Thursday, July 30, 2015

Dirt City Chronicles Rock & Roll pt. 6


 
And You'll Never Hear Surf Music Again

It doesn't seem strange that the "King of the Surf Guitar" Dick Dale (Richard Anthony Monsour) was born in Boston and raised in Quincy,Mass. Nor that his father was born in Beirut and his maternal grandparents arrived in the U.S. from Poland. Nor that the first musical instrument he played was the tarabaki, a goblet drum he played under his arm while his Lebanese relatives belly-danced. Dick Dale is credited with introducing Middle Eastern influences to surf music in the form of rapid alternating picking and fast scales. “It's the pulsation, that drumming beat I learned by playing the tarabaki” A multi-instrumentalist, young Richard gravitated towards the guitar and surfing once his family moved cross country to El Segundo, Ca. while he was still in high school.

A common misconception is that Dick Dale's unique sound was the result of his Stratocaster played through “wet” spring reverb while using the vibrato arm to bend the pitch of notes downward. The reverb and rapid tremolo picking worked for others, but that wasn't Dale's style. In Ben Marcus' book “Surfing, an illustrated history of the coolest sport of all time” He laid those misconceptions to rest “I surfed sun up to sun down, I don't claim to be a musician, I didn't go to Julliard. I'm into just chopping, chopping at 60 gauge, 50 gauge strings. That's the sound, the sound of the waves chopping. The surfing is not the reverb. So when historians... so called historians, say reverb is the surf sound, they don't know what they're talking about.”

Dick Dale met Leo Fender in 1959 as he was transitioning away from his old repertoire of songs which Gordon McClelland described as “mostly rhythm & blues, funky cowboy music and just a bit of surf music” (An apt description as Dale favored jazz and country, citing Gene Krupa as his biggest influence) Problem was, Dick was pushing his equipment to its limit and simply couldn't duplicate on his guitar the sound he heard in his head. Leo Fender came up with a solution, an early prototype spring reverb unit that combined with Dick's signature staccato picking and heavy guitar strings allowed him to emulate the sound of the waves he heard while surfing. Another problem Dale had was that he kept blowing the amps that Fender gave him, trying to play over the noise of 4,000 stoked up surfers at the surfer stomps that he helped promote.

Out of desperation, Leo Fender went to JBL, a pioneering loudspeaker design company and asked for fifteen inch speakers built to his specifications. The result was the 15” JBL D130F better known as the Single Showman Amp (which Dick Dale still uses to this day) Another note of interest is that Dick Dale being left handed played his Stratocaster upside down and backwards, rather than re-stringing (Jimi Hendrix another famous left handed guitarist took that route) This adaptation amused Leo Fender to no end. But that technique, born out of necessity, only served to enhance Dick Dale's signature sound and his growing reputation. Paul Johnson, guitarist for the Belairs was duly impressed the first time he heard Dick play “The tone of Dale's guitar was bigger than any I had ever heard and his blazing technique was something to behold. His music was incredibly dynamic”


If everybody had an ocean
As early as 1957 Jan Berry was experimenting with different vocal techniques at his makeshift home studio in Westwood. His University H.S. class mates Dean Torrance and Arnie Ginsburg worked along with him until Torrance left for a stint in the Army Reserves. Jan Berry's first taste of success came in 1958 with "Jennie Lee" (a song about Hollywood stripper Virginia Lee Hicks, the “Bazoom Girl” best known for her strategically placed spinning tassels) Though Dean had worked on the song before his departure, it was credited to Jan and Arnie, peaking at #8 on the Billboard chart. Dean Torrance returned in 1959 and Ginsburg was drafted into the Army, giving rise to Jan and Dean.

"Baby Talk" released that year was a Top Ten hit. Sporting blonde flat tops, white bucks and Pat Boone sweaters, Jan and Dean were still far removed from the surf scene. Brian Wilson would claim that "Baby Talk" inspired him to write music, while Jan Berry said he was equally inspired by the Beach Boys' sound. Either way it wasn't until Jan & Dean recorded "Surf City" (two Girls for every boy!) in 1963 that they came to be associated with surf music. Surf City, a collaboration between Brian Wilson and Jan Berry, went all the way to #1. That break would lead to Jan and Dean scoring an impressive string of Top 40 hits, prior to the car accident that left Jan Berry with serious brain injuries in 1966.

Wilson's father Murry, who was also the band's manager, was irate about the song, believing that Brian had given away a number one record which could have gone to the Beach Boys. Brian took it in stride “I was proud of the fact that another group had a #1 hit with a song I had written.... but dad would hear none of it... he called Jan a record pirate” The three Wilson brothers (Brian, Carl and Dennis) grew up in Hawthorne, Ca. under the tutelage of their overbearing and abusive father. The brothers, their cousin Mike Love and class mate Al Jardine, honed their vocal skills during sessions held in Brian's bedroom. Creating a vocal style that would give voice to a genre that up until then had been mostly instrumental.

Originally known as the Pendletones (they all wore matching Pendleton plaid shirts, the kind now favored by cholos) Their first session took place at Bob Keen's recording studio (of Ritchie Valens fame) and resulted in Surfin' the band's first single release in late 1961. To the boys' chagrin when they opened the first box of singles (on the Candix label) the band had been renamed as The Beach Boys (Murry claimed it was because there was already a group called the Pendletones, while in reality he had suggested a name change, though his choice was The Surfers) Surfin' stalled at #74 on the national charts, though the following sessions would be more productive.

Their next single Surfin' Safari released in 1962 made it to #14 in the U.S. While the b-side 409 topped out at #76, putting hot rod music on the musical map for the first time. The follow up single, Ten Little Indians limped in at #49. This set the stage for The Beach Boys' break out year, 1963, which saw them release three Top 10 singles (Surfin' USA, Surfer Girl, Be True to Your School) and three more Top 40 singles (Shut Down, Little Deuce Coupe, In My Room) Number one still eluded them, which caused Murry Wilson no small amount of consternation, but without a doubt, surf music had arrived on the scene. 
 
Brian Wilson had his finger on SoCal's teenage pulse, equally proficient at writing about surfing, hot rods or teen angst in a style not that different from Eddie Cochran's. He accompanied his operatic tales with music inspired by (some would say stolen from) Chuck Berry. Mike Love, often written off as the guy with the receding hairline, was as vital to the band's success as Brian himself. Mike Love collaborated with Brian on the majority of the group's songs and it was Mike's vocal style, a deliberately unhurried SoCal drawl that nailed down the Beach Boy's surfer aesthetic. Love however was resistant to change, especially once Brian declared that he was finished with surfing music in 1964.

Brian Wilson was without a doubt America's premier pop composer and the best was yet to come. Today it's hard to remember that The Beach Boys were once cutting edge, and not just an oldies band led by some asshole in a baseball cap. Leadership of the group fell to Mike Love, once Brian came undone. Starting with Pet Sounds (which was viewed as Brian's solo album) Cousin Mike grew paranoid that the others would see their roles diminished and he opposed most of Brian's more progressive musical ideas, insisting that Brian "not fuck with the formula" In the end, mostly by default, Love would get his way and The Beach Boys became an insipid novelty act.


A solemn moment in a decidedly unsolemn time"
"Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot...... there'll never be another Camelot again… It will never be that way again."
Jacqueline Lee "Jackie" Kennedy 1963

If you're of a certain age, you know exactly where you were on Nov. 22nd 1963. On that day I found myself on the school playground. For reasons unbeknownst to us, recess never ended. We just kept galloping and tussling until it dawned on us that something wasn't right. That's when I noticed the playground monitor smoking a cigarette, a scarf tied around her head, wearing a black leather jacket and dark Ray bans. She seemed oblivious to her surrounding, lost deep in thought. A teacher smoking on the playground wasn't out of the ordinary in those days.... but the tears streaming out from behind her sunglasses were. Other teachers approached, all were crying. They seemed unsure of what to tell the growing crowd of children around them. Finally one teacher spoke up “President Kennedy is dead, he was shot in Dallas, Tx.” we looked around at each other, “Que dijo?” one kid asked. Another boy translated for him “They killed the President” puzzled the kid then asked in Spanish “Who, the president of Mexico?” “No stupid, our president” the translator replied.

A few minutes before 1:00 p.m. CST, Ft. Dallas radio station KXOL interrupted “I Have a Boyfriend” by The Chiffons to report that the presidential motorcade had been fired upon at Dealey Plaza and that more reports were forthcoming. The next song cued up was “Everybody” by Tommy Roe which played in its entirety. An ad for Hamms beer ran before the next news update. “I'm Leaving It (all) Up To You” by Dale & Grace was the #1 song in the country that day and reportedly a Dallas station was playing the song at the exact moment that gunshots were fired. “You decide what you're gonna do, now do you want my love.... or are we through”


"Guitar groups are on their way out, Mr Epstein."

On November 18, 1963 NBC’s evening news program, The Huntley-Brinkley Report, aired a four-minute segment on the Beatles. The same day, Newsweek ran a one-page article: "Beatlemania" On the morning of November 22, 1963, The CBS Morning News With Mike Wallace ran a story on the Beatles for the network’s morning news show. CBS planned to repeat the segment that evening on Walter Cronkite’s newscast. Pre-empted by the JFK tragedy, the segment aired Dec. 10, 1963 on the CBS Evening News. Across the pond on November 22, 1963 “With The Beatles”, was released in the U.K., rising to No. 1 on the British album charts and remaining there for 21 weeks. “With The Beatles” becomes the Beatles’ first million-selling album. Thus it was, that in late November as America mourned the death of a president, a joyous noise oblivious to our sorrow sprang forth.

There had been a handful of U.S. Releases. In Jan.1963, Vee Jay records of Chicago obtained a contract to release a limited number of Beatles recordings in the U.S. They followed through with Please Please Me/ Ask Me Why on Feb. 25th. By March, it reached the #35 spot at Chicago station WLS, but failed to chart nationally. Undaunted, Vee Jay put out From Me To You/ Thank You Girl on May 27th. It stalled at #116. Swan Records a Philadelphia label, released She Loves You/ I'll Get You on Sept. 16th. it failed to chart. WLS of Chicago was far and away the first U.S. radio station to play Please Please Me, spinning it just days after its release. By April, KFXM in San Bernardino, Ca. And WQAM in Miami both included Please Please Me in their weekly polls. KNUZ in Houston and KEWB in San Francisco added Please Please Me to their charts in May.

*In June 1963, WFRX in West Frankfort, Ill. Received a copy of From Me to You from George Harrison's older sister Louise, who lived in nearby Benton. Louise promoted the Beatles to any media outlet that would listen; bear in mind the group was unknown in the United States at the time. She petitioned radio and TV stations, sent letters, made calls, wrote Beatles manager Brian Epstein lengthy letters advising how to break the band into America. In late Sept.'63. The Beatles were topping the UK charts and due for a holiday. With the break, George planned a trip to visit his older sister, initially with Ringo, who, after learning that Louise had arranged a local TV appearance, begged off, saying, "If she's going to make us work, I'm not going." And so it was that George Harrison, along with brother Peter, stepped off a plane at Lambert Field in St. Louis and became the first Beatle to set foot on American soil. And no one cared.

“There were no throngs of screaming, frenzied young girls, no gang of reporters, no legions of police, no limo. Instead, there was a twenty-year-old British traveler with a strange haircut holding his bags, standing at his designated meeting spot beneath a replica of Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, waiting for his ride. Louise, the self-appointed, ever-networking queen of Beatles promo, hooked her brother up with the hottest band in Southern Illinois, the Four Vests, a move that resulted in another historic moment: He was the first Beatle to play onstage in America. Down the road in West Frankfort. At VFW Post 3479. Interestingly, Harrison — a decade younger than the Vests — had enough material in common with the band to fill 90 minutes onstage. And nary a Beatles tune was played.”
*excerpt from Riverfront Times article “Beatles Sister Louise Harrison Departs the Midwest After 50 Odd and Entertaining Years” written by Peter Gilstrap Mar 18th 2015

In late November, KOIA in Des Moines, Iowa started playing I Saw Her Standing There and I Want to Hold Your Hand from a copy of “With the Beatles” owned by a student. Dec. 18th. Carroll James at WWDC in Washington D.C. Played a copy of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” that was hand delivered by an airline stewardess flying in from London. Capitol Records having just obtained all future rights to Beatles recordings, ordered WWDC to stop playing the song, then reversed the order and started rushing production in a push to have some vinyl out before Christmas day. Footnote: Del Shannon's 1963 cover of “From Me to You” has the distinction of being the first Lennon & McCartney song covered by an American artist... many more would follow.

The bombora of British Invasion bands that followed in the wake of Beatlemania pitted everything that had come before it. By the summer of 1964, the musical landscape of the U.S. was radically different from that of the previous summer when baggies and huaraches were in vogue. Brian Wilson inspired by Lennon & McCartney, shucked his trunks, dusted off his hands and declared surf music dead to him. It wasn't of course, even without the Beach Boys, surf music kept rolling in just like the waves at Haggerty's and Swami's. Surf music stuck around until 1966 when the advent of flower power pretty much killed it. As everyone knows; Hippies don't surf. Surfing culture was suddenly the very definition of square, although those shoobies just loved them some Sha Na Na......




Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dirt City Chronicles Rock & Roll pt. 5



"Camelot, located no where in particular, can be anywhere"
A nation "giddy with prosperity, infatuated with youth and glamour, and aiming increasingly for the easy life” welcomed the age of Camelot with open arms. By the narrowest of margins, John F. Kennedy had turned back Sleazy Dick Nixon's attempt at commandeering the American dream. “We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier” Although, not where radio program directors were concerned. Popular music had grown every bit as dull and drab as it had ever been before the rock & roll era. One need only glance at the U.S. popular music charts for the years 1960-61 to realize that rock & roll wasn't much of a factor on the American music scene.

The vapid period following “the day the music died” was truly rock & roll's dark age. A sad parade of prefabricated teen idols rang up sales while hammering out their sad little songs. Novelty tunes and one hit wonders dominated the airwaves. Instrumental groups were suddenly in vogue. It seemed that Americans had grown tired of trying to decipher the innuendo they imagined was implied in every single rock & roll song and simply given up on vocals altogether. America which had just elected into office the youngest and hippest president ever had suddenly elected to go lame as well.

The 1960s folk revival actually got its start in 1958 when the Kingston Trio stormed the charts with “Tom Dooley” a morbid murder ballad that sold over three million copies as a single. By the following year legions of folk singers were gravitating towards New York City. Folk singers displaced the beatniks as America's go to hep cats. Sing-alongs and hootenannies became a part of the American musical lexicon. The year after that Robert Zimmerman, who was done matriculating at Dinkytown, changed his name to Bob Dylan and made a pilgrimage to Greystone Park seeking consul with Woody Guthrie. 
 
Folk music which had run concurrently with rock & roll in the mid-50s before being forced underground during the McCarthy era, was coming back in a big way. It's clean cut, white washed appeal struck a nerve with Americans anxious over the cold war and a threat of nuclear annihilation. But it wasn't all toothy smiles and harmonies, folk was split into two competing camps, traditionalists who sought to present the music in its original context without added commentary and singer/songwriters who saw it as the perfect vehicle for enacting change and political protest. Once Bob Dylan hit his lyrical stride, it was no contest.


Hitsville U.S.A.
It's hard to imagine that less than a decade prior, Alan Freed had caught grief for playing “race music” on a white radio station. By 1960 one quarter of the spots on the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles were filled by black artists. Various factors contributed to the rise, but it was Berry Gordy's Motown that rang the bell louder and more often than the rest. Motown's first hit was Barrett Stong's Money (That's What I Want) in 1959, while Shop Around by The Miracles (actually released on Tamla, the brand used outside the U.S.) became its first million selling record in 1960. Audaciously calling itself “The sound of young America” Motown would make history as well as hit records.

Between 1960 and 1969, Motown would place 79 records in the American top ten, while countless others finished in the Top 40. One byproduct of the payola scandal of 1960 was that radio stations were forced to tighten up their formats, forcing disc jockeys to work from a script while following a specific playlist. The contents of which were determined by the each station's program director. Top 40 radio which came to be known as contemporary hit radio became the money format for radio. Top 40 was the brainchild of broadcaster Todd Storz, further defined by Gordon McLendon (KLIF) and then refined to a science by Bill Drake and Gene Chenault in the mid-1960s (Boss Radio)

Presentation was everything and nothing was left to chance. Every minute was scripted, dead air was taboo, every lead-in carefully timed to segue directly into the music. The Storz system factored in record shop sales and jukebox plays to determine which songs were the most popular and thus most likely to receive radio play. It worked as a real time indicator of what the people wanted to hear. In the mid-1950s much to the chagrin of many, what the people wanted to hear was rock & roll. Just the same, by 1960 the listening and record buying public favored overwrought ballads, instrumentals and the slick soul of Motown. The music charts reflected those preferences. 

 
Everybody's doing it
  If not for a private audition requested by American Bandstand host Dick Clark. Ernest Evans, a nondescript former chicken plucker from South Philly would have missed his calling. That audition led to Evans recording “The Class” a novelty single on which he sings Mary Had a Little Lamb while imitating Fats Domino and Elvis before some cheesy chipmunk voices kick in. Pure corn pone, but it did lead to a recording contract with Cameo-Parkway records. At some point in between, Clark's wife asked Evans his name, to which he replied “My friends call me Chubby” and seeing how he had just finished singing a Fats Domino tune, Mrs. Clark inquired: “As in Checkers?”

Now christened Chubby Checkers, he recorded “The Twist” a Hank Ballard b-side and by the end of 1960 Chubs had a gold record and America had a new dance craze. “The Twist” went to number one, Checkers cashed in and that normally would have been the end of it. But, all through 1961 the song refused to go away. Once celebrities (Judy Garland, John Wayne, Jackie Kennedy Zsa Zsa Gabor etc.) started gyrating to it at The Peppermint Lounge in NYC, “The Twist” took off again, climbing back up to #1. in 1962. The second song on the U.S. Charts (Bing Crosby's White Christmas being the other) to hit number one during two separate runs.

Chubby Checkers and Fabian Forte exemplified the state of pop music in 1960 (both were from South Philadelphia and had attended the same high school) Both were discovered by opportunistic music impresarios (Checkers by Dick Clark, Fabian by Bob Marcucci) both were successful beyond their wildest dreams though neither one possessed an abundance of musical talent. Forte in fact would testify during the payola hearings that the vocals on his recordings had been electronically enhanced. Forte openly admitted that he lip synced most of his live performances, adding “I felt controlled. I felt like a puppet” For spilling the beans, Forte was effectively retired from music by the time he turned 18. Before you spill a tear for dear old Fabian, keep in mind that by 1959 he had earned almost $300,000. 

 
Surfin' is the only life the only way for me

While rock & roll had slipped into a coma, it still had a pulse. The Fireballs from Raton, N.M. teamed up with Norm Petty in 1958 and scored three successive Top 40 hits with “Torquay” (1959) Bulldog (1960) and “Quite a Party” (1961) Early on The Fireballs built their sound around influential guitarist George Tomsco, then in 1963 Norm Petty matched them with singer Jimmy Gilmer and they recorded “Sugar Shack” the only #1 hit single ever by a New Mexico based band. The Fireballs w/Gilmer hit on the formula again in 1967 with “Bottle of Wine” a top ten hit and A.M. Radio staple. Tomsco and crew were the precursors to a new sound that was developing on the West Coast.

Instrumental groups played a big part as surf music began to evolve. The Fireballs, though not a surf band by any means, were nonetheless highly influential. So to were Duane Eddy, Al Casey, The Ventures and even The Righteous Bros. their song “Koko Joe” became a surfer favorite. Dick Dale & The Deltones, The Gamblers, The Belairs The Sentinals and The Centurions began to attract large crowds to dance concerts that came to be known as surfer stomps. While it's generally agreed that Dick Dale & Paul Johnson were at the forefront of this hybrid style, it was the surfers themselves and not the musicians that came up with the idea of calling it “surf music”

Guitarists Paul Johnson and Eddie Bertrand were the impetus behind The Belairs, a short lived yet pivotal band. Shortly after the release of their iconic single “Mr. Moto” in 1960, the band imploded with Bertrand going off to form Eddie & the Showmen, a highly influential, often overlooked surf band. The Belairs drummer, Dick Dodd followed Bertrand to the Showmen, before leaving to join The Standells (that's Dick singing lead on Dirty Water) Paul Johnson moved on, forming The Galaxies and then joining Davie Allan & The Arrows in the mid-1960s. Renowned jazz guitarist Larry Carlton was also once a member of Eddie & the Showmen.

All of which goes to point out the many influences that led to the formation of surf music: jazz, swing, R&B, Folk, Barber Shop Quartet, Doo Wop, Mexican and courtesy of Dick Dale, pulsating Middle Eastern musical techniques. In 1959, The Gamblers formed by guitarist-songwriter Derry Weaver, recorded “Moondawg” which is regarded as the first surf music hit. Produced by Nick Venet, the song also features surf music pioneer Bruce Johnston on keys. Dick Dale followed closely with “Let's Go Tripping” and The Belairs with “Mr. Moto” The gauntlet was drawn, the mood was set.... American music fans were about to fall in love with rock & roll all over again. 
 

That Makes it Tough- Buddy Holly
So Sad- The Everly Brothers
Lonely- Eddie Cochran
Nervous Breakdown- Eddie Cochran
Susie Q- Dale Hawkins w/James Burton
Money (That's What I Want)- Barrett Strong
Shout- The Isley Brothers
Let's Go Tripping- Dick Dale & The Deltones
Moondawg- The Gamblers
Mr. Moto- The Belairs
Louie Louie- Rocking Robin Roberts & The Fabulous Wailers
Surfin'- The Beach Boys
Let There Be Drums- Sandy Nelson w/ Richard Podolor
Comanche- The Revels
Jungle Fever- Dick Dale & The Deltones
Jungle Fever- Charlie Feathers
Route 66- Chuck Berry
Jack the Ripper- Link Wray
Susie Darling- Robin Luke
Give me Love- Bluford Wade & The Originals
Like Longhair- Paul Revere & The Raiders
Twist and Shout- The Top Notes
Boys- The Shirelles
Angel Baby- Rosie & The Originals
I Found a Love- The Falcons w/Wilson Pickett
Sheila- Tommy Roe
True Love Ways- Buddy Holly
Town Without Pity- Gene Pitney
When Will I Be Loved- The Everly Brothers
Shop Around- The Miracles
Twistin' the Night Away- Sam Cooke
 


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dirt City Chronicles Rock & Roll pt. 4



The Day the Music Died

Much has been written about February 3, 1959 being the day the music died. That simply wasn't the case. In fact the ill fated Winter Dance Party continued on for another two weeks following the tragic events of that winter day. Dion & The Belmonts as well as the ersatz “Crickets” (Waylon Jennings, Tommy Allsup & Carl Bunch) saw the tour through to the bitter end. (Dion Dimucci was offered a seat on the doomed plane, though the idea of paying $36 for the ride, more than his father spent on rent, led him to reject the offer. Bobby Vee, Jimmy Clanton, Fabian & Frankie Avalon were brought in to headline the remaining shows)

Though the day is forever immortalized as “The Day the Music Died” it wasn't until Don McLean's song American Pie topped the U.S. Charts for four weeks in 1972, that the phrase started to take root. American Pie is not specifically about that fateful day, though it does touch on the tragic events in the intro verse as McLean makes reference to Feb. 3rd. 1959 with the line “February made me shiver with every paper I'd deliver” which alludes to his claim that he first learned about the plane crash while folding newspapers for his paper route.

For the longest time McLean remained cryptic about the song lyrics and their true meaning. Stating instead, “It means I don't ever have to work again if I don't want to” When the lyrics and notes for the song were auctioned off for $1.2 million in April of this year, he coyly revealed that the song was meant to convey a feeling of “things headed in the wrong direction or life becoming less idyllic” Though, I'm pretty sure it still means that the son of bitch will never have to work again if he don't want to.


Goodness gracious great balls of fire!...

Before Feb. 3Rd 1959, rock & roll wasn't dead, but it was in a steep decline. A convergence of a number of seismic factors led many to believe that the tide had turned and America was ready to rid itself of that loathsome “negro” inspired trend. While on a package tour of Australia in 1957 (w/ Gene Vincent & Eddie Cochran) Little Richard (Richard Wayne Penniman) claimed that he saw a red fireball streak across the sky in the midst of an outdoor performance in Sydney (which in fact turned out to be the launching of Sputnik 1)

Richard also claimed that he saw the engines of the aircraft he flew on from Melbourne to Sydney glow red hot and that angels swooped in and held the plane up in the air. A distraught Penniman abandoned the tour, returned to the states, only to find out that the flight he had originally been scheduled to take had crashed into the ocean. He then found religion. For dramatic effect he tossed all his rings (worth $12,400) into the ocean and swore off rock & roll forever.

Rock & roll was dealt another body blow with Elvis Presley's induction into the army on March 24th 1958. Elvis had been eligible for the draft since 1956 when he turned 21, but thanks to Col. Tom Parker's greased palm strategy, he had managed to defer his service long enough to launch and carry on with his career for two years before the inevitable happened. Contrary to the myth that Elvis wanted to fulfill his patriotic duties and was willing to do so as an ordinary grunt, Presley went into a rage when he received his draft notice.

Elvis had been in favor of serving in the armed forces Special Services unit, as most celebrities did at the time. Col. Parker seeing how that could anger and alienate his legion of working class fans and realizing that the King's image was in need of a makeover, convinced him otherwise. As was usually the case, Col. Parker was right, but he had ulterior motives as well... if Elvis served in the Special Services, all concert proceeds would go to the Armed Forces and not to Parker or Presley.

Due to report on Jan. 20th 1958, Elvis requested and received a deferment in order to film King Creole, a movie that he had committed to before his induction. A public outcry quickly arose, as accusations of preferential treatment hounded Presley. These were anxious times for Elvis, he truly believed that rock & roll was little more than a fad and on the wane, but he also feared that a stint in the army would kill his fledgling movie career. Either way rock & roll's biggest moneymaker was sidelined for two years.


Jerry Lee Lewis was the Devil

Jerry Lee Lewis, who was finally getting his career into high gear after years of hard work (Lewis had stuck with Sun records even after the big stars had left) ran afoul of the British press while on a UK tour in May of 1958. Jerry Lee had quietly married his thirteen year old first cousin once removed, Myra Gale Brown (Lewis claimed she was fifteen) when persistent British reporters dug up this fact.. a shit storm of bad press broadsided Lewis. In the wake of the ensuing controversy, Lewis performed just twice in England before he was shown the door.

Lewis was a study in controlled chaos, “He seemed to have a lot of time to spare, an unshakeable ease” remarked author Nik Cohen. “His great gift was that no matter how frantic he got his voice remained controlled and drawling country”At his first concert, Lewis stormed out dressed in red from head to toe, he lunged into his first two numbers bringing the crowd to its feet.... then he made a fatal error. As he was wont to do, Jerry Lee pulled out a gold comb and carefully combed his golden locks back in place.

A leather lunged Teddy boy bellowed out “Sissy” and chaos ensued. Lewis barely made it through one more song before he fled the stage. The British press demanded the tour end immediately and that Lewis and his child bride be shipped back to the Louisiana back waters that spawned them. For Lewis it was his second marriage, his first being when he was just fourteen years old “Hell, I was too young” he exclaimed. He pleaded with the British press “Hell, I'm only country” but it only made matters worse. Jerry Lee returned to the states in disgrace, his career null and void upon arrival. 


Pilot Error and Snow

Back in the U.S.A., the old guard, exemplified by Variety, Billboard and the ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers) feeling threatened by the growing influence of popular disc jockeys, had started to grumble about “the cancer of payola” A scandal was brewing, one which President Eisenhower himself would call “an issue of public morality”, directing the FCC to declare payola (the practice of paying for radio play) a criminal act. It would take the tragic events of Feb. 3rd. 1959 to shove that nefarious bit of business to the back burner.

The Winter Dance Party wasn't even scheduled to stop in Clear Lake, Iowa. It just so happened that they had an open date and the manager of the Surf Ballroom, agreed to hold the show on short notice (1,100 were in attendance that night) Buddy Holly fed up with the decrepit buses they were traveling in decided to charter an airplane (a Beechcraft Bonanza) from Dwyer Flying Service in nearby Mason City, Iowa. The plane would carry three passengers (Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup) and the pilot (Roger Peterson) to Moorhead Minnesota.

The Crickets drummer Carl Bunch had suffered frost bite on board the bus and was hospitalized in Ironwood, Mi. J.P. Richardson aka The Big Bopper, begged his way onto the flight, bumping Waylon. Ritchie Valens who had never flown on a small plane, pestered Tommy Allsup to give up his seat. This led to the now infamous coin flip, which according to Allsup took place after he had already loaded his bags on the station wagon taking the men to the airport. Valens won the flip.

“ There are three new stars, brightly shining forth” The frozen earth had barely thawed on Juhls' cornfield before Tommy Dee came out with a tribute song to the fallen musicians. Three Stars , released in April of 1959, earned Dee a gold record. Eddie Cochran would record his version of the schmaltzy tune that same year, though it wasn't released until well after his death. The nation was rocked by the tragedy “Gee we're gonna miss you, everybody sends their love”

In retrospect, the events of Clear Lake, while despairing, did not alter the course of rock & roll music to the extent that many music“historians” would have you believe. In 1958, after a dispute over royalties, Buddy Holly fired Norm Petty and then ditched the Crickets when they sided with Norm. He moved to New York City, married Maria Elena Santiago and began to mature as a musician. However, he was in a rather desperate financial state as 1959 rolled around. (as the saying goes, nobody got rich working with Norm Petty, other than Norm Petty) This forced him to sign on with the Winter Dance Party.

Of the three musicians lost on Feb. 3rd. 1959, Holly was by far the most accomplished. He would have been just 27 years old when Beatlemania swept the U.S. I imagine that he would have stayed on the charts at least into the late sixties. His contemporaries, Elvis and Roy Orbison certainly did. Teen icon, Rick Nelson evolved as a country rock musician. I could easily see Buddy going down that route. Waylon Jennings was at the forefront of the Outlaw Country movement.... Buddy Holly, growing a beard and donning a sweat stained cowboy hat over his curly locks wasn't out of the question.

Ritchie Valens (Valenzuela) was a minor talent at best, probably destined to emulate Trini Lopez, a lounge singer who topped the charts with an innocuous strain of upbeat folk/pop music. I hate to say it, but Valens was far more compelling dead than alive. J.P. Richardson, a hack disc jockey destined for the overnight shift, was a man of limited musical talent. Everything about him from his stage name (The Big Bopper) to the songs he recorded (Chantilly Lace, White Lightning, Running Bear) pointed towards a limited run as a novelty artist.


Long Live Rock, Be it Dead or Alive

Three new stars brightly shining.... more like one new star and some cosmic scraps.... dust to dust. The year couldn't get any worse for rock & roll, right? In December of '59, Chuck Berry was arrested under the Mann Act for having had sexual intercourse with a fourteen year old girl, whom he also transported across state lines to work at his St. Louis nightclub. It would be the start of a long and arduous legal effort by Berry to stay out of prison. He was sentenced to five years at his first trial in 1960, his appeal was upheld and Chuck then received three years at his second trial in 1961.

I see a pattern developing and apparently so did Chuck, who appealed again hoping for a shorter sentence. That appeal was shot down, but he wound up serving just one and a half years, from Feb. 1962 till his release in Oct. of 1963. His legal struggles didn't quite torpedo his career, though his popularity did fall off dramatically after that. By 1960 America was ready to move on, McCarthy had been vanquished, Eisenhower's term was winding down, the Viet Cong attacked and took control of several districts in the Mekong Delta, an event now referred to as “the start of the Vietnam War”

None of that really mattered, the Payola hearings were under way in Congress and two of rock & roll's iconic torch bearers were caught in the line of fire. The inquisition would clearly foreshadow the Nixon/Kennedy debates... Alan Freed a sunken eyed chain smoker, came across as abrasive and uncooperative. His refusal to acknowledge any fault or to sign an affidavit saying that he'd never accepted payola would spell his doom. Dick Clark, though every bit as guilty and dirty as Freed, was well groomed, polite, articulate and he copped to everything. 

Time magazine declared disc jockeys the “poo-bahs of musical fashion and pillars of U.S. low and middle brow culture” They were to a man nothing but scum sucking dogs (including Clark) though in all fairness they were abiding by the business ethic of the day. Disc jockey, Joe Finan sheepishly admitted that the 1950s were “a blur of booze, broads and bribes” Most of the top rock jocks went down, Freed, Joe Niagara, Tom Clay, Murray the K, Stan Richards, Phil Lind. Rock & roll was reeling and rocking on a pair of wobbly legs.

In the long run, the House Oversight Committee and the subsequent legislation that was passed did little to end payola. In effect all the payola scandal accomplished was to strip the decision making power from the disc jockey and give it to the program director. The process of paying for radio play was now streamlined, instead of having to deal with the whims and vices of thousands of dee jays, record pluggers only had to grease the program director.

Dick Clark received a slap on the wrist and the committee declared him “a fine young man” Alan Freed lost both his radio and television gigs at WABC in New York City. He almost restarted his career on the West Coast at KDAY in Santa Monica, Ca. before butting heads with station management over their refusal to allow him to promote his stage shows. After that Freed fell into a spiral of alcohol abuse that eventually led to his death from uremia and cirrhosis on January 20, 1965 in Palm Springs, Ca. 



Cherished Memories

George Harrison caught Eddie Cochran's performance in Liverpool during that last fateful tour. He was impressed with the guitar playing but it was Eddie's stage persona that made a strong impression. “He was standing at the microphone and as he started to talk he brushed his hair back with his hands” Harrison recalled “and a girl, one lone voice screamed out, Oh Eddie! and Cochran coolly murmured into the mike, Hi Honey! And I thought, Yes! That's it!, that's rock & roll”

As the decade of the sixties dawned upon us, Cochran was the last man standing, the only rocker other than Link Wray worth a damn. It was Eddie Cochran and not Buddy Holly that held the future of rock & roll in the palms of his hands. Thus it was the death of Cochran and not Holly that reverberated with the hard core rockers_ In the backseat of a chauffeur driven Ford Consul taxi, sitting between Gene Vincent and his girlfriend Sharon Seeley, Eddie sang a capella just before the impact flung him and his sheet music out of the vehicle and across a dark, winding section of the two lane A4 in the village of Chippenham. _ April 17th, 1960 the day the music finally died...


Funnel of Love- Wanda Jackson
Sweet Little Rock & Roller- Chuck Berry
Cotton Pickin'- Mickey Hawks and The Night Raiders
Real Wild Child- Ivan (Jerry Allison w/ Buddy Holly)
Ooh My Head- Ritchie Valens
C'mon Everybody- Eddie Cochran
Sugar Baby- Johnny Carroll & the Hot Rocks
Long Blonde Hair- Johnny Powers
Pretty Thing- Bo Diddley
Rebel Rouser- Duane Eddy
Something Else- Eddie Cochran
Tequila- The Champs
Rumble- Link Wray
Mau Mau- The Fabulous Wailers
Bongo Rock- Preston Epps
Sleepwalk- Santo & Johnny
Cherry Pie- Skip & Flip
Well Alright- Buddy Holly
Rawhide- Link Wray
Ooh Wee Marie- Dick Dale
Bulldog- The Fireballs
Teen Beat- Sandy Nelson
Over the Rainbow- Gene Vincent
Tall Cool One- The Fabulous Wailers
Peter Gunn- Duane Eddy
Time Machine- Dante & the Evergreens
Alley Oop- The Hollywood Argyles
Alley Oop- Dante & the Evergreens
Jenny Lee- Jan & Arnie
Muleskinner Blues- The Fendermen
Love is Strange- Buddy Holly
Weekend- Eddie Cochran
Walk Don't Run- The Ventures



Saturday, July 11, 2015

Dirt City Chronicles Rock & Roll pt. 3


 Untamed Youth: Live Fast, Die Young

For a short time rockabilly was king, but by 1958 it had lost all its momentum. The last true hope for the genre was Eddie Cochran, a guitarist and vocalist who also wrote his own songs. Eddie resurrected the tales of teenage angst first popularized by Chuck Berry, injected them with the speed freak energy of the early rockabilly cats to evolve into what can best be described as Post-Rockabilly. Cochran was a good looking though diminutive man, features that he purposely accentuated with jittery mannerisms and an exaggerated slouch. (best exemplified in the motion picture, Untamed Youth in which he starred alongside Mamie Van Doren ) That perception would change as soon as he strapped on his trademark orange Gretsch 6120 and took the stage.

The curtain would rise, Eddie standing center stage, with his back to the audience would let the shrieks grow to a full crescendo before whipping around and jumping straight in to his first number. He held Elvis like command of his audience. Cochran was poised to carry the flame on into the 1960's when sadly he was killed in a car accident while touring in England. Gene Vincent and Eddie's girlfriend, songwriter Sharon Seeley were traveling in the same vehicle, both were seriously injured but survived. Eddie however struck his head on the roof of the car and was flung out of the vehicle as it slammed sideways into a lamp pole at a rate of 60 mph. 

 
While serving in the US Navy in 1955, Gene Vincent (Vincent Eugene Craddock) had been involved in a motorcycle accident that nearly cost him his leg. He was left with a permanent limp and in constant pain. As a result, Vincent always appeared tortured, but when he sang, an eerie, almost angelic transformation took place. Gene would stare off into the heavens, much like Judy Garland did while singing Over the Rainbow (a minor hit for Vincent as well) His peculiar stage presence and bum leg made him the anti-Elvis or as some put it, the rocker that your parents warned you about.

Following the Cochran accident, Vincent returned to England and would eventually make his home there while touring extensively throughout Europe and the UK. It was during this period that he adopted his iconic black leather gear (the result of an appearance on Jack Good's British television show Boy Meets Girl) Good took it up himself to update Gene's appearance. A move that left poor Gene looking like a refugee from a rough trade shop.... though it endeared him to a new generation of rockers around the world. (A quick note: Jack Good lived in New Mexico for many years, devoting himself to painting. His work was exhibited at Rancho de Chimayo alongside that of Antonio Roybal)

By the late 1960s, the pain killers and alcohol made Sweet Gene Vincent, especially unbearable to the multitude of musicians that he toured with. To quote Goldmine Magazine “He was drunk, profane and reeked of sex and violence to the point of utter chaos and his shows always were filled with sexual innuendo and utter longing”... The high point at this stage of Gene's career was when he attempted to murder vile pedophile Gary Glitter while both were touring in Germany. Vincent emptied his handgun at Glitter, though due to his drunken condition he missed on all counts. Glitter immediately fled Germany, though he later spoke of the incident with sentimental pride. 


 
Elvis Presley, “The King” rose from the public housing slums of Memphis to become the most recognizable male vocalist of all time. However, it didn't happen by accident. Elvis had talent, he transcended music, he electrified his audience, he re-invented entertainment. Elvis Presley, was rock and roll's alpha male.... a role he wasn't always keen on playing. His tour of West Texas in 1955 would influence two of rock and roll's biggest stars, Buddy Holly (who would open for Presley in Lubbock) Roy Orbison (who caught the show in Odessa) and launch hundreds of imitators. 

Elvis had a nervous energy that he used to stoke up the crowd, but the hip thrusts and leg shaking were just part of it. He had the ability to convey his emotions to the audience, his appeal and charisma were both very natural and his fans (especially the gals) would just eat it up. Nik Cohn got to the root of his appeal: “He's just like a paperback book. Real sexy pictures on the cover, only when you get inside, it's just a good story. He looked dangerous, but ultimately was safe and clean” This love 'em, tease 'em, mistreat 'em strategy worked beyond anyone's wildest imagination.

Within a period of one year Elvis went from making $35 a week, to becoming a $20 million dollar industry (in 1950s dollars at that) In the long run, it would prove to be his undoing as well. The day Elvis signed with RCA records he started down the path to self destruction. The money, movies and fame would turn him into a bloated and self indulgent caricature of the rocker he once was. All that was promised and all that was delivered still pale in comparison to the brilliant flash of talent first witnessed in those early years.


Hillbilly Babylon

Rockabilly's southern origins meant that it was a boiling pot of mixed influences. It also meant that some of the early rockabilly records had lyrics that today, would make some folks cringe. A verse from Warren Smith's "Ubangi Stomp" is probably the most infamous "Well, I rocked through Africa and rolled off the ship and seen them niggers doin' an odd lookin' skip" Smith later dropped the n-word, as did others who covered the song including Jerry Lee Lewis, who had a minor hit with his version. The opening verse of Charlie Feather's "Jungle Fever" starts out with "Darkies creeping through the green, Jungle fever got a hold on me." Which was later amended to say “Darkness, creepin' thru the leaves” a change that neither took away from the original nor added to it.

Misogyny was also given the light touch early on. "Honey Hush" has Johnny Burnette telling his girl to "Come on in this house, stop all that yakety yak" reminding her "Don't make me nervous, cause I'm holding a baseball bat.” For some odd reason Big Joe Turner's original didn't sound as menacing "I Had Enough", has Jerry Reed delivering threats of violence to any fellers sniffing around his gal “You're my private property and you ain't for rent” keep in mind, he's singing about his gal not a mule “I think it wise you lay the fellows a hint, to either leave you alone or get their backbone bent” he leaves just enough doubt as to his intentions, to make you fear for her safety as well.

Memphis, Tn. November 23rd. 1976 2:50 a.m.
 (Compiled from online sources, no claim of authorship implied)

Jerry Lee Lewis pulled up to Graceland smashing into its fabled front gates. He was driving a brand new Lincoln Continental, having flipped his brand new Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow the previous morning. The guard on duty, reported that Lewis was armed, angry and obviously inebriated. “He was outta his mind, man... he was screamin', hollerin' and cussin” Lewis held a derringer that had been given to him at Vapors, a Memphis nightclub just hours earlier. “Get on the goddamn phone. I know you got an intercom system. Call up there and tell Elvis I wanna visit with him. Who the hell does he think he is? Tell him the Killer's here to see him” Lewis commanded...

The guard, Harold Lloyd (Elvis' cousin) panicked, “I just put my hands up in the air and said, 'Okay, okay, Jerry, just take it easy” he retreated to the guard booth and picked up the house phone. “One of 'the boys' answered and Lloyd appraised him of the situation” Lloyd was advised to call the cops, and wasted no time in doing so.
Moments later Elvis himself rang down to the guard booth. Lloyd recalls their conversation precisely. 'Elvis was on the line and he said, 'Wh-wh-what' -- see, he used to stutter a lot when he got upset -- 'Wh-wh-what the hell's goin' on down there, Harold?' 'I said, 'Well, Jerry Lee Lewis is sittin' in his car down here outside the gate, wavin' a derringer pistol and raisin' hell', 'Elvis said, 'Wh-wh-what's that goddamn guy want?' [I said] 'He's demanding to come up and see Elvis'. 'He said, 'Oh, I-I-I don't wanna talk to that crazy sonofabitch. Hell no, I don't wanna talk to him. I'll come down there and kill him! You call the cops, Harold', 'I told him I already did and he said, 'Good. When they get there tell 'em to lock his ass up and throw the goddamn key away. Okay? Thank you, Harold', (Elvis is said to have watched the 'whole drama on his closed-circuit monitors').

The Memphis police arrived, found the gun in the car and put Jerry Lee in handcuffs. Before taking him away they called up to the main house and asked Elvis what they should do with him “Lock him up” was the King's response. “That hurt my feelings. To be scared of me – knowin' me the way he did – was ridiculous." Lewis would later reflect in an interview. He was arrested and charged with carrying a pistol and public drunkenness.

Roll over Beethoven- Chuck Berry
When I Found You- Jerry Reed
Oh! Boy- Buddy Holly
Fast Freight- Arvee Allens aka Ritchie Valens
Big Town- Ronnie Self
Sag Drag Fall- Sid King & the Five Strings
Mystery Train- Jackie Lee Cochran “Jack the Cat”
Money Honey- Elvis Presley
My Baby's Gone- Jimmy Bowen
Whisper Your Love- The Phantom
Blue Moon- Elvis Presley
Blue Days Black Nights- Bob Luman
Blue Days Black Nights- Buddy Holly
When My Baby Left- Sid King & The Five Strings
Johnny B. Goode- Chuck Berry
Bye Bye Johnny- Chuck Berry
Lucille- Little Richard
Red Headed Woman- Sonny Burgess
Uh Huh Honey- Charlie Feathers
Honey Bop- Wanda Jackson
Tongue Tied- Betty McQuade
Baby Please Don't Go- Billy Lee Riley
Caterpillar- Ray Campi
Rockin' Bandit- Ray Smith
Rock It- Thumper Jones
Flying Saucer Rock & Roll- Billy Lee Riley
That Certain Female- Charlie Feathers
Tore Up- Ray Campi
All I Can Do is Cry- Wayne Walker
Teenage Boogie- Webb Pierce
Pink and Black- Sonny Fisher
Rockabilly Boogie- Johnny Burnette Trio
Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight- Sid King & The Five Strings


Friday, July 10, 2015

Dirt City Chronicles Rock & Roll pt. 2

The concept of rockabilly as a style distinct from mainstream rock and roll simply didn't exist in the mid-1950s. Southern musicians considered the term an insult or as Barbara Pittman of the Experience Music Project points out: “It was their way of calling us hillbillies”
As long as there's been music, there have been genres. Slotting music into categories made it easy for artists, record labels, radio stations and music stores to market their products to a specific audience or demographic. Sometimes it's easier said than done. When rock & roll first broke, the style really didn't have a label. Someone would have to invent a name for this raucous hybrid. D.J. Alan Freed is generally given credit for coining the term “rock & roll” though its true origins are unknown and the subject of much debate. What is known however, is that once Freed took to calling the music he played rock & roll, it stuck.
Jerry Lee Lewis saw it a little different “I had created rock & roll before they ever thought about having rock & roll, he said. “When Elvis come out, he was rockabilly. When I come out with Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On, that was rock & roll. That's when the name rock & roll was put in front” 

 
Take all my troubles, take all my pain and load them on that mystery train

Elvis is where pop begins and ends. He's the great original and even now, he's the image that makes all others seem shoddy, the boss, for once, the fan club spiel is justified, Elvis is King.” Nik Cohn, Awopbobaloobop Alopbamboom: The Golden Age of Rock

We were all sucked in long ago by the cult of Elvis. While the King was one of the early originators of rockabilly by 1958 his music was anything but that. Presley built the template and in turn, rockabilly's early pioneers followed it to the letter. They would blast onto the scene, record raw original music and then sign with a major label and morph into marketable country/pop singers. Cleaned up and forced to conform with the norm, they were safe as mother's milk. In fact, the original wave was rather short lived and one thing for certain, by the time Buddy Holly's plane went down in that Iowa cornfield, rockabilly was old school.

Just four years after Crazy Man, Crazy marked the first time a rock and roll song had hit the U.S. Charts, the genre was being written off. That very point was brought to light during an interview conducted by Red Robinson in Vancouver, B.C. Oct. 23rd. 1957 when Red asked Buddy Holly “What do you think about rock and roll music, is it on the wane or what?” to which Holly replies “I think it is going out quite a bit in the states” Red then asked: “How long do you think it will last... another six months, seven months? Buddy answers: “Oh, possibly, yeah... it might pick up after Christmas but I really doubt it.”

It seems that once the Benzedrine buzz wore off, the music lost its edge. Rockabilly was fueled by fast cars, fast women and bennies by the handful. Years later, still holding out like it was 1955 instead of 1965, "The Killer" Jerry Lee Lewis was busted in Grand Prairie, Texas for having in his possession a prodigious amount of prescription pills. The cops found 700 pills, which J.W. Whitten, Jerry Lee's road manager explained as “Two hundred of 'em for the boys and the rest were Jerry's.” Stoked on pharmaceuticals, these hillbilly cats put out a dangerous vibe. They also crafted amazingly innovative music that has held to the test of time. More so than the so called “popular” music of the day.

The subtle R&B played by black musicians was jacked up almost beyond recognition. A raw force, powered by the slapping beat of the stand-up bass. Vocals styles ranging from Elvis Presley's cool choir boy approach, to the primal yelps of Johnny Burnette. Buddy Holly's drawling twang stood in contrast to Roy Orbison, who's range went from crooner to menacing, sometimes in the same verse. Charlie Feather's squeals, groans and hiccups, that were at times bizarre but never dull. Others such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, made up for their lack of vocals gymnastics with high energy and attitude.



Rockabilly was thought to be, simple music played by simple men, but that was never the case. The genre was full of innovators. The rolling tom-toms of Jerry Allison (The Crickets) were often imitated but never fully duplicated. Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore & Bill Black practically improvised their way to stardom at the tail end of a long evening session at Sun Records under the watchful eye of Sam Phillips. The lead guitars were always upfront, precise picking interspersed with looping or stuttering lead runs. Paul Burlison loosened the tubes on his amp to invent the distorted guitar beat that gave the Rock & Roll Trio their unique sound.

Buddy Holly not only sang and composed his own songs, but he also played lead guitar for the Crickets. It's also a little known fact that Roy Orbison, better known for his operatic vocals, was a better than average lead guitarist while fronting the Teen Kings (that's Roy playing lead on such classics as Ooby Dooby, Rock House, Trying to Get to You) Cliff Gallup, lead guitarist for Gene Vincent, developed a sinuous style of playing that caught the ear of future British guitar giants such as Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, George Harrison and Jeff Beck, who recorded an entire album (Crazy Legs) of Gene Vincent covers, duplicating Gallup's style note by note.

Rock Around With Ollie Vee- Buddy Holly
That'll be the Day- Buddy Holly
Rock House- Roy Orbison w/ The Teen Kings
Party Doll- Buddy Knox
I'm Sticking With You- Jimmy Bowen
Reelin' and Rockin'- Chuck Berry
Bang Bang- Janis Martin
Bottle to the Baby- Charlie Feathers
We Wanna Boogie- Sonny Burgess
Breathless- Jerry Lee Lewis
Bad Bad Boy- Bobby Lollar
Love Me- The Phantom (Jerry Lott)
Saturday Midnight Bop- Jerry J. Nixon
Little Sister- Elvis Presley
Woman Love- Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps
Gone Gone Gone- Carl Perkins
You Can't Catch Me- Chuck Berry
Jailhouse Rock- Elvis Presley
Ooh My Soul!- Little Richard
Not Fade Away- Buddy Holly
Mama Don't You Think I Know- Jackie Lee Cochran “Jack the Cat”
Had Enough- Jerry Reed
Lewis Boogie- Jerry Lee Lewis
Rave On- Buddy Holly
Ooby Dooby- Roy Orbison & The Teen Kings
Bop-a-Lena – Ronnie Self
Come On Let's Go- Ritchie Valens
Back in the USA- Chuck Berry
High School Confidential- Jerry Lee Lewis
Good Rockin' Tonight- Elvis Presley
My Boy Elvis- Janis Martin


Friday, July 3, 2015

Dirt City Chronicles Rock & Roll pt. 1

Dirt City Chronicles is an Albuquerque/New Mexico centric music blog and podcast. BUT (and that's a big but) man cannot live on local music alone. So on occasion I do venture out (musically speaking) beyond the borders of our fair state. Dirt City Chronicles Podcast, Rock & Roll Series is an account of pre-British Invasion American rock and roll, presented in a loose chronological order. An epic tale that begins in 1954, just as Rhythm & Blues finally merged with Hillbilly Boogie (a combination of country vocals and instrumentation with a boogie woogie beat) creating one of America's most influential musical genres: rock and roll
We can argue until the cows come home about when rock & roll actually came to be. R & B artists such as Louis Jordan, Big Joe Turner, Roy Brown, Johnny Otis, Smiley Lewis, Billy Wright, Willie Mae Thornton, Arthur Crudup, Jackie Brenston etc. were all precursors to rock 'n' roll. You could say the same for the purveyors of Hillbilly Boogie... Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith, The Delmore Brothers, The Maddox Bros. and Rose (Fred Maddox is credited with inventing the slap bass technique, a definitive feature of rockabilly music) Merle Travis, Bob Wills and Moon Mullican, a piano thumping Texan who boldly declared “We gotta play music that'll make them goddamn beer bottles bounce on the table” Without Mullican there would be no Jerry Lee Lewis, no Bill Haley and in all likelihood.... no rock and roll music.
As 1952 drew to a close, two distinct styles of music were on a collision course, though nobody at the time had any idea that such a thing was even feasible. All them cats were bopping the blues, but it was Bill Haley, a rather non nondescript musician from Michigan who got there first. Bill Haley was a bit long in the tooth for a rocker (an accomplished yodeler, he had been around since the late 1940s) Haley favored a western style, but nonetheless, he had recorded two tracks recognized as seminal rock and roll songs, Rocket 88 in 1951 and Rock the Joint in 1952. In 1953, his recording of Crazy Man, Crazy became the first rock and roll song to hit the American charts .
The following year Haley recorded a song called Rock Around The Clock, that was meant as a B-side for the single, Thirteen Women. Rock Around the Clock had been written for Haley in 1953, but he didn't get around to recording it until April of 1954 (in the interim, Sonny Dae and His Knights, a group from Philly recorded it first) Haley's recording of Rock Around the Clock was a slapdash affair, with studio time running out and Sammy Davis Jr. waiting impatiently outside the studio door for his session. At Haley's insistence, Guitarist Danny Cedrone recycled the lead from Rock the Joint, inadvertently making it the most recognizable guitar solo of the budding genre.
The single flopped and the b-side went ignored until Director Richard Brooks dug up the song to use in his 1955 movie Blackboard Jungle. The version of Rock Around the Clock that plays over the opening credits features an extended drum solo by session drummer Billy Gussak and is distinguished by the fact that tenor saxophonist Joey Ambrose takes the first solo, while guitarist Danny Cedrone takes the second (the solos are reversed on the single version) *Cedrone died in 1954 when he fell down a flight of stairs at the 819 Bar in Philadelphia, while holding a bag of roast beef sandwiches. However , it would be his solo that was immortalized in the movie and on the single.
Both the song and the movie were overnight hits, leading to much consternation and hand wringing from those alarmed by the raucous music and the movie's portrayal of aggressive juvenile delinquents sabotaging an ailing educational system. British writer Nik Cohn describes Haley's impact on the world's musical landscape “By 1955 it was a hit in America and then it was a hit in Britain and then it was a hit all over the world. And it just kept on selling, it wouldn't quit, It stayed in the charts for one year solid. By the time is was finished, it had sold fifteen million copies. It had also started rock and rock.

That's Alright Mama- Elvis Presley
Rock Around the Clock- Bill Haley & The Comets
Tutti Frutti- Little Richard
Down the Line- Buddy Holly & Bob Montgomery
Maybelline- Chuck Berry
Rock the Joint- Bill Haley & The Comets
Mystery Train- Elvis Presley
I Hear You Knocking- Smiley Lewis
WPLJ- The Four Deuces
Honey Hush- Big Joe Turner
Bo Diddley- Bo Diddley
The Wee Wee Hours- Chuck Berry
Hound Dog- Elvis Presley
Love Me- Buddy Holly
Real Wild Child- Jerry Lee Lewis
Directly From My Heart – Little Richard
Bopping the Blues- Carl Perkins
I Gotta Know- Wanda Jackson
Who Slapped John- Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps
Train Kept On Rolling- The Johnny Burnette Trio
Ubangi Stomp- Warren Smith
Jungle Rock- Hank Mizell
Ducktail- Joe Clay
Honey Don't- Carl Perkins
Honey Hush- The Johnny Burnette Trio
Be Bop A Lula- Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps
Cherokee Boogie- Johnny Horton
White Lightning- George “Thumper” Jones
Rock With Me Baby- Billy Lee Riley
Guitar Rock- Bill Flagg
Race With The Devil- Gene Vincent & The Blue Caps
Go Go Go Down the Line- Roy Orbison