Get your motor runnin’
There are very few well-known stars featured on this set – with the possible exception of Ronnie Self who delivers the oddball lament ‘Petrified’ in fear of his better half and Carl Perkins. These 50+ 45s are filled with three minute (or in many cases far less) epics by people that came and went before the shellac even set. In the insane world of roots rockabilly “success” was an alien concept, although you’d be forgiven for thinking that Fat Daddy Holmes had arrived when he performed his hit ‘Chicken Rock’ at a show headlined by Chucko The Clown at the Pomonoa Fair at the end of the ‘50s. Glamourous? You bet.
Nat Couty And The Braves never reached such dizzy heights but their ‘Woodpecker Rock’ from 1958 is a monument to hiccoughing bravado, a fine novelty 45 as was ‘I Dreamed I Was Elvis’, a rambling tale by Sonny Cole, the flipside of which, ‘Curfew Cops’ is included here, as it gear shifts to deliver a drive by classic about the man’s crack down on drag racing, the very inspiration for Curtis Gordon’s scorcher ‘Draggin’.
Cars were big news in rockabilly, as Arkansas-born Joyce Green attested on ‘Black Cadillac’; which was countered by Sammy Masters’ ‘Pink Cadillac’, one of a slew of sides by the Oklahama musician who started playing in Spade Cooley’s band. The pink/black play off resumed with some indecision on Sonny Fisher’s ‘Pink And Black’ where his love of the Caddi was accentuated by his pink and black shoes – something the fashion conscious Carl Perkins would have dug if his thumping ‘Pink Pedal Pushers’ is anything to go by. Back on the blacktop, Wally Hughes’ ‘Convertible Car’ is a tremendous ode to his white walls with a lingering vocal and a monster guitar break; and a similar love for the machine was shown by Leon Smith on his ‘Little Forty Ford’, while Sonny Sheets with Floyd Terry, The Pirates And The Frantics’ ‘Wheels’ was one of a handful of cool singles from the Kentucky-based Sheets which was released on the Houston-based D label. Charlie Ryan And The Livingston Brothers’ ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’ was an answer record to Arkie Shibley And His Mountain Dew Boys’s ‘Hot Rod Race’ which closes disc one, it was written by Ryan and later covered by Commander Cody And The Lost Planet Airmen and George Thorogood And The Destroyers. And pre-dating Carpool Karaoke by some way, Don Feger sings from the steering wheel with a rambling and rolling vocal as he heads for his ‘Date On The Corner’.
Out of the car, things were wild and crazy. The kids just wanted to party as Larry And Dixie Davis enthused on ‘Gonna Live It Up’ (they would later suffer the consequences on their wonderful ‘Mental Cruelty’ 45). Rudy ‘Tutti’ Grayzell followed suit on ‘Let’s Get Wild’, as did Jimmy Evans on the scene setter ‘The Joint’s Really Jumpin’. Wild irreverence driven by discordant guitars with a country swing and a vocal that traversed the two often made rockabilly singles a hoedown of heartbeat quickening frivolity; a perfect example is George Fleming’s super rare ‘The Shake’, and BB (Cunningham)’s instrumental ‘Electrode’, along with the furious ‘Playmates’ by Derrell Felts And The Confederates, a raging inferno from the Dixie label which also released Alden Holloway’s countdown to oblivion ‘Blast Off’.
Fans and collectors who sought out these odd – often only locally released – singles were undoubtedly looking to reinforce their juvenile delinquent cred, living out the antics of these anti-heroes; from The Collins Kids – listed as Lorrie and Larry Collins in this case – on their teasing ‘Whistle Bait’, to Tommy Wood’s ‘Can’t Play Hookey’ and Wayland Chandler’s ‘Play Boy’ right through to the self-explanatory ‘I’m A Madman’ by the suitably dubbed Willie Ward & the Warblers. These were perfect illustrations of a sideways view of life as accentuated on novelty gems like Onie Wheeler’s disturbing ‘Booger Gonna Getcha’, Jimmy And Johnny’s ‘I Can’t Find the Doorknob’ and The James Boys’ ‘Back Rub’ which mixes doo wop and rockabilly, a hybrid that was just begging to happen. You got to love a novelty 45 mind you and a record that celebrates the sound of a frying pan in the face is a must, so Jay Cee Hill’s ‘Bump!’ is all good, as is Mickey Hawks And Moon Mullins And His Night Raiders’ ‘Bip Bop Boom’ which sounds like prototype Creedence. In fact there’s a further nod to that swampy Dale Hawkins edginess on Ronnie Haig’s ‘Rocking With Rhythm & Blues’ which boasts a mighty guitar salvo midway.
Some of the cast here did have small pockets of success. For example, Billy Brown was a guitarist who released a gaggle of party anthems and raucous rockers including ‘Flip Out’ and ‘Did We Have A Party’ which both grace this set. Originally from West Virginia he eventually wound up in Nashville but not before releasing these gems and the hokey ‘Drunk’ backed with, of course, ‘Drunk Again’. And, Bobby Lord – who gives us the magnificent ‘High Voltage’ – crossed from hillbilly to country on a string of 45s. By contrast, The Skee Brothers from Pontiac in Michigan released just three singles including ‘Big Deal’ – a weird lip curling mix of rock ‘n’ roll and primal RnB. Obscurity was king and as if to prove that, the Wampus cat of Howard Chandler’s single is an offbeat study of the animal that’s a native of the Appalachian mountains, while Jimmy Murphy’s ‘Here Kitty Kitty’ resides a bit closer to home.
Eventually, when the JD’s became adult delinquents, the brash bragging continued to the bar where the jukebox rattled to a host of off kilter “love” songs, from Eddie Bond And His Stompers’ ‘Flip Flop Mama’ to The Hi-Tombs’ ‘Sweet Rockin’ Mama’, Wayne Williams And The Sure Shots ‘Red Hot Mama’ and Lee Mitchell ‘Rootie Tootie Baby’; hell, relationships were sure different back then as Milton Allen’s ‘Don’t Bug Me Baby’ swaggers and Terry Daly And The Nu-Tones’ ‘You Don’t Bug Me’ simmers; and of course who could forget Jimmy Edwards’s ‘Love Bug Crawl’, an ode to hugging and kissing with a magnificent warbling pay-off line.
Sass was “class” and dancing dolls (© Art Adams And The Rhythm Knights) were everyone’s favourites until The Hi-Liters’s CSI special ‘Dance Me To Death’ told otherwise. In this genre, even songs for the broken hearted became uptempo work outs as Bobby Crown And The Kapers’ ‘One Way Ticket’ and Benny Barnes And The Echoes’ honky tonking mix on ‘You Gotta Pay’ prove, while Jimmy Pritchett does his best Jerry Lee on ‘That’s The Way I Feel’, another aching break up tune, and Bobby McDowell sets the echo to 11 on the haunting ‘Lonely’ before Mike McAllister’s ‘I Don’t Dig It’ sounds like they pushed it up to 12. Every needle drop is an adventure here… enjoy.