Born Rudolfo Jiminez, 8 June 1933, Saspamco, Texas
Finally, there is a legal CD with the complete recordings of Rudy Grayzell, after a bootleg release on TRG / The Hound in 1995. The new Bear Family CD is a good reason to take another look at this interesting artist, who has been able to make a living out of music ever since he left school, without any chart hits!
Born just south of San Antonio, Rudolfo Jiminez was of Spanish ancestry on his father's side and Italian on his mother's. As a youngster he was exposed to a wide range of music : pop, country, R&B and Mexican music. Aged seventeen, he assembled a combo called the Silver Buckles and they played the clubs and bars. Band members came and went and have included Johnny Olenn, Eddy Dugosh and a very young Doug Sahm. As of mid-1953, Rudolfo was an Abbott recording artist. Abbott's owner, Fabor Robison, changed his name to Rudy Grayzell, figuring that the country market wasn't ready for someone called Jiminez. Rudy's first Abbott single, "Looking At the Moon And Wishing On A Star" was clearly inspired by the recent hit "Don't Let the Stars Get In Your Eyes". It was covered by Skeets McDonald and Charline Arthur and even saw a belated UK release, on London HL 8094, in November 1954. After two more singles on Abbott, Rudy either quit the label or was dropped after one year. Charlie Walker then landed Grayzell a contract with Capitol, where Ken Nelson produced his recordings and he was billed as "Rudy Gray". "Hearts Of Stone", the first Capitol single, was a cover of a number by the Jewels from L.A., but Rudy's version was outsold by the Fontane Sisters (# 1 pop) and the Charms (# 1 R&B, # 15 pop). His flip-side, "There's Gonna Be A Ball", was hillbilly with R&B overtones. By this time Grayzell had changed the name of his band to the Texas Kool Kats. Two further Capitol singles went nowhere and in early 1956 Rudy signed with Starday, run by Pappy Daily in Houston.
It was here that he cut his best rockers. "Duck Tail"/"You're Gone" was an excellent rockabilly two-sider, but a cover of "Duck Tail" by Joe Clay for RCA's Vik label stole much of its thunder. The fourth Starday single, "Let's Get Wild", released in mid-1957, had Grayzell almost going over the top, but it was probably too wild for most radio stations and didn't get much airplay. On three of the four Starday singles, Rudy was credited as Rudy "Tutti" Grayzell. He says that the nickname came from Elvis, who called him "Rudy Tutti", but, like several other tall stories from Grayzell, this has to be taken with a grain of salt.
His next stop was at Sun in Memphis and again, Charlie Walker was the intermediary. As a rule, Sam Phillips didn't record artists who had already recorded for other labels, but he made an exception for Rudy (and also for Onie Wheeler around the same time). There was one session spread over two days in October 1957, arranged by Bill Justis, which resulted in the single "Judy"/"I Think Of You" (Sun 290), plus two slow numbers that now see the light of day for the first time on the Bear Family CD, "I Won't Be the Fool" and "Remember When".
It was probably in 1958 that Grayzell moved to San Jose, California, and sighned with Award Records. His first recording there was an unreleased cover of Wynona Carr's "Should I Ever Love Again". A 1959 session yielded the novelty "The F.B.I. Story", credited to "Rudy Grayzell and his Thunderbirds, accompanied by the Sparkles". It was his last record for several decades.
By 1960, Rudy was in Las Vegas at the Fremont Hotel. He spent most of the 1960s and 1970s doing a Vegas-styled lounge act in the northwestern states. Occasionally he would reclaim his rockabilly roots. In 1987 Rudy Grayzell's comeback began with a session for Sundial Records where he revived "Duck Tail". In 1990, he began appearing in Europe and became a familiar face at festivals. I saw him in Eindhoven in 1997, where he was backed by the (Dutch) Tin Stars, featuring that fantastic guitarist Tjarko Jeen. Rudy looked incredibly young for his age and put on a great show. In 1991 he recorded for Norton and in 1998 for Sideburn. During 2008-2009 he played the role of an Elvis clone ("Teddy Corn") in the musical "Zombie Voodoo Scream Party". Aged 76, he is not yet ready to retire.
Acknowledgements : Colin Escott, Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
More info : http://www.rockabillyhall.com/RudyGrayzell1.html
CD: Rudy Grayzell, Let's Get Wild. Bear Family BCD 16837 AH (2010). 32 tracks plus 37-page booklet by Colin Escott.
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