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 149 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!
This retro-review features one of a number of albums in my collection of amazing music from the 1950’s, that was never released at the time, in this form.
The album is titled: Rockin’ Blues [Party]. I have put party in brackets because the album cover is titled Rockin’ Blues, but, the actual vinyl label adds “Party” to the title.
I found a discography of vinyl albums released on this label and it has it listed as Rockin’ Blues Party.
The album features seven artists whose work was recorded mainly during the 1950’s and have largely gone unnoticed.
Released on the Goldband Record label it is licensed to Charlie records, but as Goldband predates Charlie, I assume Charlie bought the Goldband label and their catalogue of music.
It has the identifying code of GCL-115 and was released in 1987. It consists of 12 tracks of which it is claimed 11 were previously unreleased.
Now I consider I have a good (maybe not the best) knowledge of music from this period, but until I bought this album, the only artist on it that I was familiar with was Guitar Junior.
In fact I have an album called “The Crawl” by Guitar Junior, also released on the Goldband label.
So it was with a degree of delight, with curious anticipation and even a tad of concern, that I originally purchased it.
A good collector is always looking at filling the gaps, finding albums and artists that should be in the collection but for one reason or another aren’t.
With ’50’s rock and roll it is easy to understand why there still are many artists from that period that were and still are, relatively unknown.
Rock and its roots and derivatives were exploding as artists and kids demanded and got the “new” music being played and recorded.
The staid and “tighten your belts” era’s were over. No more rationing, no depression, things were on the up and up and people demanded a better life-style. The kids in particular, demanded “new” music and it came pouring out of every corner and crevice of the USA.
Everyone was looking for, or, everyone thought they were going to be – “The next big thing!”
Now in fact there were many “next big things” in music, far too many to try a full listing.
Some of those included in the “A-League” were, Bill Haley, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Gerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley (to name but a few).
Then there was the “B-league”.
These were artists/groups that were good, sometimes really great. However, for one reason or another they never quite broke through into the league as big as those I just named, despite deserving to do so in some cases.
These included artists like Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran, Lloyd Price, Joe Turner, Lavern Baker, Larry Williams, again to name a few.
But then we had the “C – grade league”, names that you may get to hear of, but they never got any real billing.
These included artists such as Johnny Carroll, Guitar Junior, Roscoe Gordon, Popeye Broussard and Moon Mullican again, to name a few.
Lastly we have those artists that are largely totally unheard of except by rabid collectors and fans. In fact there is a long list of these artists.
Sometimes they recorded as few as one single, sometimes several singles and on occasions, often with minor name changes, they recorded a significant number of tracks.
These are the artists that along with a few from what I have called my “C-Grade”, that make up the bulk of this album.
What is fascinating is, that while the recordings are often very basic, sometimes they are downright 1950’s equivalent of “garage” music – they are in the main what I would call good rock and roll.
Not always in tune and sometimes there are “bum” notes from either the singer or the instrumentalist. Yet there is an energy and rawness that reminds us of just how early R ‘n’ R was often heard and, where what we call Rock and Roll today, came from!
A1 – Guitar Junior: Now You Know
A2 – Guitar Junior: Goin’ Crazy Baby
A3 – Ivory Lee Jackson: Clautelia *
A4 – Good Rockin’ Bob: Make Up My Mind
A5 – Guitar Junior: Got It Made (When I Marry Shirley Mae)
A6 – Guitar Junior: Family Rules (Angel Child)
B1 – Ivory Lee Semien / Hop Wilson: Fuss Too Much
B2 – Hop Wilson / Ivory Lee Semien: That Wouldn’t Satisfy
B3 – Hop Wilson / Ivory Lee Semien: Love’s Got Me All Fancied In
B4 – Hop Wilson & His Two Buddies: Chicken Stuff [Instrumental]
B5 – Hop Wilson / Ivory Lee Semien: Rockin’ In The Cocanut Top **
B6 – Hop Wilson & His Two Buddies: Rockin’ With Hop [Instrumental]
* Of some small interest – the liner notes refer to the track as Clautilia but it is definitely Clautelia
** Yes, that is how it is spelt.
I have broken my self imposed rule of choosing track number 1, as the first track to present ( and i do so because it often is representative of an album), but with compilations this is not always true.
In this case track number 1 is an interesting and rough and ready track, but not the best track by Guitar Junior on this album by any means.
So I have jumped through to track number 3, Clautelia by Ivory Lee Jackson.
There is almost no information available on Jackson except the references made to him on the album liner notes. Incidentally, Ivory Lee Jackson should not be confused with Ivory Lee Semien, who appears later in this review.
The liner notes say, “Ivory Lee Jackson’s last cut, Clautilia comes from his second session recorded in 1957.
Jackson probably recorded more material but there exists only one track from this session and the session uses other musicians possibly some of the Goldband studio players.”
It is indeed a fine rockin’ blues number with an interesting echo in it. The liner notes do say, “Clautilia is here in its original format.”
Note: The liner notes refer to the track as “Clautilia” yet the single is labeled “Clautelia. We have to go with the title on the single.
Check it out!
Track number 4 is Good Rockin’ Bob with Make Up My Mind.
Now Bob is an interesting character who was actually born Camille Bob in Louisiana in 1937.
A number of music bio’s will try and tell you that Good Rockin’ Bob was not Camille Bob, who, too confuse matters a little more, Camille Bob was also known as Lil’ Bob in the group, Lil’ Bob and the Lollipops.
The Goldband record documents make it very clear that they all were one of the same and I think their information should be considered as accurate as any.
Bob learned his music trade as a drummer and remained a drummer throughout his long career. Bob only passed away very recently in July 2015.
He was a teenager when he recorded as Good Rockin’ Bob for Goldband and put out a single, “Take It Easy Katie” backed with “Little One” in late 1957.
He disappeared for a while but popped up in the mid 1960’s recording on the La Louisiana Records label as Lil’ Bob and the Lollipops./
Then he again disappearing until the 1970’s when he recorded on the Jin label as simply Lil’ Bob.
He actually put out some 15+ singles and 3 Lp’s under his various guises, but this track, Make Up My Mind, tape distortion and all, absolutely demonstrates the originality of Good Rockin’ Bob.
Make Up My Mind
So at last we come to Guitar Junior.
Track number 5 is Got It Made (When I Marry Shirley Mae).
Guitar Junior was actually born Lee Baker in Louisiana in 1933.
Around the age of 18 he moved to Texas and was exposed to the music of Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins and John Lee Hooker but it actually took another four years until he would buy his first guitar.
He is quoted as saying, “Mother didn’t like music in the house.” Talking about learning to play the guitar he said, “It was easier to play rock and roll, so I went in that direction.”
The year was 1955!
He fast became known as an outstanding guitarist and on starting his career he took up the name Guitar Junior.
His first big break came working with Clifton Chenier. By late 1956 he found himself at Goldband records and cut Got It Made, which was his first release.
The last track on side one of this LP is Family Rules, which was the B-side of that first single.
He became the pioneer of the style now referred to as “swamp Rock Ballad”, but was also a great blues/rock player as this track demonstrates.
Guitar Junior was in great demand and cut a number of tracks at Goldband before deciding to go to the place where it was all happening – Chicago.
He arrived in Chicago in 1960 only to discover there was already a “Guitar Junior” there, that being Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson.
So it came to be that he changed his name to the better known, Lonnie Brooks.
From that time onward his career and guitar skills just grew and grew with over 16 albums and a place in the Blues Hall of Fame.
But on this album we go back to those very early years of his career, when recording was very basic and we hear the embryonic talent of Lonnie Brooks, when he was Guitar Junior.
This track was actually the “B” side of a 1958 single that had as the “A” side the track, “The Crawl“.
Now You Know
Turning the LP over we are faced with the plethora of combinations of Ivory Lee Semien and Hop Wilson.
This time I go back to track number 1 on side 2 – Ivory Lee Semien & Hop Wilson with Fuss Too Much.
Born in September 1931 in Washington, Louisiana – Wilson played music from his early years and he settled in Houston in his teens and began to play in the blues clubs.
He was often referred to as “King” Ivory lee Semien.
Not a piano player, as you might expect from the reference to “Ivory”, he was in fact an amazingly accomplished drummer who cut a number of singles between 1954 and 1957.
Shortly after he met and connected with guitarist Hop Wilson.
Wilson was born Harding Wilson in 1927, in Texas.
He gained the nickname “Harp” because from an early age he was always playing the harmonica, and it seems as though this nickname was corrupted to the shorter version of “Hop”.
Hop became known wide and far for his playing of the steel guitar but plays a more conventional blues based set of riffs on this track.
The track Fuss Too Much was one of their first vocal tracks with Ivory Lee Semien doing vocals and is a more ‘down-tempo” blues based rock track.
Fuss Too Much
Track three sees the names reversed and it sees as though it might in fact feature the voice of Hop Wilson.
The track is Love’s Got Me All Fenced In and has never been released in any form until it appeared on this album.
It’s a fantastic track that came out of their second recording session together and is in fact a wonderful black rockabilly piece with a great bit of slap bass playing by “Ice Water” Jones.
In regard to the “steel/slide” playing of Hop Wilson, this is a track that really typifies his style.
Love’s Got Me All Fenced In
The penultimate track that I’d like to share with you is by Hop Wilson and His Two Buddies.
A little research uncovers the fact that the two buddies were in fact, Ivory Lee Semien and Ice Water Jones.
The track Chicken Stuff is an instrumental that came out of their second recording session in 1958. It is a track where the guys are obviously having a ball, filled with the obligatory “chicken noises”, and punctuated with a cry of “Chicken Stuff”.
It has all the bounce of an old country dance number and while it might be classed as a “novelty” track, it remains a great example of some brilliant, albeit raw, early rockin’ blues.
The abrupt ending is as recorded!
When this track was released Hop was touring Texas and Louisiana with Ivory Semien’s band.
Goldband’s Eddie Shuler noted how “Chicken Stuff is unique in the blues field” in that “he played a Hawaiian guitar — six strings of blues soul”.”
The final track is really great!
The title absolutely indicates that the group were consciously playing rock and roll and is titled, Rockin’ In The Coconut Top.
It is an absolute classic of early R&B that uses allusions to “jungle sounds” as a backdrop, a common theme of early R&B, yet the track most definitely has R&R overtones.
It once again demonstrates the great steel guitar playing from Hop Wilson.
Now during the 1970’s a different, longer and slower version, was released, however this version is the original version and was previously unreleased until included on this album.
There is significant distorted tape noise on it, and we can only imagine that the tape may have been lost and when found, was in a less than desirable state.
But it is important that a track like this be made to exist as it continues to fill all those missing gaps of that we find as we try to follow the story of the development of rock and roll.
I am uncertain as to what happened to Ivory Lee Semien, but Hop Wilson passed away in 1975.
He died leaving a great musical legacy, along with Ivory Lee, but sadly neither were destined to make that second level of rock and roll greatness, let alone the A-grade.
Once again while very embryonic it is a fantastic example of early “real” rock as was being played in the small halls and dance venues around the country-side.
Rockin’ In The Coconut Top
Before finishing up, maybe just a little discourse about the label Goldband.
It was a superb regional label that preserved the diversity of roots music originating from the Louisiana and east Texas region.
Founded by Eddie Shuler in Lake Charles, Louisiana in the early 1940’s, Goldband’s eclectic approach included everything from the earliest Dolly Parton to the most obscure zydeco sounds of the 1950’s.
Shuler was prescient enough to preserve virtually the entire panoply of roots sounds from 1950’s Louisiana: R&B, blues, rockabilly, cajun, zydeco, hillbilly boogie, the early swamp rock sound.
The artists on this album, apart from Guitar Junior (from when he moved into his Lonnie Brooks persona) never made it passed the C-grade at the best.
Yet that is so unimportant, as the role they played in shaping rock music cannot be underestimated. The album, as indeed the Goldband collection, is an album any serious collector should have – and play!
This album is only part of the Goldband collection and even standing alone it helps tell part of an ongoing story, that may never have an end – the history of rock and roll.
It is a wonderful album that is available from Discogs at around $21.00 plus postage.
Ebay has several of the Goldband releases but I couldn’t locate the album Rockin’ Blues.
There are no known videos or film of live performances by the artists in this review except for Lonnie Brooks.
Lonnie Brooks – You’re Usin’ me
Lonnie Brooks – Sweet Home Chicago
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