|Jukebox Fever, Northwest Rockabilly and Rock 'n' Roll
Blue Suede News KN1030, 2002
Rockin' in the Great Northwest! (by Marc Bristol)
The rockin' scene up here has been happening all along, and occasionally has made noise internationally. Our main purpose with this CD was to collect a set of great music for you, but we also tried to have it give a bit of historical perspective in terms of NW acts that have had some impact regionally, nationally and internationally.
Rockabilly music and its antecedents had their day even way up here in the fifties. The original "Hot Rod Race" was written in Bremerton by Arkie Shibley and George Ronald Wilson. BSN friend Bobby Wayne, who had one of the earliest rockabilly records out of Spokane with "Sally Ann" sent us a new track which details the pre-rockabilly scene in which he was a young star country performer. Bobby's mom turned him on to Elvis during a visit to her in Florida in '54, and "Sally Ann" was the result. He went on to have some fairly big country records regionally in the '60s, including authoring the title song for the Disney film "The Appaloosa".
Jerry Merritt was born in Arkansas, but launched his music career from the Yakima, Washington area. His band the Pacers once found themselves on a bill with Sonny Burgess and the Pacers from Arkansas! While backing Bobby Darin at the Division Street Corral in Portland, Jerry met Gene Vincent, who offered Jerry the job of playing lead guitar for him. Jerry toured Japan with Gene, even filling AS Gene when the man himself got too lonesome for Darlene and left Jerry in the lurch. Gene went on to record "She She Little Sheila" and other songs by Jerry. Jerry had agreed to participate, and I was in the process of trying to reconnect with him after his move back to Eastern Washington when word reached us that he had passed away. We thank his son Larry for permission to use "Jukebox Fever", a song that Jerry wrote in the '50s, but didn't record until later. It appeared on his Rockhouse CD "After Crazy Times With Gene Vincent". The Ventures' Bob Bogle plays bass on this track!
Don Weise recorded his entry in about '64, produced by Bobby Wayne, who also played guitar on "Never Again". Don's biggest claim to fame is the fact that Little Richard recorded his "Poor Boy Paul" (on the LP Well Alright in '63), and word is Richard even wanted it to be the title song. Don recorded the song for Specialty himself, in fact, in '58.
Ricky Felson actually began his rock 'n' roll career in Wisconsin in the early '60s, playing in a group that recorded rock instrumentals called the Renegades. After that he backed Troy Shondell, and also played in a version of the Bill Black Combo. Relocating to the NW to work for Boeing, Rick was a founding member of both Sparky & The Starfires and Spike & The Continentals - each group providing rockabilly and early rock 'n' roll to those starved for it up here in the '80s. His track here is the title one from his cassette "Spin Our Wheels".
Everybody knows The Kingsmen because of their massive hit version of "Louie, Louie", and while they are forever associated with the idea of garage rock music, the truth is the band's repertoire has always been mostly drawn from black and white rock 'n' roll of the 50's and very earliest '60s. Their contribution to this CD "Red Hot Rock" was written and sung by Steve Peterson, who's played both drums and guitar with the band since '88. The song was written for a film that was to be about a rock 'n' roll band in Russia in the '50s that so far hasn't gotten made.
The Magnetics managed, through the demo song here, to get a contract to record for Ronny Weiser's Rollin' Rock label, and toured with some success in England and Skandanavia. "Roll Back The Rug" was actually written and sung by the group's soundman Rockin' Ruben, who would get up and sing on the shows with them after setting the levels. Considering the cachet of Rollin' Rock, we considered it essential to try and have something from the Magnetics for this project. This song was never recorded for Rollin' Rock, as Rockin' Ruben had gone on to other things by the time they recorded with Ronny Weiser. Read More
The '70s might appear to have been a blank spot on the rockabilly map up here, but it wasn't entirely so. Commander Cody & The Lost Planet Airmen inspired a number of people to foray into that direction, including Lance Romance & The Three Minute Boogie. I guess I'll have to represent that decade, along with the '80s, '90s and current scene, since I started my first NW group the Okie Doke Stringband in '75. My contribution here was cut at the second Marc Bristol & The Shack Shakers recording session, but is a slightly different version of "Let's Shake It" from the one that appeared on my CD "Rockabilly Rhythm & Blues". Read More
Jo Miller & Her Burly Roughnecks have risen from the ashes of Jo's earlier band Ranch Romance, which toured nationally and recorded for Sugar Hill. Guitarist David Keenan and accordionista Nova Devonie return from the earlier band. Jo had already been a mainstay of the Northwest bluegrass and country swing scene long before that, notably scoring some national attention via the "Fire On The Mountain" syndicated radio show and winning a contest that had them appearing with Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, Hank Williams Jr., and Merle Haggard at the Tacoma Dome with the Skyline Drifters.
Another artist who I first heard during the '80s is Tom LaVelle, who we wrote about in a very early issue of Blue Suede News as part of a band called "4 Bad Dudes". Tom played with a number of other bands since that time (made a single under his own name in the '80s), including Thunder Road which he appears with here, and also backed Wanda Jackson and Janis Martin for shows at Seattle's illustrious Tractor Tavern. Along with former Bad Dude Chris Crass he was part of the earliest version of the Dusty 45s. Tom backed me on piano at Hemsby, England (also headlining his own show there) in May of 2000, and is currently living and performing in England.
The Bughouse Five are a Vancouver, B.C. act that has evolved among the fairly active scene up there. They have a number of CDs on Eastside Records, and their song here is from one called "Everything Must Go". Stylistically, they handle everything from rockabilly and psychobilly to rock music equally well, and kick ass to open this show.
The Dusty 45s began life as the Exploding Pintos and evolved into one of a couple current Seattle acts that manage to tour nationally. Their eclectic approach includes some lounge-y type music and also some honky tonk country along with Tex-Mex and straight ahead rock 'n' roll. A highlight of their shows includes singer/guitarist Billy Joe Huels setting his trumpet on fire. Their tune here "Break The Law" is from their CD "Shackin' Up!" No trumpet on this one, though.
Although Justin Curtis hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba, originally, he came to Seattle via Nashville, Tennessee, where he recorded an album of rockabilly and country music. A mainstay of the scene up here for quite a while, with occasional Johnny Cash tribute nights at the Tractor and gigs all over town, Justin has relocated to L.A. currently. A video for "Cadillac Girl" played on CMT Canada for 3 months.
The most successful recent act in the rockabilly scene from the Pacific Northwest has been Ray Condo & The Ricochets. We wanted a track from them, but wanted an original which were in short supply. But Pete Turland, the most recent bass player of the group, has a side act of his own in which he sings and plays guitar brilliantly, and we got the track "Drawing The Line" from his Eastside CD "Rollin' And Tumblin' Again". Pete hails from England originally, so we'll consider him an exchange for Tom LaVelle.
Another of our favorite Vancouver acts are G.I. Blues, representing the Canadian Northwest (wait a minute, Vancouver is in the Southwest part of Canada!) here on "Christeen". Both Gaby and I are partial to piano rock 'n' roll, as you'll guess from my track, Tom LaVelle's, The Dusty 45's, Jerry Lee Merrill's and also G.I. Blues. They are also on Eastside, and this track is from their self-titled CD.
Representing Portland, Oregon is Dizzy Elmer. With their most recent CD the band has evolved a bit towards early '60s beat sounds, without abandoning their rockabilly aspect. The track "Fannie Mae" is from their CD "This Bad Dog" on Texas Squid. Read More
We round out the lineup here with a couple of fairly new acts from Seattle, The Donettes, with their great original song "Oh Boy" (they appeared at Viva Las Vegas in 2001, and won the talent contest), and The Knocked-Outs, with an original song about the town where my band Okie Doke had our first gig in 1975 - actually before the band was named - at the now long gone Silver Dollar Tavern. Their song is "Monroe, Washington", and they too performed at Viva Las Vegas in 2001. Read More
As we were finishing up this compilation Dave Conant, one of the members of the Shack Shakers, passed away. Dave was a much loved musician here in the Seattle area, his wake at the Tractor Tavern caused at least one friend to say "this is the best funeral I've ever been to!" There was a New Orleans style parade, belly dancing, a video documentary and lots of love, food and music. Dave's brother Kimball told the story Dave had told me, about how he saw Elvis in 1955 in Wichita, and hid beneath the bleachers to sneak into the second show. Ron Bailey, leader of the Honky Tonk All-Stars, remarked that Dave probably held the world record for being in the most bands ever. We'll be sorely missing Dave, and include his version of "Maybelline" cut live at the Tractor with the Shack Shakers a few years ago as a bonus track here.This CD is dedicated to the memory of "Vashon" Dave Conant, Jerry Lee Merritt and "Rockin Rick" Hurskainen (drums
on track 2).
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