|The Legend is Now, Joe Clay & The El Toro Crackerjacks
El Toro Records ETCD6030
Claiborne Joseph Cheramie, born 1939, Harvey, Louisiana, USA. Joe Clay was a rockabilly singer and guitarist who recorded two singles in the late 50s and entered a 30-year period of obscurity before being rediscovered by fans of that music. Clay fronted the C.J. Cheramie Trio in Louisiana in the early 50s, playing the Louisiana Hayride in 1955 on a bill with Elvis Presley. The following year Cheramie submitted a demo tape to RCA Records, which signed him to its Vik subsidiary and changed his name to Joe Clay. He recorded two songs, one of which, "Ducktail", sold well regionally. Another single was cut in New York and performed on the Ed Sullivan Show while he was there. After the second single, "Cracker Jack", failed to reach the US charts. Clay was dropped from Vik and returned to Louisiana where he took a job driving a bus, a job he held from 1956 until the late 80s. Discovered by the rockabilly collectors Clay put together a band and began performing his old songs again in the late 80s. Germany's Bear Family Records released a collection of his early recordings in 1986.
Fans of Rockabilly music need no introduction to Joe Clay, his songs have appeared on countless compilations of the genre and Bear Family issued "Ducktail" BCD 15516-ah in 1986 rounding up some of the missing tracks. Joe's biggest songs were "Cracker Jack" and "Ducktail" (covered by several bands since the Mid 80's) but all of those tracks were recorded between 1956 to 1960.
I was tickled pink to be asked to review Joe's latest recordings on El Toro records "The legend is now", and remembering that almost 40 years have passed since "Cracker Jack". The first thing you notice on this CD is the honesty of the deal, There is a picture of Joe as he is now, not a publicity shot of way back when, so you know that you are listening to an elder exponent of the sound. I had a quick listen to the tracks to see what grabbed me (first impressions mean a lot), then I had a serious listen, next I dug out all my old stuff (Did you mean Jelly Bean, what you said cabbage head etc etc ) to get a reference point of "then and now" This collection opens with "Whole lot of trouble" and this sounds good, the band hold it together well, as they do on all tracks.
Some people will buy this CD because they collect all songs by certain artists, this CD is worth a listen for the standout tracks like "My cars alright" a humourous track that has a legacy similar to words from the pen of Chuck Berry, "Shake it Loretta" and "Kwitchur Belyakin" (I thought the last track was a Russian folk song, when I saw the title :). Joe rocks on the uptempo stuff but I do detect a quaver in the voice on the slower stuff "In the night" and I am reminded that Mr.C is human and getting on a bit in age like all of us. My advice would be to steer clear of ballads Joe, and rock for all your worth (and please don't make us wait another 40 years for the 3rd record). Liner notes are well written and contain interesting snippets of infomation as does the Interview track included on the CD All songs on this album were written by the band members with the exception of 1 Overall the disc is worth a hearing and I would give it 3 1/2 stars out of 5.
The Band is:
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Reviewed by CancerMan Mark, 2005
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