Boyd Bennett – Boogie Bear (Mercury)
OC & the Holidays – The Tuttle (Warners)
Eddie Cochran – Something Else (Liberty)
Ray Sharpe – Linda Lu (Jamie)
Jim Dandees – The Loco Motion (Star Crest)
Buddy Knox & the Rhythm Orchids – C’ Mon Baby (Roulette)
Buzz Clifford – Baby Sittin’ Boogie (Columbia)
Duals – Oozy Groove (Infinity)
George Hamilton IV – If You Don’t Know (ABC – Paramount)
Four Jets – Jet Black (Capitol)
Link Wray – Turnpike USA (Swan)
Joe Bennett & the Sparkletones – I Dig You (ABC – Paramount)
Kipper & the Exciters – Drum Twist (Torch)
I hope all is well on your end, and that you’re just a hair away from recovering from a weekend of debauchery.
I for one spent the last few days running errands, writing, reading and hanging out with my wife and kids. My debauched years are behind me.
Much in the same way as the Big Bang was a huge explosion, the effects of which are still rippling out in the far reaches of the universe, I like to think that I have some debauchery “credits’ built up, with a huge storehouse of memories filed away. If I ever have a yearning to act the fool again, I can dip into that file and live vicariously through memories of my younger self while simultaneously reflecting ruefully on a whole host of youthful tomfoolery (so ruefully as to prevent 2006 Larry from walking into the same dead ends as 1988 Larry). This formula is not foolproof (pun intended), and I sometimes – like many of my species – do things I know to be stupid, but I like to think that those occurrences are in the minority.
That said, the sounds I bring you today, blended together to suggest a vibe of sorts are just the kinds of things you might want to be flowing from the speakers in your crappy, barely-functional vehicle as your best friend hangs out the window, beer in hand, all the while howling like Lon Chaney Jr on the night of the full moon.
There’s a fair amount of rockabilly here, along with some greasy trash rock, echoey guitar instros and pounding drums. This is primal stuff, much of it close to (or more than) half a freakin’ century old, yet (and this is the important part) more vital than any fifty current popular songs.
There is of course the likelihood that most of the folks who bopped to this stuff the first time around are either dead, or in Florida riding to bingo on electric scooters, but I like to think that out there somewhere, maybe in a walled compound that time has somehow forgotten, there dwells a group of superannuated greasers, bad attitudes not only intact, but seasoned with age. Perhaps this greasy Shangri-La exists on another plane entirely, having been forced to leap dimensions in order to survive. A dimension soaked in reverb, guitar twang, hiccupping vocals, tribal drum thumping, raised eyebrows and Dixie Peach pomade.
I (we) can dream, and if we’re going to, let this edition of the Iron Leg Digital Trip be our soundtrack.
The actual time-span here reaches from about 1956 to around 1964, though I haven’t been able to track down info on everything here, so if I am incorrect in that particular assumption, please let me know.
Things get off to a rousing start with a track that I first heard in a cover by retro-billy Robert Gordon. Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones were a South Carolina group who actually had a Top 20 hit with ‘Black Slacks’ in 1957. The lyrics to this one are brilliant (derbies, cat chains, red bowties???).
Boyd Bennett was a Nashville based singer who recorded a number of well regarded rockabilly tunes in the 50s. ‘Boogie Bear’ (clearly an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Yogi Bear) was his last hit in 1959.
I haven’t been able to track down much of anything on OC & the Holidays, other than the label they recorded for was owned by Bob Shad, who went on to found Mainstream Records. ‘The Tuttle’ sounds as if it were based on the riff from ‘Good Morning Little Schoolgirl’.
I’ll go ahead and assume you all know who Eddie Cochran was. Cochran, who made some of the best, and most commercially successful rockabilly sides, had the movie star good looks to be huge. ‘Something Else’ is by far my favorite of his many amazing sides. One can only imagine what he might have gone on to do had he not died in a car crash (which Gene Vincent and Cochran’s girlfriend, songwriter Sharon Sheeley survived) while touring the UK. He was only 21 years old.
Ray Sharpe was that rarest of the rare, a black rockabilly singer! The Texan hit the Top 50 with ‘Linda Lu’ in 1959. The single was produced by Lee Hazlewood and reportedly features none other than Duane Eddy on guitar. I’m not one hundred percent sure, but I believe Sharpe is the same guy who went on to record for Philadelphia’s ‘Sock & Soul’ label (with the Soul Set) in the late 60s.
The Jim Dandees are another group I haven’t been able to dig up anything about. ‘The Loco Motion’ – no relation to Little Eva or Mark Farner – is a cooker with a real Duane Eddy-style twang to it.
Buddy Knox and the Rhythm Orchids were a Texas group (they recorded at the same New Mexico studio as Buddy Holly & the Crickets) who had several chart hits in the late 50s, including the 1957 number one, ‘Party Doll’. ‘C’mon Baby’ suggests that they were sharing ideas as well as a studio.
Buzz Clifford had a million seller with ‘Baby Sittin’ Boogie’ (dig those crazy sound effects) in 1961, and not long after faded deep into the background. However, his post rockabilly career was quite interesting. He worked steadily as a songwriter through the 60s and 70s, and was part of the band Carp, which also featured a pre-insanity Gary Busey.
The Duals were a West Coast group who had some success in 1961 with a tune called ‘Stick Shift’, which was originally released on the Star Revue label and then picked up for national distribution by Sue. ‘Oozy Groove’ was the b-side of their third single, which was released first on the Sue-associated Juggy label, then again on Infinity. It’s an absolutely superb bit of reverb drenched guitar madness. The intro alone is worth the price of admission.
George Hamilton IV (no, not the naugahyde tanned TV pitchman) is best known as a huge country star of the 60s and 70s, but he got his start in the 50s as a rock’n’roller. ‘If You Don’t Know’ – the flip side of his first big hit ‘A Rose and a Baby Ruth’ – is one of his better efforts and a great example of how country boys (George Jones had some great rockabilly-ish stuff in his catalog) could grease up when they had their cat clothes on (not to mention the Elvis namecheck…).
The Four Jets was actually bassist Jet Harris and the Drifters (soon to become the Shadows) . They had a UK hit with ‘Jet Black’ in 1959, and the group’s name had to be changed when the record was released in the US. The lead guitar on ‘Jet Black’ is actually Harris’ bass! The roots of the Shadows sound are there, but there’s a rougher edge too.
I’ve covered the genius of Link Wray in this space before, specifically the brilliant ‘Jack the Ripper’. ‘Turnpike USA’ was his distortion drenched 1963 follow up to that killer. It may be a lesser effort in comparison, but let’s be honest, pretty much everything else is.
Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones’ rocking ‘I Dig You’ was the b-side of their 1958 single ‘Cotton Pickin’ Rocker’. There are a couple of places where the multi-tracked (or at least doubled) vocals seem to be slightly out of sync. I dig the rough and ready guitar solo on this one.
The set closes out with yet another anonymous instro, ‘Drum Twist’ by Kipper and the Exciters. The only thing I’ve been able to discover is that this song charted regionally (California) in 1962. It sounds like it was recorded on the back of a truck going through a long tunnel (with the sax player being dragged behind).
That all said, I hope you dig the vibe of this mix, and I’ll see you all next week.