ROCK AND ROLL
Rock and Roll has been described as anything from the music of gods to the devil’s music. Despite it originating from country, blues, jazz and gospel, to name but a few, in the late 1940s, it truly came into its own and the conscience of the mainstream the following decade.
Radio disc jockey Alan Freed famously coined the magic phrase and instantly created, not only a new genre of popular music, but a term that exemplified numerous other facets still used to this day.
When referring to Rock and Roll from the 1950s and early 1960s, many think of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly or Fats Domino, but there are so many more with equally powerful music that are often overlooked.
Here we present another in our series of alternative compilations to introduce readers to this wild and wonderful music.
1. Jimmy Lloyd – Rocket In My Pocket (1958 Roulette Records)
There are some records that are just perfect, this being a two and a half minute excursion into rock and roll heaven. Recorded under the pseudonym of ‘Lloyd’ to not deter his already loyal country music fanbase, Jimmy Logsdon cut this infectious rocker in ’58 following the increased popularity of rockabilly.
Reportedly featuring the nimble fingers of pianist Floyd Cramer this pounds from start to finish and instantly achieves classic status. I personally came by this indirectly via a live cover version by Texan blues band The Juke Jumpers from the 80s, soon seeking out the original and I wasn’t disappointed. Any lover of music would feel the same.
2. Preston Love – Country Boogie (1956 Dig Records)
A list of the legends Love has worked with would dazzle even the greatest of greats, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Janis Joplin and Stevie Wonder to name but a few.
This however is under his own name and stands tall among the best of them. Love’s trademark sax calls the shots throughout this weighty instrumental stomper, piano played with aggressive understanding and passion as guitar later kicks in with a redefining hook. Fall in Love all over again.
3. Jimmy Edwards – Love Bug Crawl (1957 Mercury Records)
It has often been said that most classic rock and roll records have quite inane lyrics, blunt and to the point, but so much sharper for it. This is no exception and ranks up there with the very best in this writer’s opinion.
A who’s who of music’s finest play their part as Chet Atkins’ growling guitar leads the way for Floyd Cramer’s (yes, him again!) piano stairway to Edwards’ vocals, squeezing every last ounce of self restraint into an unrepentant and addictive pop rocker. Top this basic formula and you have instantly achieved stardom.
4. Bill Johnson and the Four Steps of Rhythm – You Better Dig It (1960 Talos Records)
It is no coincidence that we feature another record that rocks along with some pounding piano. One of only two releases on the Talos label from Georgia, Johnson and his band the Four Steps of Rhythm rival Little Richard’s with their own version of hellfire.
From the leader’s screaming vocal to the wail of a lovesick sax, this sweeps the listener into submission, forever wanting more. You better dig it, you hear!
5. Billy the Kid Emerson – If Loving Is Believing (1954 Sun Records)
Introduced to Sam Phillips at Sun Records by a certain Ike Turner, Emerson changed music by recording a handful of sides for the great label. Known more for being the originator of rock and roll staple ‘Red Hot’ and Elvis’ ‘When it rains it really pours’, ‘The Kid’ here treats us to a mind blowing sermon years ahead of its time.
Everything about this record was different from anything else at the time of its ’54 release and may have paid the price for it given that it sunk without trace. Turner’s crack band turn music around to hauntingly accompany Emerson’s accusing words. An all time classic.
6. Gunter Lee Carr – We’re Gonna Rock (1950 Decca Records)
It has been claimed by many that ‘We’re Gonna Rock’ was the first rock and roll record. Such claims however refer to the original of this track recorded by Wild Bill Moore in 1948 and famously played by Alan Freed on his radio show.
This version by Carr (aka pianist Cecil Gant) was cut two years later and for me rocks that much harder given Gant’s trademark boogie intro that pounds its way through the track alongside his own gravelly vocals. Music at its finest.
7. Jerry Byrne – Lights Out (1958 Specialty Records)
Rarely will you find such a frantic rocker that can not only start the party, but end it on an equal high too. Recorded on the New Orleans Specialty label and penned by Byrne’s cousin Mac ‘Dr John’ Rebennack, this hurtles through melting wax at breakneck speed, getting faster seemingly on each play.
Featuring the tightest of house bands with Art Neville’s urgent piano sending the listener into a frenzy, this is very much what rock and roll records should be judged on.
8. Derrell Felts – It’s A Great Big Day (1959 Okeh)
Speed doesn’t always dictate a rock and roll record’s quality however. On this sublime selection Felts’ guitar opens and dictates with spoken words before drums signal a change of pace, only for it to revert back to the original tempo.
Recorded on the legendary Okeh label, Felts rocks this in double speed, instantly creating a rockabilly classic that surprisingly has not been covered extensively.
9. Don Ruby – Rockin Piano Outta Tune Guitar (1958 Cub Records)
How could you possibly go wrong with a title like this? True to its words this rocks along nicely under a maniacal piano that refuses to let up for its two minutes of unadulterated fame.
Let loose on the MGM subsidiary Cub Records, not much is known of Ruby, apart from the fact that this is his sole release, which leads to the obvious and frustrating question of why couldn’t there have been more? Perhaps because this couldn’t be topped; it’s that good.
10. Johnny Moore – Country Girl (1959 Vaden Records)
Here we have another example of a true rocker, Moore backed by Jimmy Haggett’s piano and sax based combo to devastating effect. Ringing bells from the opening keys, the bass soon kicks in to provide a mean and menacing undercurrent to Moore’s passioned vocals.
This was apparently the only side cut in such a style, the few others recorded being under the more traditional and at that time profitable country banner, sadly. What is rock and roll’s loss however can perhaps be tempered by the fact that had he recorded more, it is unlikely it would be as strong as this particular stormer.
11. Roddy Jackson – Moose On The Loose (1959 Specialty Records)
Rock and roll has had its fair share of novelty records over the years, the majority of which failing to stand the rocking test of time. This however, from the multi talented Jackson, never fails to lose its unique charm.
A rocker from the outset, ‘Moose’ swings back and forth with wild animal vocals under that unique Specialty sound from the late fifties and instantly demands repeated listenings. Jackson was a talent that so nearly could have been, criminally boasting only a handful of singles to his name, but this more than makes up for his lack of prolificacy, a rock and roll record in every animalistic sense of the word.
12. Clarence Garlow – Route 90 (1953 Flair Records)
Driven by piano and accompanied by an insistent sax, Route 90 becomes our destination for the duration of this delicious slice of wax.
Billed as ‘Bon Ton’ following his earlier ‘Roulet’ success, Garlow infuses his unique Cajun Louisiana sound into a recording that is way ahead of its ’53 release, the unique, confident pace of his vocals alone belying the listener’s inclination to dance maniacally. An instant classic if there ever was one and one that, if you haven’t heard it before, you will soon fall in love with.
13. Jesse James – South’s Gonna Rise Again (1958 Kent Records)
It would be difficult to find a record so rambunctious as this wild rocker. The legendary Lee Denson here appears under a different name to startling effect, rockabilly recorded with a passion by all concerned, giving us a history lesson in how it should be done.
Denson is more famously known for those under his name, not to mention famously teaching a certain Elvis Presley to play guitar back in the day, but this stands on its own rampaging feet, his vocals growling along to a band racing as one seemingly to an unknown destination. It really is this simple: play this record, loud and proud.
14. Joe Poovey – Ten Long Fingers (1959 Dixie)
Rarely will you hear an intro to a record that better epitomises the passion and sheer fun of rock and roll itself. C.B. Oliver is the man who here dictates the pace of this Johnny B Goode piano playing rocker, country and rockabilly man Poovey getting ‘groovey’ as inhibitions break free and the vocals let loose.
Like many classic records, this vanished upon original release only to be rediscovered and revered years down the line. Criminal perhaps that the artist never recorded anything similar to this, but would unlikely top the genius of pounding ten long fingers on eighty eight keys.
15. Musical Linn Twins – Rockin Out The Blues (1958 Blue Feather Records)
Rock and Roll, to break through and maintain a hold in the mainstream had a number of novelty records throughout its golden period, some good, some downright awful. This cut however falls into a different and more obscure category, that of utter weirdness. All can be explained though by the open minded music lover as an act or, in this case, two minutes of hypnotic rocking expression.
Sparse but essential musical accompaniment is employed by the Twins on what can only be described as a mesmeric ode to the sheer abandonment of all things rock and roll. Love it or hate it, vinyl has never been played this way since.
16. Bo Dudley – Shotgun Rider (1968 F-M Records)
Wild is certainly an apt description for the sounds emanating from this obscure gem. Recorded in the late 60s by Bo ‘Oscar Coleman’ Dudley, but sounding as though it could easily have been born a decade earlier, this rocks from the outset as Johnny ‘Big Moose’ Walker’s piano sets the mood only for the weird and wonderful wail of Freddie Roulette’s steel guitar to hover eerily throughout.
Rarely will you be entranced by a side such as this, again, another relatively unique in the artist’s recording history. Perhaps this is why as, when chancing upon genius, you are not meant to reattempt it.
17. Clear Waters – Hill Billy Blues (1958 Atomic H Records)
Another clearly influenced by ‘Crazy Legs’ himself this was one of the first recordings by Eddy Clearwater and rolls with respectful rocks to the former.
The impassioned vocal growls to the guitar’s twang as the drummer licks and kicks his way through two and half short minutes of unadulterated joy. For true lovers of rocking music only, try listening to this and not doing the duck walk inside your head.
18. Chuck Higgins – The Blacksmith Blues (1955 Combo Records)
Make any sense of the opening lyrics to this and you will not only be given a gold but a platinum and lucky star too. Legendary ‘Pachuko Hop’ saxophonist Higgins here provides the laid back sax accompaniment on this extraordinary stroller where the vocalist Johnny Flamingo scats his way throughout to dazzlingly unnerving and mesmeric effect.
A track that tends to grow on the inside and out, you can imagine the whole band having a whale of a time with this in the studio, much as the listener can on repeated plays.
19. Little Shy Guy and the Hot Rods – Let’s Rock And Roll (1956 Calvert Records)
This is another that storms along with quiet authority, calm and confident in its ultimate proclamation. Featuring an all star band that includes such legends as Earl Gaines and Arthur ‘Baby Let’s Play House’ Gunter, Thomas ‘Shy Guy’ Douglas lays back and sings what his heart and soul dictates as his Hot Rods mosey on down.
Here is a track that’s genius lies in its raw simplicity, after all, “What did we come here for? – To rock and roll.”
20. Bill Reeder – Till I Waltz Again With You (1961 Voll Para Records)
To complete our alternative twenty we feature the soothing tones of Memphis’ own Bill Reeder and his version of this much recorded number. Here the piano rolls from the outset into a steady rhythm as guitar chugs alongside a shuffling beat, all perfect accompaniment to Reeder’s longing vocals.
This is the type of record that stays with you long after first being played, the singer’s haunting voice and lyrics combining perfectly with the laid back boogie of a rocking piano.
Related articles in Tuck Magazine:
Less Obvious: An Alternative Best Of – Breakbeats http://tuckmagazine.com/2015/03/18/less-obvious-an-alternative-best-of/
The Greatest Beats Of Your Heart http://tuckmagazine.com/2015/03/11/the-greatest-beats-of-your-heart/
The links above are purely for entertainment purposes only and you are urged to seek out the original releases, if of course you can find them…………..
Do you have an Alternative Best Of selection? Readers are invited to submit their own thoughts and selections via the Comments section or email: [email protected]
One half of Tuck Magazine. A music lover whose first record was a seven inch of Hank Mizell’s ‘Jungle Rock’ (or it could have been Pinky and Perky, the memory is a little hazy) and is passionate about all things music, in particular Oldschool Hip Hop, Rock and Roll, Dylan, Jazz, Led Zep and Blues; in fact anything and everything good.