This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.
This is album retro-review number 147 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.
The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.
The first fifty reviews were vinyl only, and the second fifty reviews were CD’s only. Links to these reviews can be found at the bottom of this page. From review 101 onward I have mixed vinyl and CD albums and, try and present an Australian album every fifth review!
In the 1950’s we saw the start of films as a mechanism to promote the “new” music of Rock and Roll, and this weeks album is the music track from one of those movies.
Featuring a range of various ‘second ranking” Rock and Roll artists, this vinyl album features the same name as the movie the music was used in, and is called – Rock Baby Rock It (Soundtrack Recording).
Although in some ways it could be considered as a recent release, 1985, it had never been released as an album previous to Rhino records releasing it.
It features the label code RNSP 309 and has 18 tracks with all tracks were lifted from the original optical tracks, as no quality audio tapes were in existence.
The movie Rock, Baby, Rock It really is in terms of movies a B-Grade trying desperately to be a C Grade movie.
It was made on a budget that would struggle to support a family
of four for a month.
It was filmed in Dallas Texas back in 1956 when rock and roll suddenly became a business thanks largely to Rock Around The Clock and, masterminded by an aspiring promoter looking to ride the rapidly growing “rock ‘n’ roll” fad to the big time.
Unlike Rock Around The Clock, the film was utterly devoid of not only professional actors. Even the “music names” they chose to use in the then growing rock music scene, were largely unknown by the public.
Mind you a few did go onto becoming second tier rock legends.
Rock Baby Rock It the movie, is every bit as dreadful as any other “el cheepo” cash in music film made.
Yet in what is the irony of such movies it went on to gather an ever growing legion of fans as it became a cult movie, and whilst widely sought after it still remains one of the most seldom seen movies associated with rock music.
The “I was a Teenage Delinquent Rock and Roll Horror Beach Party Movie Book” indicates that the film has a “certain charm” and “definitely captures a certain time and place.”
Straining to be nice, Teenage Delinquent closes its discussion of the film by remarking, “what an assortment of faces!”
Imbued with a caste of local musical talent and scenes from pre-freeway Dallas, Rock Baby Rock It is a standard variation of the old “let’s have a show gang!” storyline.
We all know the formula, a bunch of misunderstood teens just having a rockin’ good time in their clubhouse are menaced by cheap crims seeking a front for their organized crime-type activities.
The teens of course don’t take this lying down and are resolved to fight back.
Any additional information is simply redundant!
Shot on the cheap as well as the fly (in one week) it was produced by a music promoter who went by the name of J.G. Tiger (even though his name was Jack Goldman).
The film features performances by contemporary acts like Johnny Carroll, Roscoe Gordon and the Red Tops,The Five Stars, Don Coates and the Bon-Aires, Preacher Smith and the Deacons, The Cell Block Seven, The Belew Twin and others.
But, we are looking at the music!
Now, some sixty plus years later we look at the film and say what a really cool rock film. It does feature some really good rockabilly, embryonic rock and roll and doo wop and, it features it not in a reproduced period, but the actual period.
But we are reviewing the music, not the film so who and what is on this album?
1. Rock Baby Rock It – Johnny Carroll And The Hot Rocks
2. Hot Rock – The Cell Block Seven
3. Stop The World – Don Coats And The Bon-Aires
4. Your Love Is All I Need – The Five Stars
5. Eat Your Heart Out – Preacher Smith And The Deacons
6. Chicken In The Rough – Rosco Gordon And The Red Tops
7. Bop It – Rosco Gordon And The Red Tops
8. Crazy Crazy Lovin’ – Johnny Carroll And The Hot Rocks
9. Wild Wild Women – Johnny Carroll And The Hot Rocks
1. Lonesome – The Belew Twins
2. Love Me Baby – The Belew Twins
3. The Saint Song – The Cell Block Seven
4. Roogie Doogie – Preacher Smith And The Deacons
5. Love Never Forgets – Don Coats And The Bon-Aires
6. Rockin’ Maybelle – Johnny Carroll And The Hot Rocks
7. Hey, Juanita – The Five Stars
8. Sugar Baby – Johnny Carroll And The Hot Rocks
9. Hot Rock – The Cell Block Seven
Track number 1 kicks off with the track with the same name as the film and the album, Rock Baby Rock It.
It features Johnny Carroll and The Hot Rocks. Interestingly, singles releases by Carroll and his group have them named as “Johnny Carroll and HIS Hot Rocks” – but I guess the name differences in the grand scheme of things just probably don’t matter.
Johnny Carroll grew up in Godley, Texas, a very small town (some 400 people) near Cleburne. As a youngster he listened to country music on the radio and got himself a guitar to practice on.
When he was 10 years old his mother had taught him enough for him to appear over Cleburne’s KCLA on Saturday mornings.
He was later introduced to R&B by a cousin who was co-owner of a jukebox company and handed down 78’s of Joe Turner and other great R&B artists. During his schooldays he and his school fellows were very much into coloured music (as it was then called) and groups such as the Clovers and the Charms (of “Ting A Ling” fame) featured heavily in there listening.
At 15, Johnny organized his first band, the Texas Moonlighters; they had their own show on Cleburne’s KCLA radio.
In 1955 the band won first prize in a talent contest and bought the second prize winner, guitarist Jay Salem, into the band along the way. They opened for Ferlin Husky and were spotted by Jack “Tiger” Goldman, owner of the Top Ten Recording Studio in Dallas.
The band cut several demos there, among them “Why Cry”, “You Two-Timed Me One Time Too Often” and “Crazy Crazy Lovin”.
To promote Johnny, Tiger persuaded Sonny Friedman to shoot a quickie rock ‘n’ roll movie, “Rock Baby Rock It“, which featured 5 songs by Johnny Carroll.
Despite this great “kick” to his career, Carroll’s music really wasn’t going anywhere in the face of some great talent in those years.
But he was always appreciated as a great live performer until his untimely death (of liver failure) in 1995. His Decca singles in particular are the creme de la creme and are collectors items.
So it seems to be completely appropriate to start with track number 1 – Rock Baby Rock It.
Rock Baby Rock It
I think it would be remiss not to look at every artist who appears on the album, and thus the film, and next up is The Cell Block Seven.
One of the fascinating things about this group was that they were in fact a traditional jazz band.
With the sudden domination of this new form” music called rock and roll, and the fact that the “kids” were flocking to hear live rock music, many more traditional bands, particularly those in the jazz genre, decided to make the switch and cash in.
The Cell Block Seven, while never rising to the heights of fame, did a damn fine job on switching to rock and roll none the less.
The Cell Block Seven consisted of Joe Savage, originally banjo then on guitar; Lacey Stinson, clarinet ; Tam Mott, trombone ; Phil Elliott, bass; Tommy Loy, trumpet ; Bill Nugent, piano and Rusty Brown on drums.
I believe Stinson traded in his clarinet for a sax for the film.
If nothing else they played with vigour and enthusiasm and I have included a video clip of them doing this track toward the end of this retro-review.
Next in line is Don Coates and the Bon-Aires and track number 3 – Stop The World.
In all honesty I had not heard of Don Cates before obtaining the album and little seems to be known about him.
He was a Rockabilly singer born on June 9, 1930 in San Antonio Texas and there are mentions of him recording at at “Round Records” in Long Beach California.
It seems that his appearance in in the movie “Rock Baby, Rock It” might have been the highlight of his career. Don died June 16, 1999 of a heart attack.
In regard to the Bon Aires, there is a Doo Wop group by that name on Facebook, but their earliest dates are from 1961 onward, and this film and this track pre-dates this “version” of the group by some four years so there seems to be no connection.
I guess they join the “Rock and Roll Hall of Mystery”, but we do have this one track to remember them by.
Stop The World
The final artist on this side of the album that I will make mention of is Rosco Gordon. [Note: there is no “e” in Rosco]
Rosco was a somewhat obscure but influential figure in the idiom idiom of rhythm & blues.
Born in Memphis, Gordon picked up the piano from his sister who was taking lessons. His vocal models were the soft-voiced blues crooners of the period, such as Charles Brown and Percy Mayfield.
One night in 1950, he entered an amateur talent contest at the Palace Theatre on Beale Street, in New Orleans. “I only knew the one song, Please Throw This Old Dog A Bone,” Gordon recalled. “My friends threw a huge bone up on the stage, and I won first prize.”
He was immediately invited to perform on the local radio station WDIA. The listener’s’ response to his singing and playing led to his recording for the local specialist in black music, Sam Phillips, apparently prior to Phillips becoming a “giant” in the industry.
The rough-hewn track “Booted” topped the R&B chart in 1952, and, shortly afterwards, “No More Doggin'” reached number two.
Yet Gordon’s career was littered with injunctions as the Chess, Modern and Duke labels battled over his contract and material. While the litigation was being resolved, Gordon discs appeared on all three labels, and his road tours with R&B headliners like the Clovers and Ray Charles, did excellent business in black ballrooms.
Now Rosco’s early recordings at 706 Union, including the track on this album – The Bop, were primitive in terms of R&B platters. Certainly his later recordings for the Sun label acquired a greater degree of sophistication, thanks somewhat to being under the production control of Sam Phillips.
These sessions led to the emergence of the “Rosco Rhythm”, a shuffling piano style became a recognisable forerunner of Ska and Bluebeat music (which was a type of West Indian pop music of the 1960s; a precursor of reggae).
Rosco Gordon kept appearing in live performances through to early 2002. He was found dead, of natural causes at his Queens, New York, residence on July 11, 2002, and he was laid to rest at the Rosedale Cemetery in Linden, New Jersey.
Turning the album over to the second side and we are faced with two tracks from The Belew Twins.
They were then, and still are, the most unlikely pair to be in a rock and roll movie.
The Belew’s had been child stars who had grown up playing hillbilly music. At the time, they had a popular TV show, “The Belew Twins’ Western Frolic”, and were knockin’ ’em dead at the Sportatorium’s Saturday-night concerts, which routinely drew over 5,000 people.
Now I need to mention that the key figure in the movie was the bespectacled guitarist, “Ronnie”,who was played by Local jazz guitarist Donnie Gililland.
It is recorded that in recalling the movie Gililland is quoted as saying of the Belew’s, “They were cute when they were little but they grew out of that real fast.”
The Belew Twins were added at the last minute to broaden the film’s appeal.
The pair sang two songs with oddly inappropriate melodies and an overdone hiccup-y vocals that might be dismissed as lacklustre Everly Brothers ripoffs if their efforts hadn’t pre-dated the Everlys’ first hit by a good six months.
In a final attempt to being remembered for all the wrong reasons, The Belew’s made it into one of the silliest movies to ever come out of Hollywood, the 1982, “It Came From Hollywood“.
I have chosen track one from side two.
It is seriously unbelievable – Lonesome [by The Belew Twins]
So to the next artist that hasn’t been covered so far and, it’s Preacher Smith and The Deacons.
These guys are also likely candidates for the “Rock and Roll Hall of Mystery”.
One conclusion I can come to listening to their music is that there is a distinct New Orleans sound to them.
The track is pretty much one of the standout tracks on the album and the group features one of the finest sax players of the period, Leroy Cooper.
Any more info than this is well buried in music history.
The penultimate track for your consideration, features the last artist on the album not mentioned so far.
The track is number seven, and it’s the Five Stars with Hey, Juanita.
The Five Stars came out of Dallas, which is not surprising when we have established that the producers of the film tried for as much local “talent” as possible to keep costs down.
Now depending upon what label they recorded on, in turn determined what name they used.
When recording for the label Blues Boy Kingdom, they were the “Five Stars”, when recording for Chess they were the “Five Notes” and on the Jan label they became the “Five Masks”.
Just to confuse things even more, around the same time there was a group called the Five Stars who worked in both Detroit and New York who also sung Doo Wop/Rock, but had no association with these Five Stars.
Now “our” group was made up of Cal Valentine, brother Rob, Al “TNT” Briggs, Billy Fred Thomas and Jesse Floyd.
I believe the lead vocals are by Al Braggs, but I can’t be certain, once again there is a lack of information pertaining to this track and not much more on the group.
So there we have it, but I think we should allow the “featured” artist to have one more track, and that is the last track back on side one – Wild Wild Woman.
By 1958 Johnny Carroll got himself a new manager, Ed E. McLemore, who ran an agency in Dallas that booked Gene Vincent, Jimmy Bowen, Buddy Knox and Sonny James.
Johnny finally met Gene Vincent and they went on to become very close friends. He actually wrote a track titled – “Maybe”, recorded by Gene in the autumn of 1958, for his “Sounds Like” LP.
Carroll cut several demos which were sent to Warner Bros in New York who released “Bandstand Doll” b/w “The Swing” which sold quite well and became Johnny’s biggest seller.
However, the rest flopped and Warner’s dropped Carroll and his band.
The hard life on the road paid his debts but that’s all and Johnny quit touring in 1959. He had two more singles released in 1960 and 1962, these being two different versions of “Run Come See” for two small labels.
Sadly while he had a bit of that certain something, other artists of the time had it in “spades” and he forever remained a “B” level artist.
Yet for this film and on this album, he stars.
Wild Wild Women is a Carroll composition and he said that he was inspired to write it after hearing “Wild Wild Young Men”, written by Ahmet Ertegun and which was made very popular by Ruth Brown.
Wild Wild Women
As Matt Weitz wrote in his article “Rock and Roll High School, and about this film – “In its own way, Rock, Baby, Rock It! is an unintentional documentary, a hopelessly inept stab at greatness that ended up being something far more telling: a vivid black and white snapshot of the dreams and delusions that ended up making rock ‘n’ roll what it was then and is today.
Johnny Carroll and Elvis are gone, and we are soon to join them, but Rock, Baby,Rock It! will remain a bit longer, giving those who come after some idea as to what all the fuss was about.”
I really can’t add to that except to say, that the music scenes in this movie were all filmed live.
In fact that’s more than we can say for most of the R&R films of the day, including all those with Alan Freed, Elvis and even the classic movie “A Girl Can’t Help It“.
It is by no means the best known rock film and most people would not be aware that Rhino bought out this album of the soundtrack.
It is readily available on a re-release Cd for around $30.00 and not a lot more for the vinyl, so I would recommend seeking it out, it really does fill a particular niche in most rock collections.
Somewhat remarkably, there are live videos of some of these artists, and even more remarkable is the fact that some clips are from this album.
I guess with the album being from a movie, it is to be expected – but a bonus nonetheless.
Johnny Carroll Crazy Crazy Lovin’
Cell Block Seven – Hot Rock
Don Coates and the Bonaires – Love Never Forgets
The Five Stars – Hey Juanita
Preacher Smith and The Deacons – Eat Your Heart Out
Rosco Gordon and the Red Tops – Chicken In The Rough
The Belew Twins – Lonesome
Johnny Carroll and The Hot Rocks – Rockin’ Maybelle
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –
Click to open the following Vinyl reviews from 101 onward:
#108: Paul Simon – Graceland
#139. Mary Wells – The Best Of
#144. Madonna – Ray of Light