross-section of pumping
Known variously as Tex Harper, and the LP’s title track, from rate its fair share of spins. Its 16 60s sides that hail from the Scepter/
Rudy Preston and Harry Head, 1954, were followed by the selections also include Vickie Wand and Musicor/Dynamo
singer Freddie Jean Harper got equally wild Jumpin’ From 6 To Baines’ Country Girl, Billy Woods’ archives. Both were New York
in on the ground floor of 6 and Dance With Her Henry, a Let Me Make You Happy, the labels, yet there’s a wide
rockabilly as featured vocalist cover of Etta James’ smash, the mysterious Connie Clark’s My Sugar geographical array here: Chicago’s
with Tommy Scott And His next year. Four Tired Car and its Baby, and Matt Lucas’ Baby You Betty Moorer, Detroit’s Jack
Ramblers. Bear Family’s 12-song flip, Don’t You Go Chicken, out in Better Go-Go, while Carl Douglas Montgomery and Stanley Mitchell,
dip into Harper’s limited but 1957 on Scott’s own Katona was still six years away from kung Miami’s Clarence Reid, and The
fascinating catalogue, a logo, are just as riotous. fu fighting when he waxed this LP’s Masqueraders, then recording
Serving A Sentence Of Life. in Memphis.
Vinyl LP Reviews

Ike & Tina Turner Various Artists

---- ----
After years of scuffling around Juke Box Music Factory offers it both
Mississippi, Memphis and St Louis ways on this combo platter: a
with his crack combo The Kings Of 16-song slab of long-playing vinyl is Maxine Brown with the Carole King/Gerry
Rhythm, Ike Turner finally accompanied by a CD containing the THE BEST OF THE Goffin-penned Oh No Not My
discovered a talent worthy of exact same material. This comp WAND YEARS Baby and many more slices of
superstardom. He renamed her Tina spotlights R&B singers Freddie KENT majestic uptown soul. Kent’s
and billed the new pairing as a duo, Houston, Erma Franklin, Arthur ---- new 14-song compilation of
even though Ike shied away from Alexander and the rowdy duo of When vivacious soul singer Maxine’s Wand masters
singing. Ike and Tina’s first album Jackie Wilson and Linda Hopkins, as Maxine Brown commenced her encompasses that classic and
for Juggy Murray’s Sue label, newly well as rockabilly-based vocalists hitmaking run at Florence It’s Gonna Be Alright, as well as
repressed by the Italian Wax Love Billy Brown and Vince Everett. Greenberg’s Wand Records she gems that were discovered in
imprint, showcases Tina at her Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ delightfully was already an R&B star thanks Greenberg’s vaults, notably It’s
rawest and most primal; she’s so unhinged Little Demon, and perky to All In My Mind and Funny on Torture, I Want A Guarantee,
ferocious on their first smash A Fool pop chanteuse Margaret Whiting’s the tiny Nomar logo. She and the Otis Redding-penned
In Love and I Idolize You that she bouncy Pretty-Eyed Baby (all minute compounded her fame at Wand stormer Baby Cakes.
threatens to melt the microphone. -and-a-half of it) are good too.

Various Artists Various Artists

The same LP/CD combo format ----
defines Volume 3, though there’s a Stag-O-Lee chose the dozen tracks
The Louvin Brothers The Louvin Brothers ever wider stylistic range here. Relative on this LP with weirdness in mind,
LOVE AND WEALTH: waxed, along comes this old-timers Louis Jordan (Big Bess) be it Kip Tyler’s Shadow Street, R&B
THE LOST RECORDINGS sparkling two-disc set from and John Lee Hooker (She’s Mine) chanteuse Mamie Perry’s Lament, or
SUNDAZED MUSIC Sundazed Music’s Modern share microgroove space with Bill Haley & His Comets’ Chick Safari.
----- Harmonic imprint, consisting of blue-eyed soulster Matt Lucas’ 1963 Guitarist Rene Hall’s Cleo qualifies
The sweet vocal harmonies of 29 previously unreleased hit revival of Hank Snow’s I’m as extreme exotica, while Dickie
The Everly Brothers were no songwriter demos from the Movin’ On, Roy Lee Johnson’s Thompson’s Thirteen Women And
doubt swayed by other 1950s. Packaging is gorgeous, cooking Black Pepper Will Make One Man earned him a lot of
legendary country sibling duos with liner notes by Colin Escott You Sneeze, ill-fated Drifters lead royalties when Haley placed it on
that preceded them, high and lots of vintage photos. Ira’s Rudy Lewis’ solo Baby I Dig Love, the other side of (We’re Gonna)
among the ranks being Ira and spoken message, another newly Red (Hot) Russell’s tough rocker Rock Around The Clock. Jamie Coe,
Charlie Louvin. Just when you unearthed artifact, opens the Stop, and underrated Motown Bruce Cloud and Marti Barris’ title
think you’ve heard everything deluxe package. belter in Gino Parks’ scorching item send the set even further on a
Same Thing. one-way trip to Crazyville.
CD Album Reviews

The Same Old Shoes

 --- A TCHY ----
 -- PA Here are four Italian cats on a
 - AVOID Spanish label mixing rockabilly with
classic country – but they write
Included on your rock’n’roll platter this month most of their own numbers, and do
their own back-up singing, too.
are some festive stompers from the all-star This is their fourth album for El Toro,
so they benefit from label faith in
Embassy Studios Band, a barnstormin’ debut their authentic talents, and do a
from soul-singing drummer Lindsay Beaver, a good job. Sag, Drag And Fall by Sid
King & The Five Strings is the most
Royal Philharmonic team up with The Big O, and obvious cover, and they acquit
themselves well in comparison with
reissues from Ike Turner and James Brown… the original. Good cover art on this
12-tracker, with English lyrics
concerned with life’s staples of

The Overtones
There’s no doubt that The Overtones are the UK’s biggest selling quasi-doo-wop group in decades.
After eight years, and now a quartet, the group release their sixth album and back it up with a tour that
seemingly visits every town and hamlet in the country.
Alongside a few originals, the group’s repertoire encompasses material from the 70s disco era such as the
first single from the CD, You To Me Are Everything, originally by The Real Thing, who started their musical life
as doo-wop group The Chants, and
Billy Ocean’s Love Really Hurts Smiley Lewis
Without You. ROOTIN’ & TOOTIN’: THE
Revivals like The Drifters’ Save COMPLETE IMPERIAL SINGLES
The Last Dance for Me, and the 1950-61
Motown standard My Girl work in a JASMINE
pleasant middle-of-the-road way, -----
but they really come unstuck with R&B singer, guitarist and songwriter
their attempt at Bobby Day’s Smiley Lewis of New Orleans cut
Rockin’ Robin, which sounds like more than 90 sessions in a 10-year
a cover on the Woolworth’s period, most of which are real
Embassy label. rock’n’roll. But he never conquered
Part of the problem may be the the pop market, and it was left to
missing member from this others like Fats Domino with Blue
one-time quintet was the lead Monday and Elvis Presley with One
singer, and instead of replacing Night to sell shedloads of songs
him, they share leads. However, the Smiley cut first. This double CD runs
late Timmy Matley’s voice does to 61 tracks, and there’s not a duff
appear on one track. Your next one among them. The cream of
mission: Which track? New Orleans R&B, from Huey Piano
Smith to Fats Domino, back him.
CD Album Reviews

JD McPherson
The least likely person to cut a Christmas record has to be roots
rocker JD McPherson, who first came to our attention with North Side
Gal. However, JD claims this is not a Christmas cash-in, but a fully
fledged rock’n’roll release. And he’s right. The title track is an
amusing, child-like complaint about receiving socks for Christmas,
and many of a certain age will sympathise with that. But it’s
The Embassy Studios Band The Bullets untypical of most of the tracks, most of which rock like the clappers.
A FOOTTAPPING CHRISTMAS BOPPIN’N’SCREAMIN’ There are 11 originals written by JD and musical friends, covering
FOOTTAPPING RECORDS WESTERN STAR every seasonal subject, from the magical All The Gifts I Need to the
---- ---- ‘Bah Humbug’ of Ugly Christmas Sweater. The absolute stand-out
With an all-star line-up including A novel concept, putting three vinyl track, and one likely to get played when Christmas 2018 is just a
Darrel Higham, John O’Malley and four-track EPs, plus a bonus track, memory, is a solid
Bill Crittenden among them it onto one CD for those who missed rocker called
would seem likely that a quality the seven-inchers. This is solid Twinkle (Little
seasonal product would emerge. rockabilly from a band who have Christmas Lights)
And it has. The 14 tracks here mix shown consistency on every format, which JD has
standards with originals, plus an offering 12 tracks plus Boppin’ n’ performed live but
inspired rockabilly revival of the Screamin’ as the bonus. Brett never released on
novelty Grandma Got Run Over By A Waters not only has a fine voice, any format until
Reindeer from The Accidents. John but writes great songs, too. We now. We suggest
O’Malley’s take on Santa Looked A loved the instrumental Missin’ Link, buying the full CD
Lot Like Daddy from the Buck Owens a tribute to the late twangmeister album to get it,
songbook is also notable. This is Mr Wray, and Adam Burney since it’s not on
great fun and a must for any rockin’ guesting on harmonica on Let The the digital
gift list. Season’s greetings to all of Bad Times Roll shows the band are download.
the acts concerned! no slouch at blues boppers either.

Wanda Jackson
This 58-track 2xCD set tracks Wanda from a country cowgirl to her
exalted title of The Queen of Rockabilly over an eight-year period
that saw Elvis Presley’s sometime girlfriend become a star.
She erupted on to the UK scene with a storming take on Elvis’ Let’s
Have A Party on Capitol, but American country audiences were
already familiar with her thanks to Decca label hits, included here.
El Camino The Collins Kids Stand out tracks include her original of Silver Threads And Golden
8 DAYS ’N’ DUSTED ROCKIN’ AND BOPPIN’ Needles, Honey Bop and the oft-recorded Fujiyama Mama. Wanda’s
WESTERN STAR JASMINE versatility allowed her to croon country ballads, and then give the
--- ---- rough end of her tongue to roar out rockers like Mean Mean Man.
A second album from hard-driving So sad that this greatest hits She was always given A-list backings, particularly on Capitol,
rockabilly band El Camino, who compilation should turn into a where piano often dominated, and she not only wrote many of her
present some fine originals memorial album for the late Lorrie biggies, but was also offered first chance to record new songs from
alongside a logical Lee Dresser Collins who passed away in August top writers. This release
cover and a less likely revival of an 2018. They were a rockabilly novelty contains a detailed,
Elvis Costello hit. The Lee Dresser in the 50s, with Lorrie standing tall illustrated booklet that
track is Beat Out My Love, while over her ace guitarist little brother also lists her chart
Costello’s Oliver’s Army gets a Larry, but there was no faulting positions in both country
worthwhile re-tread in El Camino their harmonies and onstage and pop charts, both in
style. Their originals are well- confidence. They will be the US and the UK.
observed commentaries and spoofs remembered for Beetle Bug Bop, Considering her ongoing
including The Nutter, No Neck Nelly Hoy Hoy, and Whistle Bait, along influence, it’s fascinating
and In The Pit. Strong vocals with many other tracks that defined that back in the day she
throughout against an authentic the 70s rockabilly revival and which struggled for hits despite
backing suggests this latest offering are still played today. Great value the quality of the output.
will win them more fans. with no less than 35 excellent tracks.
CD Album Reviews

Lindsay Beaver
I’ve got a new favourite female singer. So apologies to Vicky Tafoya,
you’ll have to make do with second place. Chanteuse in question is
Lindsay Beaver, a stand-up tattooed drummer from Canada now
based in Austin, Texas, who has been described as halfway between
Little Richard and Amy Winehouse by Alligator Records boss
Bruce Iglauer.
Roy Orbison Jack Scott This stunning 12-tracker covers 50s rock’n’roll, swamp pop, blues
UNCHAINED MELODIES THE SINGLES AND ALBUMS and ballads but with a voice as powerful as this she could sing the
SONY COLLECTION 1957-62 phone book and still impress. Many of the songs are originals, but
--- ACROBAT her wide tastes encompass Slim Harpo’s Got Love If You Want It, Art
The key credit here is… ‘with The ----- Neville’s Let’s Rock and fellow Austinite Angela Strehli’s Lost Cause.
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’. There have been a number of Stand out track, if I had to pick one, would be her original entitled
Where 2017’s RPO-aided A Love So big-voiced Jack Scott compilations Too Cold To Cry, a rolling, bluesy offering that could be an out-take
Beautiful focused on Roy’s hits, over the years, but few as from Little Richard’s first
Unchained Melodies is driven by comprehensive as this fine offering. album. Her band is
material that “specifically lends Every one of his charting singles, exceptional, too, with
itself to the orchestral format”. both A-sides and flips, are included Brad Stivers on guitar and
Which means ballads Blue Bayou, among the 60 tracks here, and Josh Williams on bass,
Danny Boy, Falling… that often there’s not a duff one among them. and guests such as Marcia
already had strings on them. There’s also selected tracks from Ball on piano.
Add a whole orchestra and you LPs that were never singles. Scott’s This is Lindsay’s debut
have a syrupy middle-of-the- versatility ran from wild rockabilly under her own name, and
road mix that sometimes drowns to deep dark ballads, and it’s safe to say: a career
Roy’s astonishing voice – and fortunately he is still with us, and is born.
that will be a big NO to Big his voice is in good shape. Buy this,
O aficionados. and see him when you can.

Ike Turner And The Kings Of Rhythm

Ike Turner, one of the true architects of rock’n’roll alongside Johnny
Otis and Sam Phillips, was so prolific in his early years that even a
60-track double-CD collection only skims the surface of his huge,
pre-Tina, career. Many suggest his Rocket 88 from 1951 as the first
rock’n’roll record, even if a label mix-up gave the credit to vocalist
Jackie Brenston And His Delta Cats.
Most of this well-curated collection has Ike writing, producing, Gona Lehtinen James Brown & The
playing guitar or piano no matter who got the credit on the label, as FLY NOW! Famous Flames
he made his mark not only as a performer, but as a talent scout for, BLUELIGHT THE FEDERAL & KING SINGLES
among others, Sun, Chess, Meteor, and Modern records. So every cut --- 1956-62
has Ike’s stamp on it, and from 1951 to 1960, the trademark sound Guitar maestro Gona may choose to ACROBAT
was uptempo jump blues or, as some call it, rock’n’roll. record tracks from rockabilly stars ----
Turner was like Nick Curran, or jump blues from Long before James Brown was the
responsible for the the likes of Roy Brown, but this self-styled Minister Of New New
first recordings of showcase is most likely to appeal to Super Heavy Funk, he was a jump
artists as diverse as fans of well-played guitar. There are blues and ballad singer. Certainly,
Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, only four vocal tracks, with Chonnie-On-Chon, included here,
Little Milton and songstress Ria Korhola guesting, was out-and-out rock’n’roll and
Johnny O’Neal, some while the eight remaining tracks there are various other uptempo
of whom became show why Gona has been lead gems among the 57 tracks spread
latterly famous. This guitarist of choice for a host of across two CDs. But it was the
is a truly fabulous Scandi, and international, stars. ballads Try Me and Please Please
compilation which no Listen for influences as diverse as Please that established brother
record collection Django Reinhardt and Chet Atkins James as a national powerhouse,
should be without. but this is no MOR album, as the out and he remained at the top for the
and out rockers prove. rest of his life.
● Painstakingly remastered for best fidelity.
● Limited edition of 500 on colored vinyl.

● The Tielman Brothers were a cult band in Germany and

Holland, famed for their fantastic live gigs.
● This album was mainly recorded in November 1964, with only
one track a true live recording
TIELMAN ON STAGE Ltd. Edition (500 copies) *
10-Inch COLORED Vinyl • 10 tracks • BEAR FAMILY RECORDS BAF 11018

● Vince Taylor is a true rock legend – his Brand New Cadillac

was covered by The Clash in 1979.
● Originally a French 10" album from 1961, this reissue comes
with bonus tracks from his first two singles.
LE ROCK C’EST ÇA! Ltd. Edition (500 copies) *
10-Inch COLORED Vinyl • 12 tracks • BEAR FAMILY RECORDS BAF 11017


w w w. b e a r- f a m i l y. c o m




Ace Corner, North Circular Road
RACE WITH THE DEVIL Stonebridge, London NW10 7UD
TEL 020 8961 1000
9PM – 1AM ENTRY £12 SORRY NO UNDER 18’S london.acecafe.com
Hemsby Weekender

Even at 79, Gary ‘US’ Bonds still

performs with the vocal firepower
of someone half his age

Hemsby Weekender

The final Hemsby Weekender of 2018 #61
was the end of an era, as veteran
organiser Willie Jeffery announced he is stepping
down. But a host of great acts saw this landmark
event go out with a bang… setting a high standard
for the new Hemsby that is coming in 2019

itmaker Gary ‘US’ Bonds proved he was remains agile, and had an easy rapport with the crowd.
a good investment when he headlined Producer and owner of Virginia’s Legrand Records
a packed Hemsby 61 Rock’n’Roll Frank Guida may have written and engineered Bond’s
Weekender at the Norfolk holiday park. Still with early hits, but apparently didn’t share the royalties with
an impressive head of hair and a powerful voice, he the singer, as Gary told the audience.
delighted the crowds with a selection of his party hits He erupted on stage to his debut hit New Orleans,
including, of course, New Orleans and Quarter To Three. ably supported by UK backing band, the oddly-
Co-headliners Rip Masters, also from the USA, and monikered MFC Chicken, and members of the ever-
Jack Baymoore And The Bandits, from Sweden, kept reliable vocal group The Chord Royales.
up the international flavour for a great weekend, tinged Confiding with a smile that he had sung his hits
with sadness since Hemsby organiser Willie Jeffery is more often than he cared to, Bonds conflated some of
handing over control after a 31-year run. his classics into a medley which included Twist Twist
A Hemsby Weekender is more than simply a string of Senora, School Is Out and Dear Lady Twist. His second
acts. There’s also record and clothing stalls, a car cruise, single, he explained, sold “only” 900,000 since it was
a jive contest and a Sunday boot sale, while the vintage believed by some radio jocks to be a tad salacious, but
rail excursions and trips on the Broads often turned a failed to find “fun” too near the mark as he reprised
visit to Willie Jeffery’s weekender into a fun holiday. 1960’s Not Me. Seven Day Weekend featured in the
But it was Gary ‘US’ Bond the crowds had come to British film It’s Trad, Dad!, and was included, if not
see and hear, an infrequent UK visitor making his attained, while I Wanna Holler (But The Town’s Too
weekender debut… Small) got a good response.
Bruce Springsteen was a fan of Bond’s back in the day,
WHEN GARY ‘US’ Bonds’ New Orleans was and gave his boyhood hero a second bite of the cherry,
released in 1960, Disc magazine declared that the record and chart hit, with This Little Girl, which The Boss
– with its wild, party atmosphere – could not have been produced in 1981. Perhaps surprisingly, it garnered the
made in Britain, and they’d have no doubt believed its best response to the set so far.
spaced out, echo sounds couldn’t be reproduced on His biggest seller and number one US hit Quarter
stage either. To Three reliably brought the house down, and having
But they were proved wrong when Gary headlined successfully delivered one medley to the crowd,
over The Beatles on his first UK tour in 1963… and switched to full-on party mode with a running mix
recreated that sound exactly once more at Hemsby in including Johnny B Goode, Hound Dog, Shake, Be-Bop-
2018. Now 79, Gary – by hobby, a champion golfer – A-Lula and Lucille.

Hemsby Weekender

Jack Baymoore And

The Bandits flew in
from Sweden

Scottish combo Rockville brought

their Johnny Burnette-influenced
rockabilly to the weekend

Rip Masters wowed the

crowds with his version of
Swansee River Boogie

The crowd had found its dancing feet, and sent Gary
off with a huge cheer.

THE WEEKEND HAD started off with a

Thursday night pre-show party headlined by the man
who re-introduced America to rockabilly, Levi Dexter.
Now living back in the UK with top model spouse Levi Dexter (formerly of
Bernie, Levi always gives good value both vocally 80s revivalists Levi And
The Rockats) and his
and visually with a set list enhanced by a scattering wife, Bernie
of rockabilly standards. Rip Masters, playing both
keyboards and guitar, is as well known as a songwriter Californian Jackie Lee Cochran. Mark Kemlo’s band
and sidesman as he is as an artist, but he hit the ground backed Rip and are members of The Shufflers with
running on his Friday night slot. Swanee River Boogie Mark on drums, Tony Biggs on bass and Rob Nedin on
showed his keyboard mastery, and the vocal Trouble Is guitar. It was mainly an uptempo set, but Rip varied the
Her Name is his own composition recorded by fellow pace with what turned out to be Gene Vincent’s last
recording, a plaintive ballad entitled The Rose Of Love,
on which Rip played piano. He also played piano on most
Rip’s main claim to fame of the early Rollin’ Rock label recordings organised by
is writing Rockabilly Ronnie Weiser. Possibly his main claim to fame, however,

Man, and his own version is writing Rockabilly Man, covered by Ray Campi and
20 others, and Rip’s own version was greeted warmly.
was greeted warmly Amazingly, this was his first Hemsby appearance.

Hemsby Weekender



started was to bring over original American acts “We invested in a superb PA system, the
from the 50s who had never been seen in engineers to keep it sounding as good as it
Britain. We attracted audiences from all over could be, lighting technicians, the top comperes
the world, from Japan, Spain, Germany and and disc jockeys, offering our guests the chance
even Australia. to meet the stars, what I believe to be the best
“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to book printed programme with details of all the acts
the originals. Many have passed on, others have and many other aspects that turned our
retired from music. I am aware that rock’n’roll is weekenders into unforgettable events.
changing, and I am pleased to hand over to Bill, “I would like to thank the many, many people
who has got his finger on the pulse and knows I’ve come to rely on for the smooth running of
what today’s audiences want. the shows, and our thousands of regulars who
“We are immensely proud of what we’ve ceased to be customers and turned into friends.
achieved, both for the artists and for the fans, Our records show we brought in 127 original
and we wanted to go out on a high rather than American acts over 31 years, which speaks for
dilute the quality and quantity of the acts we itself. I would like to reassure everyone that
Hemsby 61 Rock’n’Roll Weekender proved book, and watch the weekenders gradually I’m not hanging up my leather jacket and
historic in more ways than one. Organiser of the peter out. abandoning rock’n’roll, the only music I love,
festival Willie Jeffery (above with wife Varrick) “Obviously, I’m saddened to stop running and will still keep my hand in with other
announced he was standing down, bringing Hemsby, which has been a huge part of my life, promotions.
down the curtain on the longest run of any and that of my wife Varrick, who has been “Finally, I would like to thank all those who
promoter on the weekender scene. Willie, now essential in the continuing success of the shows. came in both May and October to attend
78, is handing over the reins to promoter, disc I didn’t imagine when we started that we would successive Hemsby weekenders, without whom
jockey and group manager Bill Guntrip, a still be running all these years later. we wouldn’t have been able to reach the
well-known figure in retro music. “But the time is right for me to stop, and milestone of 61 consecutive successful shows.
Willie explained: “When we started 31 years hand over to the next generation, whose “I’m sure they will remain loyal to the new
ago, it was just us. Now there are 76 similar members are as enthusiastic about rock’n’roll as promoters, and I’m particularly pleased Hemsby
festivals each year in the UK, Europe and we are. We can look back on what we have done is going to be in a safe pair of hands.”
beyond, which means no-one is more than two with the confidence that we did it right and our Vintage Rock will have more on the future of
hours drive from a show. Our aim when we legacy continues. Hemsby in the next issue, out 7 February 2019.

Jack Baymoore And The Bandits from Sweden now. Their influences are
preceded him, and Jack broke a string on his guitar Johnny Burnette, Johnny Cash,
almost immediately. The Bandits reacted swiftly, moving and The Planet Rockers.
straight into the instrumental Cottonpickin’ and should Tex Speed Combo from
consider adding that sublime Night Raiders tune to their Bolton played Hemsby 46, 48
regular set. Jack, fronting the band for 22 years now, and 50 with much acclaim
both looks and sounds the part in his black shirt and and, made up of previous
rockabilly attitude. The highlight, of course, was the members of The Crawdads and
iconic A-V8 Boogie, but other originals like Drunk Tank Rhythmaires, they play raw
Boogie, Flat Out and I’m Not Crazy sat well alongside rockabilly and classics.
standards like Charlie Feathers’ One Hand Loose and The Danny McVey Trio is
Marlon Grisham’s Ain’t That A Dilly. Baymoore was based in London: Danny first
rewarded with two encores. played Hemsby at an open mic
Elsewhere, some of the newer acts shone on a slot many years ago, and is now
The Danny McVey Trio,
generations-spanning lineup. Race With The Devil, a respected act releasing CDs blasting their way through
formed in 2013, play Gene Vincent’s classics of the on Rollin’ Records and he kept some prime rock’n’roll stomp
Cliff Gallup era, but were unfortunate in their opening up his reputation here. Deville
slot on Thursday when most of attendees were yet to Rebels, a four-piece hard rockin’ rockabilly
arrive. They still played however like they would in band from Wales, play a mix of covers and originals
front of a full house. Also on were The Busboys from and will be recording some tracks at Sun Studios in
Swansea, who play classic rockabilly. They formed in Memphis in July 2019. Dime Store Dukes, formed
1983, disbanded in 1985, but then got back together again in 2015, hail from Lancashire and have just played
in 2016. This was the first band in which Rob Nedin the Shakedown Weekender in Gloucestershire and
(Rimshots/Shufflers) started playing lead guitar. performed their original rockabilly – influenced by
Rockville, the three-piece rockabilly band from Sonny Fisher, Jumpin’ Gene Simmons and Carl Perkins
central Scotland, have been performing for five years – to an appreciative crowd.

Hemsby Weekender

Glenn Doran And The Prairie

Echoes brought the spirit of
Nashville to Hemsby

French rockers Barny And 17-year-old Dylan Kirk

The All Stars delivered a showed that rockabilly is
ferociously energetic set about attitude, not age

Dylan Kirk And The Killer Combo are from band, with members from Hertfordshire and Devon,
Faversham, Kent. Proving 50s rock’n’roll still has appeal their influences being The Maddox Brothers And Rose,
across the generations, Dylan started performing two Jimmy And Johnny and The Delmore Brothers, not
years ago at just 15 years old, but even at his young age to mention plenty of 50s country and Johnny Cash.
he has played at both the Good Rockin’ Tonight Festival Barny And The Rhythm All Stars, meanwhile, came
in France and the Firebirds Festival in Germany. The in from Paris and can’t be faulted for their enthusiasm
song that inspired him to start playing piano was Jerry and fabulously energetic set which saw frontman Barny
Lee Lewis’ Crazy Arms but he is also influenced by Gene stage diving and singing from the audience at the end.
Vincent, Sonny Burgess and Carl Perkins. MFC Chicken, who were also backing band for
A different flavour of retro was provided by Glenn Gary ‘US’ Bonds but also had their own set, are highly
Doran And The Prairie Echoes, who play hillbilly bop entertaining too, and look the part in smart black
and have a passion for honkytonk. They are a quality Maverick ties and white shirts.
Last Call Romance flew in from Fort Collins, Colorado,
and have plenty of US festivals under their belt. The
Dylan Kirk is from five-piece are not tied to any particular style, write their
Faversham, Kent, and started own songs, and offer a blend of rockabilly, blues and
performing two years ago at swing influenced by Elvis and Patsy Cline, fronted as
they are by the talented Emily Winters.
just 15 years old From closer to Hemsby came Harry Violet And


ORDER YOUR COPY FROM shop.anthem-publishing.com /specials


Hemsby Weekender

Last Call Romance delivered

a heady cocktail of
rockabilly, blues and swing

Harry Violet And The Sharks

brought some dark, psychobilly
grooves to the weekend

The Playboys closed

Hemsby this year

have the easiest time. Their act was marred by delays

between numbers, but it didn’t put off the audience, who
gave them a roaring reception and two encores. They
seemed surprised, but probably shouldn’t have been –
their reputation and quality was enough to see off any
The Sharks, an explosive sax-driven rock’n’roll quartet technical troubles and show how strong, along with The
from London that dished up raw versions of their Velvet Candles, Spain really is for classic doo-wop.
favourite sounds of the late 50s and early 60s. For fans of So to the end of the weekend, and The Playboys were
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, The Cramps and The Lounge the only band who could close out the last Hemsby
Lizards, they’re great. under Willie Jeffery’s reign. The lineup of Ricky
Back in country territory came Johnny Trouble and McCann (drums), Wayne Hopkins (bass), Clive
his band from Germany. Johnny’s a busy gigger back Osbourn (sax) and Rob Glazebrook on lead guitar have
home and has a number of albums to his name, and he backed more than 20 original American acts at Hemsby,
and his boys performed a fine set of 50s-style country, a and remain the go-to guys for authentic rockabilly.
little rockabilly, certainly with a debt to Johnny Cash but I’ve seen their break-up show at Hemsby, their reunion
with their own lighthearted twist. show, and it’s still great to see them once more whatever
Also popular in Europe is The Del Prince from the circumstances. It was a great finish to another
Madrid: not fronted by a guy called Derek, but a five- excellent weekender with, fortunately, many more
piece doo-wop vocal group who, unfortunately, didn’t to come. 9


anthem-publish RDER ONLINE A
ing.com / vinylb T


Vince Eager


It’s not all rock’n’roll for Vince Eager, as he recounts days

of brief encounters with West End theatre producers as
he gets pushed towards auditions for stage plays, musicals
and even the movies…

uring the representative, he arranged for me to see every
1950s performance of Johnnie’s when he appeared at the
and early Cambridge Theatre for two weeks in the late 1950s.
1960s, showbiz
agents were in many AT THE TIME of Larry Parnes hearing about Tommy
ways much more Steele via the Fleet Street journalist John Kennedy,
important than the Larry had already become an impresario by taking over
artists’ managers. a struggling touring play that was due to appear in the
The general public West End. It was a somewhat seedy script based on
were often under London’s ladies of the night, and the advance booking
the impression that for its opening in the capital were far from favourable.
it was the managers John Kennedy told Larry not to worry, as he “would sort
who were solely it out.” But John’s method of “sorting it out” came as a
responsible for the success of an artist, but more often shock to Larry Parnes – when he arrived at the theatre,
than not it was their agents too. And agents dealt in there were what appeared to be prostitutes accosting
all sorts. theatre-goers as they entered the building. “Don’t
During the 1950s, there were various agencies located worry,” whispered John in Larry’s ear, “everything is
in London’s West End who solely put together variety going great” …and it was. As the curtain went up, John
shows for the hundreds of theatres across the UK. was outside the theatre watching the police arrive and
My manager, Larry Parnes, was involved with the questioning the “prostitutes” who had been accosting
Foster’s Agency of Piccadilly Circus which had various the general public. He said nothing as the police moved
specialist departments handling theatres, films and them on with a warning not to return or they would
television. Head of the variety department was one be arrested, but this didn’t deter the “prostitutes” and
Hymie Zahl. Hymie was approximately five-feet tall, they were back the following night causing yet more
and that’s being generous, and his eyesight was even embarrassment to theatre-goers. But watched from
worse than that of Mr Magoo. When he read anything, afar by John Kennedy, the devious plan fell into place
it would, on occasions, have to be as close as two inches as Fleet Street photographers snapped away to record
from his face; likewise when he was meeting you! With the mayhem developing around Cambridge Circus.
me at 6ft 4in, I had to lean forward… otherwise Hymie The morning’s newspapers were full of the story, and
would have been talking to my navel. I really enjoyed within hours the booking office was inundated with
Hymie’s company, however, and I think he did mine. calls culminating in the run of the play actually being
Occasionally, unbeknownst to Larry Parnes, I would extended. The actors/prostitutes got off with warnings
call into Hymie’s office for a chat: he was always after being suitably rewarded by John for their services.
very gracious and would suggest artistes I should see Larry Parnes quickly learned that the power of the press
perform in order to learn my craft, and tell me of the was just that… very powerful!
dos and don’ts of the business. He knew I was a massive “Publicity is everything” soon became Larry’s
Johnnie Ray fan and, as he was Johnnie’s European mantra and having signed a partnership deal with the

A Life in Rock’n’Roll
© Graham Fowell

mischievous John Kennedy, Parnes & Kennedy became Both Larry Parnes and Hymie Zahl were gay
major players with the signing of the first of their many
artistes – Tommy Hicks, soon to become Tommy Steele. and partners in a recently opened gay club in
With Steele, Larry would control the business side of the Old Compton Street called the Golden Guitar
partnership; John, the publicity.
With Elvis Presley and Bill Haley fast establishing
themselves in the British charts, John Kennedy realised interests. There were certain personal factors in Larry’s
that rock’n’roll was the way to go, and persuaded favour however – both he and Hymie were gay and
Tommy to take up the challenge. And, as a merchant partners in a recently opened gay club in Old Compton
seaman, Tommy had discovered rock’n’roll in the Street called the Golden Guitar.
United States when he saw Buddy Holly, so he was With Marty Wilde and myself being the next signings
slightly ahead of the game compared to most to the Parnes & Kennedy stable, Tommy began to feel
British artists. that the rock’n’roll market was developing way too fast
With crafty publicity manipulation on John for his liking and decided to diversify in the hope of
Kennedy’s part, and Larry’s support from Hymie Zahl, becoming more of an all-round entertainer. The lead
it wasn’t long before Tommy was charging up the charts role in the musical Hans Christian Anderson made a
with his first Decca release, Rock With The Caveman. quick transition complete, and it wasn’t long before
Concerts and more hits followed for Tommy, but he was Tommy signed with musical impresario Harold Fielding
soon having to deal with UK rock’n’roll competition who he remained with for much of his career.
in the form of Terry Dene, Wee Willie Harris and The Regrettably, Tommy and his fellow performers
Most Brothers – all of whom had been discovered by didn’t always see eye to eye, and there are numerous
Paul Lincoln, the owner of the 2i’s coffee bar in Old stories of altercations and reprisals he was subjected
Compton Street (see page 30). Such was the popularity to. One example is that whilst performing in the hugely
of the 2i’s, that artistes were queuing up to play for free successful Singing In The Rain, such was his perceived
in the hope Paul Lincoln would sign them up; but with behaviour to the dancers and stage-hands that, prior
Paul using Hymie Zahl as the agent to represent his to a performance, they would pee in the water-holding
managed artists, it appeared there could be a conflict of tank over the stage. With the water gushing down on

Vince Eager

Felkin/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty

Tommy in the rain shower sequence, they considered

they’d got their ‘revenge’.

THE SIX-FIVE SPECIAL BBC TV show, followed by
ITV’s Oh Boy!, were both produced by Jack Good and
were major productions when it came to showcasing TOP LEFT Oh Boy! producer and of course… but we never did find out if Jack actually got
rock’n’roll talents. Both managers and agents alike manager to the stars Jack Good his vacuum cleaner.
soon got wise to offering all manner of rewards to ABOVE Army-bothering,
persuade Jack to feature their charges in his shows – an window-smashing, alcohol- WHEN I WAS contemplating leaving Larry Parnes,
appearance on a Jack Good production really could add abusing bad boy Terry Dene I confided in Hymie and he suggested I look beyond
a zero to an artiste’s fee overnight. music. He said I should meet a Mr Kitchener who was
As powerful a person as Hymie Zahl was in the the head of another department of Foster’s Agency, the
world of agents, Jack Good was his equal in the world movie and stage division. Unbeknownst to Larry (again),
of television. Hymie knew an appearance on any of a meeting was arranged and Kitchener first commented
Jack’s shows was priceless for one of his artistes, and he on my height and then my features, indicating I would
was desperate to get Jack to use Terry Dene on TV. be excellent for both stage and screen. This really
Terry was going through a bad time. He was thrown cheered me up and brought back the memories of my
out of the army, arrested for being drunk and smashing a being hit on by Burt Lancaster at Churchill’s nightclub
shop window in Wigmore Street, and then his marriage with the offer of a part in his movie Elmer Gantry,
to Edna Savage failed. What Terry needed was positive subject to playing my cards right.
press and under Jack’s guidance he could get it. “They’re looking for an understudy for Officer
I knew that before being approached by Hymie, Jack Krupke for West Side Story, Hymie!” said Mr Kitchener.
Good had already decided he would use Terry on the “The boy [ie, me] could be great for that role. Let me put
show. However, not knowing this, Hymie contacted him forward.”
Jack and put a proposal to him. The offer was: if Jack The audition was held late one morning at Her
featured Terry on Oh Boy!, Hymie would buy Jack a Majesty’s Theatre in the Haymarket, and I felt sick as
vacuum cleaner. Jack thought this was hilarious, but I went through the stage door. Ticking my name off
didn’t have the heart to tell Hymie he’d already decided his list, the stage door manager directed me to the rear
to use Dene. Terry did eventually appear on Oh Boy!, stalls where I registered and awaited my fate. It wasn’t
long before I was called, and a script was thrust into my
Terry Dene was going through a bad time. hand. As I stood centre downstage I was asked to read
the lines in a New York accent whilst walking across the
He was thrown out of the army, arrested for stage. What followed were the most nerve-wracking
being drunk and smashing a shop window few minutes of my life. Within a few minutes I was on

A Life in Rock’n’Roll

Governor Films/Getty

my way back to the tube station, having been told that ABOVE June Ritchie and reveal a very glamorous middle-aged lady who politely
I was “too young and inexperienced for the role”, but I Not Vince Eager (AKA Alan invited me in and offered me a throne-like chair in the
Bates) in John Schlesinger’s
“looked good on stage.” With no comment forthcoming kitchen sink classic, A Kind reception area. Feeling my heart racing I was already
on my New York accent, I assumed they were sparing Of Loving beginning to regret having agreed to come at all, but
my feelings. here I was – so I had to make the most of it.
It came as something of a shock when, two years later, Within minutes, two more doors of giant proportions
and post-Larry Parnes, I received another phone call were opened to reveal what looked like a ballroom with
from Mr Kitchener inviting me to visit him once again. a very grand desk situated about 30 feet away at the
“You’re from the north country, Vince, aren’t you?” he far end. Behind the desk sat two gentlemen. Following
asked when I went to his office. I replied, “Well, Mr what seemed like an eternity, I was asked to walk
Kitchener, Grantham in Lincolnshire is certainly up towards them slowly and take my place on yet another
north from here… but I think it’s classed as the East regal-looking chair. After a few personal questions and
Midlands and it’s surrounded by fields full of spuds and small talk, I was asked to read from the script in my
carrots.” “Can you do a Lancashire accent?” he asked. “best Lancashire accent”. Mr Janni and Mr Schlesinger
I explained that I’d certainly give it a try, but why? thanked me profusely following my reading, shook my
“There’s a film entitled A Kind Of Loving being cast, and hand and said they would be contacting Mr Kitchener.
I think you could possibly be what they’re looking for. A few days later, Mr Kitchener phoned me with the
It’s set in Lancashire and it’s being directed by a man news that my audition “went very well, but they felt that
called John Schlesinger and produced by Joe Janni… I wasn’t rugged enough” and “my Lancashire accent not
and they’re happy to meet you.” strong enough.”
It was only a matter of days before I found myself in Any aspirations I may have had to become a film
Curzon Street, Mayfair, looking at the property I had star soon faded. And when I eventually saw the movie,
been given the address of. It had a palatial façade with it was with a guy named Alan Bates in that role I had
Roman-style marble pillars leading to a double front auditioned for. He turned in an amazing, award-winning
door that appeared to be twice my height. I gingerly performance… and the only comfort I could draw from
pulled the bell handle and the door opened slowly to his future successes was that Alan couldn’t sing! 9

Soundtrack of my life

Peggy Sue
Like most 13-year-olds at school,
I didn’t know what I wanted to do
and it was my art teacher Alan
Glover who sowed the seeds of my
rockabilly passion. He had an old
acoustic guitar which he played
occasionally in class, and he played
a song I’d never heard called Peggy
Sue. I was so infatuated that he
taught me the chords, and as I was
left-handed I had to play them
upside down. But before long I was
playing along and little did I know
that this song I was playing would
be the deciding factor as to my
musical direction.

The Bullets’ lead guitarist

and vocalist, Brett Waters


Barefoot Baby
Dingwall’s in Camden Town was the
place to be seen, other than on
Thursdays when there was a special
rockabilly night around the corner
at the Camden Working Men’s Club.

Brett Waters
The first evening I visited the club
there was this amazing record
being played titled Barefoot Baby

OF The Bullets
by Janis Martin. Janis was being
marketed as the female Elvis and
she was young, she was beautiful
and she was wild. She’d had a few
hits in America, but for me, when
The Bullets have been pumping out prime-cut Barefoot Baby kicked in I suddenly
rockabilly for over 30 years now. Here, vocalist realised that this was all I wanted
in life – I had to become a
Brett Waters shares his personal rockin’ Top 10 professional singer.
Soundtrack of my life

Till The End Of The Day Dirty Robber Four O’Clock Baby Cat Squirrel
1965 1965 1958 1961
Following my discovery of Peggy When we formed our band, and as In my teens, I was very fortunate in With a new found love of rockabilly
Sue, I bought myself a guitar. I was the one with a guitar, it was finding a few rockabilly clubs in music and a new gang of friends,
I couldn’t find anyone interested in suggested that I should be the Camden Town, London, where I discovered an underground scene
starting a band, but two mates who singer. I’d never sang before, but I lived. I was totally unaware of that was really rockin’! The original
were into 60s music said they’d be I gave it a go with the response what rockabilly really was back Dingwalls in Camden Town was
up for a jam. I wasn’t too keen at being, “That’s it! You’ll do!” I was then, but I soon found myself being where you went on a Saturday
first, but they gave me a ‘Best Of given an album by a band called drawn more and more towards it afternoon and a Sunday night, and
The Kinks’ album to give me an idea The Sonics, my mates said they with every track that the DJs I did every single week. My
of the music they liked. I listened were a bit like The Kinks but from played. One of the songs that now-good friend, DJ Mouse, still
over and over and the track that the US, wilder and more dangerous- I remember was Four O’Clock Baby. runs the club and one track that he
blew me away was Till The End Of sounding. I listened and I especially When I first heard this mono, played made the crowd go wild.
The Day. Even though the track loved this track, Dirty Robber. screeching, and treble-heavy track, It was Dr Ross’ Cat Squirrel and it
wasn’t rock’n’roll, the raw energy Even now when I’m writing, I often it proved to be the most amazing has a thumping beat with
sent shivers down my spine and my think of the energy that tracks like sound I’d ever heard – to this day, harmonica, guitar and drums.
first band was forged this deliver. my vinyl copy is still a favourite and A blues boppin’ sound that still
one of the most prized possessions makes me just want to dance
in my record collection. all night!

The Slide Rock-A-Cha Roadside Diner Plantation Boogie

When I decided to put a band One of the top rockabilly bands on 2015 Tracks like this are not to everyone’s
together with some scene buddies the worldwide scene for over a After 30-odd years, I still have a taste on the rockabilly scene, but
in the 80s, this was the first song decade has been Jack Rabbit Slim real passion for rockabilly music this song is a guaranteed floor-filler
we rehearsed and to this day it’s and I’m a massive fan, especially of including connected genres like when it’s played in any club. It has a
still one of my all-time favourites. their recording Rock-A-Cha. What a blues, western swing, hillbilly and great feel to it and to me it’s simply
The Slide has such a killer beat and track! I’m very fortunate to call early country music… to me, what a beautiful piece of work from the
it resonates right through to my frontman Bob Butfoy and Western Lynette and the band do is pure era. It’s not overly wild as many
bones. Once this music is in you Star Records owner Alan Wilson my class and they have combined many early rockabilly tracks were, but
then I think it never really goes good friends – without them both of these great musical influences. the musicianship and quality of
away. Most of my song choices are there would be no Bullets. Bob and It is all skilfully arranged to produce performance shines through.
1950s tracks, but this one is very the band were number one on the a true vintage sound that excites Pee Wee King was older than most.
special. It reminds me of being free, Western Star record label and they me every time I hear and see them He was 41 when this was released in
feeling like I could do anything encouraged me to contact Alan with play. Their musicianship is a 1955 but, like today on the rockabilly
I wanted. Camden was an incredible a view to recording. In 2012 I called pleasure to watch, and Lynette’s scene, age means nothing. When
place to be back then, and still is. him and within a matter of weeks vocal style is spot on. I love the it’s good, it’s good, and I love this.
we were signed. vintage sound they’ve perfected
and Roadside Diner is a classic.

The career of Connie Francis had been
up and down until Neil Sedaka came
along with a “puerile” song that he
thought would be an insult to a “classy
lady” like Connie. But what the heck,
reasoned his co-writer Howard Greenfield:
“What have we got to lose, she hates
everything we wrote, doesn’t she? Play it
already!” After hearing only a few lines, Francis
recalled: “I started jumping up and down and I said,
‘That’s it! You guys got my next record!’”
She was right. Stupid Cupid charted both sides of the
Atlantic, and reached No. 1 in the UK in September 1958. Lipstick
On Your Collar went to No. 3 in summer 1959, and – masterfully
playing the “cute” card to contrast with the “masculine kind of
music” of the male rockers – Connie soon racked-up 15 overall
UK Top 20 hits.

Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty

“Buddy Holly “He made it OK to “Buddy Holly
was way ahead wear glasses. was a
of his time” I was Buddy Holly” beautiful writer”