THE ROCK-A-TEENS

The Rock-A-Teens were a youthful sextet from Richmond, Virginia, led by Vic Mizelle (vocals, guitar). The other members were Bobby "Boo" Walke (guitar), Bill Cook (guitar), Eddie Robinson (sax), Paul Dixon (bass) and Bill Smith (drums). They first opened for business during 1956 as high school band Boo Walke & the Rockets.

In 1959 they auditioned for George Donald McGraw, who owned a record shop in Salem, Virginia, and a record label, Mart Records, to which Mickey Hawks was contracted at the time. McGraw was impressed by the boys' own composition "Rock-A-Teen Boogie", a falsetto-refrained instrumental with one of rock's first midtune drum solos. Retitled "Woo-Hoo", it came out on Doran 3515 (a subsidiary of Mart) in August 1959, coupled with "Untrue", a vocal number. These first pressings on Doran credited the Rock-A-Teens as the writers of "Woo Hoo". However, none other than Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith sued the group for plagiarism, much to the confusion of the young boys. McGraw then said "I'll buy the song off you guys and that way they can't sue you". For a few hundred dollars, the song got a new owner. Unbeknownst to the group, McGraw struck a deal with Morris Levy at Roulette Records in New York to reissue the record for national distribution on Roulette 4192, now with composer credits on both sides going to G.D. McGraw.

"Woo-Hoo" entered the Billboard Hot 100 in October 1959 and had a 12-week run, peaking at # 16. Probably to the group's amazement, Roulette decided to follow this success by having them record an LP. One session in November 1959 proved not enough for a full album, so a second session was called for in early 1960. Meanwhile, Roulette released a follow-up single in December, again coupling an instrumental ("Twangy") with a vocal track ("Doggone It Baby"). The latter was a stupendous raver, with Mizelle really ripping it up, but it was lost on the B-side of "Twangy".

The LP "Woo Hoo" (Roulette SR-25109) was released in the spring of 1960 and contained seven vocal tracks and five instrumentals. Of the four tracks from the two singles, "Untrue" was omitted from the LP, as the group found it too bad for inclusion. The album (a total flop in terms of sales, but now an in-demand rarity) shows that the Rock-A-Teens' real forte was as a raw, attacking, garage rock band, almost a punk band, some 16 years before the genre became fashionable. Not all group members were equally competent, though. Mizelle and Walke had to teach Cook and Dixon over and over how to play certain chords.

Eventually, the Rock-A-Teens' enthusiastic rawness was probably their undoing, as the musical times were a-changing. By 1960, rock 'n' roll was becoming ever more streamlined and sophisticated. There were no further recordings, but the groups leaves a fine legacy, which has been reissued heavily, including some previously unissued tracks and alternates. For an overview see Terry Gordon's website at http://rcs.law.emory.edu/rcs/artists/r/rock2500.htm The most complete overview (not mentioned by Gordon) is the CD "Woo-Hoo & Other Classics" on Sparkletone 99015 (34 tracks), but this is a bootleg, as are the CD's on BigTone and Lady Luck.

According to Wayne Jancik, in his "One Hit-Wonders" book, drummer Bill Smith went on to form the Bill Smith Combo, which had some releases on Chess in the early sixties. With all due respect, Wayne, I don't think this is correct. There was a Bill Smith Combo that included Gene Summers (Lonely/Heartbreak Hotel, Chess 1773), though I doubt if this is the same group that issued "Raunchy" on Chess 1780. I don't have the time right now to research this in depth. Perhaps other list members can tell us more.

For those who can read German, by far the most comprehensive source of information on the Rock-A-Teens is: http://www.rockinfifties.de/Leseprobe/Rock-A-Teens.pdf (The PDF version may take some time to download.)

 
These pages were saved from "This Is My Story" for reference usage only. Please note that these pages were not originally published or written by BlackCat Rockabilly Europe. For comments or information please contact Dik de Heer at dik.de.heer@hetnet.nl

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