Rockabilly Archaeology: Part Two.

The conventional wisdom is that when Elvis released Heartbreak Hotel on 27 January 1956 the world surrendered to this new phenomena. And as you would expect, those perps from Rolling Stone are aiding and abetting this fabrication:

In 2004 it was ranked number forty-five on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”,[44] the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included it in its unranked list 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll[45] and in 2005, Uncut magazine ranked the first performance of “Heartbreak Hotel” in 1956 by Presley as the second greatest and most important cultural event of the rock and roll era.

This is hogswash of the first order. Rock and Roll, rockabilly, call it what you like, was well and truly percolating in the major cities in the South prior to this date and via numerous musicians who are now mostly footnotes. The whole idea of placing the first dot on a musical timeline is an idiot’s exercise. Musicians of that period simply didn’t think of themselves as genre artists: that was a retrospective exercise undertaken by both the musicians themselves (at least those that survived) and rock journalists.

Insipid pop, pure country, rock and roll or blues: The South was one massive melting pot of sounds and musicians turned their efforts to song types where they (or more exactly their managers/record companies) thought they could make a buck. Royalties from the sale of vinyl were non-existent: the only way to pay the bills and buy that mandatory pink cadillac and/or bus was really exhaustive touring – bars, roadhouses and high school hops, whitey’s version of the Black America’s chitlin circuit. And Black and White sounds of the day routinely intersected as bands ground out a living on the road. Songs were routinely pilfered, rewritten and sanitised, with Black musicians opting for the more visceral versions.

This abbreviated rant out of the way, let’s turn up the speakers and listen to some major and minor footnotes. Charlie Feathers HERE and HERE always enjoyed pointing out that he held a musicians union ticket well before Elvis.

Prior to his death in 1998, Charlie downsized and turned his family into his backing band. Just think that years later Tarantino (or more correctly longtime associate Robert Rodriguez) included the following in the Kill Bill double bill. (Rodriguez is unquestionably the most interesting sound track creator in decades.)

Interview with Charlie. You’ll need a linguist.

Sorting thru Gene Vincent’s catalogue for song gems is a bit like ploughing thru Rockally Rarities Vols.1 -4: it’s not worth the time or effort. There is just too much dross. Vincent led a pained life (naval injury) which was not helped by his love of bourbon and flick knives. And like Jerry Lee, he had to vacate the US to avoid the demands of the Inland Revenue. However Be Bop-a-Lula is a shining example of all the rockabilly mannerisms.

I think this was the clip used early on in Scorsese’s No Direction Home.
And here’s the same, but with superior sound values.

Vincent’s guitarist Cliff Gallup seriously inspired Beck, Page and others and the guy never left his day job. He was the Director of Maintenance and Transportation for the Chesapeake, Virginia city school system, where he worked for almost 30 years. Wicki
Update. Just realised that I forgot this piece Catman by Gene Vincent, where Gallup’s breaks the mold with guitar playing which precursed The Cramps, The Gun Club etc by decades. And since this is a family friendly site, I leave the Catman signifier to you lecherous imagination.

For the full road house opera, there is little to surpass Lonnie Mack’s Why. Mack, a reverb twang, country and blues sojourner displays his Otis Rush skills here – brass riffs to die for, strong lyrics and incandescent guitar.

Finally, we come to Sleepy La Beef, The Human Jukebox, capable of doing three hour concerts without a break and covering a massive sweep of songs in a variety of genres including gospel. Saw him on two occassions and had my musical parameters seriously extended.

Readers who are interested in guitar porn will have noted the Danelectro on the right, and there are some of you since the The Luthiers Art….post has been read around 2,500 times, which is sort of gratifying.
The final in this series will focus on Train Mythology.


5 Responses to “Rockabilly Archaeology: Part Two.”

  1. jsfb Says:

    I am always late to comment on your posts – mostly I come back when I remember to.. So earlier today while driving had tuned in to local college radio. They were playing this:

    and it reminded me of your rockabilly series. So tonight while browsing the sino-web I came back to your site to humbly submit it. I think you will appreciate it.

    To follow on your previous comment from a few blog posts ago. It would seem that we are both part of a very narrow slice of the demographics. We have an interest in Asia and a soft spot for obscure roots music. It is not a badge of honor, but just a weird coincidence. I hope there are others out there like that and they just don’t bother to roam around in the sino-web or they do not bother to comment. They should.

    Speaking of the sino-web which has gotten kinda stale recently, I bet you are aware of the weird phenom that is HH. I amuse myself with that delusional crap every now and then. And tonight I saw some real amusing stuff over there. Check it out ( The HHB crowd got a good spanking by a Chinese commenter and they are still trying to recover.

    I am rambling. But so are you some times – so I hope you will excuse me.


  2. kingtubby1 Says:

    I thought my writing style was ….well…. normal.

    Somewhere in Jan 2012, I named the HH Posse as a Sino version of the Charlie Manson family with their concerns about Han miscegenation, diaspora lebensraum breeding programs and the whole racialist wet dream.

    Everybody has attempted to argue with Allen, De Wang et al – Burger, Custer, FOARP and many others – and all departed, whipped, sodomised , and declaring never again.

    You will jeopardise your immortal soul if you enter into any discussion with that bunch.

    I tried trolling them and it was a disheartening experience similar to a bad acid trip.

    Hasil Adkins: I encountered him on a compilation put together on purple vinyl and with a really bad LP cover.

    Obscure music roots: that a badge of honour.
    Interest in China: that’s a Tour of Duty which has less currency as each year passes.

    Here’s one for you: The Night of the Sadist

    That’s the cover I mentioned. Great series.

    And a recommendation if you haven’t heard it already:
    Psychedelic Emanations by the Fuzztones

    With the truly psychotic monologue into the song

  3. jsfb Says:

    Thank you – you made my day.

    Associative memory is a weird thing. I am listing some associations below:

    1) Lysergic Emanations => bad trip => HH
    2) Fuzztones => Link Protrudi and the Jaymen (you are an instrumentals connoisseur I am guessing)
    3) Garage Revival => Be a Caveman: Best of Voxx Garage
    4) KT & Garage Rock => Down Under => Ugly Things by Raven Records

    I will depart by humbly submitting the videos below which I hope you (and maybe some in your eclectic readership) will enjoy.

    The night of the Phantom – by a Greek garage revival band. A Greek acquaintance turned me on to them. Check out the grooving crowd. Must be quite recent – you’d see no such thing in the US these days.

    An original by the same band. It looks like that although the typical Greek dwelling does not include a garage attachment, the related rock genre was flourishing there in the 90’s.

    So, maybe someone can write a post on the correlation the financial condition of an EU member country to the popularity of garage rock in that country. It does not look like that there are (or were) many garage bands in Germany :-)..

    Disclaimer: the ramblings above are not lysergic.

    Take care.

  4. jsfb Says:

    One more thing, that I just found out and I thought that our narrow slice of the demographics would appreciate. Also a testament to the web/youtube as an engine of discovery of wonderful trivia (or globally important trivia as you say).

    The same Greek band (Last Drive) performing the 60’s surf classic Misirlou:

    Inspired of course by the King of the Surf Guitar:

    Who in turn was inspired by a Greek 1930’s original:

    Now, according to the notes on youtube:

    Famous “Misirlou” is an old greek rebetiko song….this is the original version from Mike Patrinos from 1930. The word Misirli in turkish means girl from Egypt. The song refers to a cross-faith, cross-race, relationship, a risqué subject at its time.

    I thought you’d appreciate that piece of trivia…

    Until next time (maybe in a month or so)..

  5. kingtubby1 Says:

    Nice. Nice. Especially I Love Cindy.

    Can’t imagine German Garage bands. They would all end up sounding like Throbbing Gristle intellectualist wankers.

    God, with youth unemployment in Greece and Spain at the moment, expect a musical outburst of something.
    Don’t expect anything from Italy though. A musically hopeless social formation.

    Ugly Things Vols 1 – 3. Yes, Totally Tremendous.

    Also the double Glen A Baker “So you wanna to be a rock and roll star” which came out about the same time as the Ivan Kraal compilation Nuggets.

    Ugly Thing by The Creatures. Dig the two-fingered organ.

    Used to see them on TV when I was in short pants.

    The garbage press: “Would you let your daughter go out with a Creature?”

    Finally, ‘Battle of the Garages” which will give you drug-free brain fusion.…0.0…1ac.1.11.img.ROJjlrBpGQI

    And this is one of my all-time faves…..background in the last scene/episode of The Sopranos as Tony comes to realise that he is just a small-time mobster dividing up garbage removal contracts.

    Pudding bowl haircuts not withstanding.

    Till we convene again in the cave next month, jsfb.

    All the best.

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