These reviews are provided to help maintain a connection with various genres of popular music extending from the 1940’s through to present time.
This is album review number 207 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl LP’s and Cd’s, in my collection.
The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album from my collection 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.
Links to the previous 200+ reviews can be found at the bottom of this review.
The album under examination in this retro-review is by no means the first in the Rockabilly style, that I have reviewed.
Some say Rockabilly’s birth pre-dates Rock ‘n’ Roll, others say it was simultaneous. What is does mean is that it is a style that needs to be returned to constantly in order to recall one of the critical elements of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and so, a pre-cursor to popular music today.
The album I am presenting is Saturday- Dixie Rockabillys – Volume Two. It was released in 1979 on the Gusto Records label with the album identifier of GD-5031X.
It was never previously released and consists of 13 tracks featuring nine artists and is part of a series that was assembled to bring together Rockabilly artists and their music which were never part of an album by the artist, or indeed, were never previously released.
Trying to tie down just what Rockabilly is opens up a can of worms. Wikipedia claims “…. it blends the sound of Western musical styles such as country with that of rhythm and blues, leading to what is considered “classic” rock and roll.”
The publication – History of Rock says – “An intense and rhythmic blend of (hillbilly) Country Music, Bluegrass, Rhythm and Blues, Southern Gospel and African-American.”
Possibly the best definition comes from the Rockabilly Hall of fame. they write – “
Without saying “it’s just a feeling,” rockabilly is a hard term to pin down. The simplest way may be to describe it as picturing an exciting blend of the blues, country and gospel sounds of American music that were prevalent, up to the mid 1950’s.
During the time frame of 1955 thru 1960 a unique musical historical window was created. All the musical ingredients that came through that window shined into the souls of American teenagers. “Rockabilly music” WAS THE WINDOW.”
It is wonderful that there were men who saw this early form of R&R as being important enough to not just record, but to preserve.
The album tells us that H.W. “Pappy” Daily was a record distributor in Houston Texas, in the 1940’s. Due to his local knowledge he was able to assist many country style artists into recording studios, such as Jim Reeves and George Jones.
Encouraged by his success he moved into publishing and the record business and in the early 1950’s joined up with promotor Jack Starnes to form Starday records. This label promoted the likes of Lefty Frizzel.
The business grew and many of the artists were also local DJ’s, one such example being J.P Richardson – who became better known as “The Big Bopper“.
They took advantage of their situation to use the records produced as part of their radio shows.
In 1955 the Dixie label was established as a subsidiary of Starday which promoted regional artists, who, if they became sucessful were then moved across to the Starday label.
The greater majority of material released on Dixie and Starday were recorded at a studio – Gold Star recordings, operated by Bill Quinn, with “Pappy” having a financial interest in the studio.
Starday eventually moved to Nashville and expanded its style and artists.
In the late sixties, Starday acquired the King/Federal/Delux record groups and finally, in 1975, Gusto records purchased the Starday/King master catalog.
So to this album. You may not have heard of the artists but, the music rocks.
- Link Davis – Grasshopper Rock ^
- Bill mack – Cat Just Got Into town ^
- Sonny Fisher – Rockin’ Daddy ^
- Bob Doss – Don’t Be Gone Long ^
- Sonny Fisher – Hey Mama ^
- “Groovy” Joe Povey – My Life’s Ambition *
- Thumper Jones – Rock It ^
- “Groovy” Joe Povey – Move Around #
- Rudy “Tutti” Grayzell ^
- Sonny Fisher – “I Can’t Lose ^
- Cliff Blakely – Want To be With You ^
- Bill Mack – Fat Woman ^
- Benny Joy – Steady With Betty #
* Previously unreleased
So, to the album and the artists.
I have chosen three tracks from each side and as a general comment, you might be forgiven for thinking the tracks by artists with little recognition will be poor.
This is not the case. The tracks on this album ROCK!
Side One Track 1 – Link Davis with Grasshopper Rock
On a first look at his Davis doesn’t look like a likely rock artist. He was an American singer, fiddler, saxophonist, and songwriter.
He was born July 8, 1914 in Sunset, Texas and died February 5, 1972.
Much of his work was as a session musician but he did record as a main artist specifically in western swing, hillbilly, Cajun music, rockabilly, rock n’ roll and blues.
So he really did have a broad experience and proved to be very adaptable. The fifties were a decade of remarkable transformations in popular music.
Accordingly, Link’s musical persona underwent multiple rebirths. From a white R&B singer he changed into a Cajun fiddler, then re-emerged as a born-again rocker, followed by success as a “buzzing” sax man. Versatility and adaptability were the key elements in Link’s career.
Grasshopper Rock wasn’t a massive hit for him, but it remains as one of his best known tracks.
Track 2 is Cat Just Got Into Town by Bill Mack.
His real name was William Smith – hardly a name for a singer, so he changed it to Bill Mack. he was born June 4, 1932 and died very recently on July 31, 2020.
He was a well-known radio DJ and songwriter. A Texan, Bill Mack began his career as a singer and radio host at KWFT in Wichita Falls. He MC’d shows like The Big Six Jamboree and Old Hadocol Western Barn Dance.
He also recorded extensively for Imperial Records before joining Starday, where cut both hillbilly and rockabilly sides. He was better known in the Country music scene yet, this track showed he could “rock it”, with the best.
Cat Just Got Into Town
Moving through in order on the album, track 3 is Sonny Fisher with Rockin’ Daddy.
Another artist who changed his name from Therman Bennett Fisher to a more acceptable “Sonny Fisher” he was another Texan, born 13 November 1931 and dying on October 8 2005.
He was one of America’s pioneering rockabilly artists. Fisher never achieved anything more than regional stardom in the US during the 1950s yet, when London’s Ace Records reissued his 1956 recordings in 1979, he found himself proclaimed king of the rockabilly revival.
This track was worthy of charting far higher than it ever did.
Turning the album over Track 1 on Side two is Thumper Jones with Rock It.
“Thumper” Jones was nickname of George Jones , who was born September 12, 1931 in Saratoga, Texas. He died on April 26, 2013.
Jones was an American award-winning country music singer. He is known for his long list of hit records, his distinctive voice and phrasing, and his marriage to Tammy Wynette. During the latter part of his life, Jones was frequently referred to as “the greatest living country singer”.
So what was a noted country singer doing singing rockabilly?
Well in 1956 a young man – Elvis Presley, hit the airwaves in a big way, and all of a sudden money was being made in a big way with Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Jones decided give rockabilly a shot, recording two songs that he wrote: “Rock It” and “Dadgumit, How Come It.” As Jones explained to Billboard in 2006: “I was desperate. When you’re hungry, a poor man with a house full of kids, you’re gonna do some things you ordinarily wouldn’t do. I said, ‘Well, hell, I’ll try anything once.'”
His use of “Thumper” was to disguise his real recording name as he didn’t want to use his real name and jeopardise his reputation as a country artist.
This track would never win an award for its lyrics, but what the hell – it was a damn fine effort.
The penultimate track to mention is track 2 – Move Around by “Groovy” Joe Povey!
Now we have had some pretty strange/unlikely names in the early rock years, and Joe is among them.
Poovey was actually a honkytonk singer and songwriter, born May 10, 1941 in Texas. Joe died in his sleep on October 6, 1998. yet he dipped his toe into rockabilly and this is one of two tracks by him on this album.
After opening a show for Elvis Presley in 1955, he instantly changed his musical style from traditional country music to rockabilly. In 1957, as Jumping Joe Poovey, he recorded “Move Around” on the Dixie label.
This track was followed the next year by “Ten Long Fingers”, a tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis, on which he was credited as “Groovey Joe Poovey“
That name stuck!
OK! The final track is track 3 – Let’s Get Wild by Rudy “Tutti” Grazell.
He was born Rudy Jiminez Grayzell on June 8, 1933 in a tiny Texas town of Saspamco. He was made for rock!
It’s hard to understand why he didn’t become a bigger name. he did his time and eventually he hit it big! In the spring of ’56, Starday released Rudy’s immortal “Duck Tail”, which could very well be THE ultimate rockabilly disc.
He released this track in 1965. It’s a frantic original called “Let’s Get Wild.”
From the first lines: “Open up the bottle/Let’s have a party/Call all the girls/Hello Miss Clawdy!” to the unintelligible mid-song hollerin’ about doin’ the Chinese Mambo & the Cuban Cha Cha Cha, the track is infectious and quite brilliant.
He became big enough to make it into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Let’s Get Wild
This is a great album. Now there are many great Rockabilly albums, so this isn’t a “must have” album, but on them other hand it’s a damn fine album to have.
It has some excellent rockabilly tracks by artists who are not house-hold names.
It reminds us of just how popular the music was back in the 1950’s and how so many people released tracks in the hope of making it big.
Many didn’t make it big, but the legacy they left behind is wonderful.
The album has been re-released on CD with bonus tracks, but, if you are like me and love vinyl – it is available through Discogs.
Not unexpectedly there is very little in the way of live footage of these artist.
Sonny Fisher & The Barnstompers CLASSIC ROCKABILLY live April 9th 1994 Switzerland
GEORGE “Thumper’ JONES WHITE LIGHTNING 59
RUDY TUTTI GRAYZELL Money Honey ROCKABILLY live
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 –
To view/listen album reviews 101 – 150 just click the image below –
To view/listen album reviews 151 – 200 just click the image below –
Click to open the following reviews covering #’s 201 onward.