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 220 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.
It’s easy to see compilation LP’s as a way for record companies to make easy money, by loading an album with a good tracks and to pay the artist little. However this is an example of a compilation album that is very, very welcome.
“Rockabilly Stars Volume 2” provides us with 24 tracks, many of which are very rare and almost all of the artists on this compilation first recorded back in the Rock ‘n’ Roll halcyon days of the 1950’s.
This album is the companion to a previously reviewed album – Rockabilly Stars Vol.3
Released on the Epic Label (E 37622) in 1981 it contains both recognised and unrecognised talent and with such fantastic artists such as, The Everly Brothers, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Sleepy LaBeef along with cult favourites such as Billy Lee Riley, Ronnie Self, the Collins Kids, Bob Luman and Link Wray as well as a host of relatively unknown artists such as Sid King, Little Jimmy Dickens and Mickey Gilley.
All in all you are in for great Rockabilly listening.
So, what is Rockabilly? Well, it’s . . . it’s . . . it is very hard to pin down. So I went into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame to seek a definitive answer.
I kind of got it, but maybe I didn’t!
According to them – “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. Mix that in with the heavier beat that was becoming more and more a part of pop music of the day and the result was “rock ‘n’ roll.
Rockabilly is one of the purist forms of American roots music. It was never a watered-down, homogenised sound designed by corporate record companies to build profits. You can’t change something musical that is pure and simple without ruining the result.
Rockabilly is the “launching pad of rock ‘n’ roll”“
LP 1- Side 1
- The Collins Kids – Missouri Waltz
- The Everly Brothers – Keep A Lovin’ Me
- Sid King & The Five Strings – Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight
- Sid King & The Five Strings – Sag, Drag, And Fall
- Little Jimmy Dickens – (I Got) A Hole In My Pocket
- Carl Perkins – Jive After Five
- The Collins Kids – Just Because
- The Collins Kids – Mercy
- Lorrie Collins – Rock Boppin’ Baby
- Larry Collins – Whistle Bait
- Ronnie Self – Bop-A-Lena
- Link Wray – Ain’t That Lovin’ You Babe
LP 2 – Side 1
- Sleepy LaBeef – Shame, Shame, Shame
- Link Wray – Hand Clapper
- Carl Perkins – All Mama’s Children
- Carl Perkins – Restless
- Sleepy LaBeef – You Can’t Catch Me
- Rick Nelson – That’s All Right
- Billy Lee Riley – I Got A Thing About You Baby
- Bob Luman – Big River
- Johnny Cash – After The Ball
- Mickey Gilley – I’m The Number One Rock & Roll C&W Boogie Blues Man
- Mickey Gilley – Rockin’ My Life Away
- Carl Perkins – Daddy Sang Bass
So, how to go about the issue of actually reviewing the album, there are far to many tracks to deal with each one.
The first thing I decided to do, was not to look at tracks by “bigger-name” artists – so that means I will pass by the Everly Brothers, Carl Perkins and Ricky Nelson. Suffice to say, the standout track by these three is track 6 on side 1 of LP#1 – Carl Perkins and Jive After Five.
If you were to measure the Collins Kids – Lorrie and Larry Collins, on side 1, track 1 of LP! as indicative of the music on this album, you may never want to listen to them again or the rest of this album at all.
It’s a rather whinny C&W track and how it ever got categorised as Rockabilly, is beyond me. However, their other track, Just Because, is certainly worthy of listening to and I’ll come back to it.
So my pick on Side 1 is Sid King & The Five Strings. There was no Sid King as such – the group comprised of brothers Sid and Billy Erwin. Sid provided the vocals and Billy, guitar. The other three members were Melvin Robinson – steel guitar; Ken Massey on bass and, David White on drums.
They were signed to Columbia records in December 1954 after becoming popular on their local radio station in their home town of Tyler Texas.
In fact track 4 – Sag, Drag and Fall was one of many tracks they actually recorded at the radio station. Recorded in July 1955, it was really popular in regional Texas, but failed to gain any appreciation elsewhere.
Given it was recorded 55 years ago – it holds up well.
Sag, Drag and Fall
Turning the LP over to side 2, we come to Track 1 – The Collins Kids with – Just Because.
Lawrencine May Collins (1942) and Lawrence Albert Collins(1944) were raised on a dairy farm and attended a one-room school near Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
At the age of eight Lorrie won a talent contest in Tulsa hosted by Western swing steel guitarist Leon McAuliffe. McAuliffe encouraged Lorrie’s parents to relocate to California to develop her talents, which they did in 1953.
In the meantime, Larry mastered the guitar, with tutelage from the legendary guitarist Joe Maphis, and he demonstrates his not inconsiderable ability with some very nice guitar licks on this track.
They are often considered as a novelty act but Larry and Lorrie Collins were among the most influential rockabilly acts of the 1950s and recorded a plethora of tracks.
Just Because is a track thats origins go back to 1935 and was originally released by the Shelton Brothers. The Collins Kids revived it and recorded it in their second recording session in February 1956, after signing with Columbia Records in 1955.
It is a great track for demonstrating their excellent harmonies.
The track was later recorded and released by Elvis.
Track 5 is Bop-A-Lena by Ronnie Self.
Ronnie is the epitome of the “one-hit wonder”. Born on July 5, 1938 and passing away on August 28, 1981, Ronnie Self was a singer and songwriter. His solo career was spectacularly unsuccessful, despite being signed to contracts with Columbia and then Decca from the late 1950s through the early 1960s.
He had his chances, but it all goes to prove having a good voice and a great image guarantees nothing. Bop-A-Lena was recorded in December 1958 and shot to #63 on the charts, stalled, and slowly slipped away.
It isn’t a bad track, and is worthy of being on this compilation.
Despite his lack of success in recording, Ronnie Self did find success as a songwriter. He wrote a number of smash hits including both “Sweet Nothin’s” and “I’m Sorry” for Brenda Lee.
Before taking this LP off the turntable, it’s time to make special mention of Link Wray, who recorded track 6 – Aint That Lovin’ You Baby, originally written and recorded by Jimmy Reed.
Now Wray had a big hit with the instrumental Rumble. A rather primitive 1958 instrumental it turned out to be a very significant instrumental and influenced both the sounds of the Yardbirds and the Who.
However this is one of his few vocal tracks, and, thats a good thing.
It’s eminently forgettable and now we can take this Lp off the turntable.
Track 1 on LP#2 Side 1 is Sleepy LaBeef and a cover of a Jimmy Reed classic – Shame, Shame, Shame.
Written and first recorded by Reed in 1963, this version recorded by LaBeef, recorded in 1965, restores some faith that a white guy, can take a great blues track and turn it into a good rockabilly track.
LaBeef, born Thomas LaBeef in 1935 was LaBeef by name and beefy by size. He was 6’6″ or 198cm and weighed 265pounds or, 116Kgm.
Before signing to Columbia, LaBeef had been signed to several labels including Gulf, Western Hits, Dixie and Starday. Although he was a prolific recorder, he never quite “made it”.
He passed away in 2019 and was still playing almost up to his death.
Shame, Shame, Shame
He seemed destined for stardom when he recorded Red Hot in 1957 with Phillips, who just as the track was gaining popularity, pulled his resources away from Riley to focus on his latest talent – Jerry Lee Lewis.
Being quite put out, Riley left Sun but kept recording and playing live right up to 2009, just prior to passing away from Colon Cancer.
He recorded this track, written by Tony Joe White, in 1972.
I Got A Think About You Baby
The final artist to look at is Mickey Gilley and track 5– Rockin’ My Life Away.
You would be forgiven if you said or thought, Mickey who, unless you were a Country music fan.
He was the cousin of that piano pumpin’ Jerry Lee Lewis. Born in 1936 it took him until 1970’s to get recognised, but he did cut his first single in 1958 – Call Me shorty.
Also a piano player, there is little doubt that he suffered from living in the shadow of his more famous cousin. Mind you, his piano style isn’t a bad duplication of his famous cousins style – although he doesn’t quite have the “Killers” vocal delivery style or ability.
In 1974 he became a national country music identity when he recorded “Room Full of Roses. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
This track was one of a couple he recorded in 1981 and became a minor hit for him when used in the film Urban Cowboy with John Travolta.
Rockin’ My Life Away
So it is yet another excellent compilation that brings to us a collection of loosely labelled Rockabilly tracks, tracks that traverse the spectrum from Excellent through to “Aghhhh”!
On balance, it is definitely an LP worth having and don’t forget, it has several “big names” whose contributions to the album are not insignificant.
Rockabilly Stars Volume 2 is still readily available through Discogs but will cost you around $50.00 including postage from the USA. Maybe you might come across a copy in Australia, and that would save a substantial amount of money.
It is not, as far as I could ascertain, available on CD.
There were very few live performances of material from this album available.
Here are those I could locate. I have also added some clips of artists on this album, doing other material from the same period.
That’s All Right
[A very rockin’] Hoy Hoy
Great Balls of Fire
Sad, Drag and Fall
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.