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Shaun Young

Shaun Young
© Shaun Young
To complete our High Noon article, here’s an overview of Shaun Young’s rich solo career (discography to come soon).

Shaun Young’s first solo releases

Shaun Young’s first solo outing is a single for Goofin’ records, released in 1993. This fine little platter features two excellent Texas Rockabilly songs with that Buddy Holly feel.
The following year a superb 10” hits the shelves. It contains six tracks ranging from hillbilly boogie (Baby Doll Boogie) to country weeper (She Made Me Promise) with, of course, Rockabilly in between. Hence he takes the relatively soft Ain’t I the Lucky One (originally by Marty Robbins) and turns it into a wild Johnny Powers-tinged number. The musicians include Chris Miller on steel, Kevin Smith on bass, long-time friend Todd Wulfmeyer (the Shifters) on guitar and bass, Adam Berlin (8 1/2 Souvenirs) on drums, and Brian Holtfeld (Derailers) on lead guitar, in what could possibly be his first trace on records.

Three years later, in 1997, Young finally releases his first full-length featuring 12 self-penned songs and two covers (High Voltage and I’m Slippin’ In).
He recorded it in two sessions with two different bands. One took place at Hitsville IV in Helsinki, Finland (like Stranger Things), with the Barnshakers, during which they cut Red Hot Daddy, High Voltage and Ricketty Shack. On these three tracks, the sound is more Rock’n’roll than Rockabilly, with a saxophone and a piano on Johnny Jano’s High Voltage.
Young recorded the remaining songs in his studio in Austin with Kevin Smith (string bass), Chris Miller (steel), Dereck Peterson (lead guitar), Tjarko Jeen (lead guitar) and Lisa Pankratz sharing the drums duties with Young. The core of this recording is made of Texas rockabilly, quite similar to High Noon in style and quality (Foolish Pride, Right Here, Right Now and Forever). Yet others show some subtle differences. For example, She Still Loves Me evokes Gene Vincent’s Catman, and If I Can’t Be Your Lover (I Don’t Want to be your Friend) is a superb Honky-Tonk in the style of Hank Williams. Another Honky-Tonk, but with an early Buddy Holly feel, is How Can I Turn Her Away. Young also makes good use of Miller’s steel guitar to achieve spooky effects on Phantom of Rock’nRoll. But Beg Steal and Borrow, featuring Dave Bedrich on trumpet (from the Big Town Swingtet), who gives the song a full Texas swing sound, steals the show.

Shaun Young the drummer and the songwriter

At the turn of the nineties, we discover that Young is also a terrific drummer. “I started drumming when I found some vintage drums at a local flea market. I got a great deal on them, so I thought I’d better learn to play them. I always dug the drums and drummers like Gene Krupa and Dickie Harrel. So I would get a lesson from Bobby Trimble every time Big Sandy was in Austin, and I picked up a gig playing with Marti Brom. It was trial by fire, either learn to play decent or look like a fool. That was in 93 or 94.
In 1995, he launches Jet-Tone records and releases a single by Marti Brom (Don’t Stop), on which he plays with Kevin Smith, Todd Wulfmeyer and Chris Miller under the name of the Jet-Tone Boys. “We met Marti at the local flea market. Her husband Bob just walked over cause he saw a greaser-looking guy. I told him I had a band, and Marti should come and sit in with us so people would find out about her.” The same musicians appear on Mean! (Squarebird records) and Lassoed Live (Goofin’). I shall not go more into details about these recordings as I plan to write an article about Marti Brom’s discography in a near future.
The second release of Jet-Tone records is The Ridgetop Westernaires. The Ridgetop Westernaires consist of Hillbilly maestro Wayne Hancock backed by the Jet-Tone Boys. All the ingredients of Hancock’s music are here, and the musicians are top-notch, as you can guess. One can even hear a drum solo which is not usual in Hancock’s music. Hancock will later re-record both songs on later albums. Lookin’ for better days will appear on Wild Free and Reckless, and Johnson City on That’s What Daddy Wants still with Miller on steel.
Still with Kevin Smith on double bass and Stanley Smith (Asylum Street Spankers, Jazz Pharaohs), Shaun Young backs pianist Carl Sonny Leyland on Farrish Street Jive (Goofin). It’s one of Leyland’s best releases, featuring early blues and jazz, boogie-woogie, and superb renditions of Jimmie Rodgers. Leyland’s fingers fly on the keyboard while the powerful slap bass of Kevin Smith and the period-perfect drumming (those temple blocks!) of Young provide a solid backbone to the ensemble.

Our vision really came together in Austin thanks to Shaun Young.
He’s the one who convinced us to move here.
He also told us we should concentrate on the harmony thing.
He’s been probably the biggest influence on us and our direction.
I can’t say enough good things about him.
Billy Horton


At the same time, he also plays with the Horton Brothers, but like Marti Brom, they’ll soon have a story of their own very soon, so I won’t develop too much. But his collaboration with the brothers far exceeds the drumming role (“Our vision really came together in Austin thanks to Shaun Young. He’s the one who convinced us to move here. He also told us we should concentrate on the harmony thing. He’s been probably the biggest influence on us and our direction. I can’t say enough good things about him.” Billy Horton)
Like many, Billy and Bobby Horton acknowledge Young’s songwriting talent and cover The Beaumont Boogie. They are not the first ones to do so. As early as 1994, prior to High Noon’s version, the Ranch Girls record I’m Done, I’m Through. Likewise, Kiss and Tell Baby appears on Kim Lenz’s debut album in 1998, four years before What Are You Waitin’ For.
The same year, Shaun Young also writes Gone-A-Rockin’ for the Barnshakers (released on the B-side of Hocus Pocus, Goofin Records 583). This song, like There Goes My Gal, which appears on the Silver BulletsOut At Least, was, to my knowledge, never recorded by Young
In 2003, Cave Catt Sammy records Knockout, which will appear on Young’s Movin nearly 15 years later. The Silverados, an Australian group, covers Rickety Shack from Red Hot Daddy and the Da Silva Trio covers Stranger Things.

The Jive bombers

While still in High Noon, Shaun drums for the Big Town Swingtet. “It was a Swing combo (Two trumpets, trombone, tenor sax, guitar, stand-up bass, drums and a great female vocalist named Dana Dattalo.) We played gigs just for fun and had a good following.” Then Sean Mencher moved to Maine. “High Noon wasn’t playing locally much anymore so some of us decided to become more serious. The Jive Bombers are Dana Dattalo on vocals, Vance Hazen on bass, Bobby Horton on guitar, Murph Motycka (Nick Curran) on saxes, Derek Peterson (Kidd Pharaoh) on piano, and Shaun Young on drums and vocals. Both Young and Dattalo share the lead vocals duties and sang duet too. They play post-world war II jump, jive, and hot rockin’ rhythm’ n’ blues. Their first release is a single for Goofin’ records, featuring a cover of Sammy Price (Hole In The Wall) and a Young original. The band eventually records a full-length album at Fort Horton and releases it in 1999 on Texas Jamboree. The band’s originals, mostly written by Young, find their place next to the covers of Julia Lee, Ruth Brown, Buddy Johnson, and Ann Cole. One can hear in their sound the influence of artists like Faye Adams.

[During the Swing revival] there wasn’t too many good bands. I dig swing and when I say swing I mean Benny Goodman, Fletcher Henderson, and Count Basie. I never heard any new bands that sounded like them.
Shaun Young

The Jive Bombers (Shaun Young, Dana Dattalo, Bobby Horton, Derek Peterson, Vance Hazen, Murph Motycka)
The Jive Bombers (Shaun Young, Dana Dattalo, Bobby Horton, Derek Peterson, Vance Hazen, Murph Motycka)


Influenced by Gene Krupa, Chick Webb, Jo Jones, Sid Catlett, but also J.I. Allison, and Bobby Trimble (“the best on the modern scene”), Shaun Young works hard to get the right drum sound. “I have or have had three vintage kits I’ve recorded with. 1940 Ludwigs, 1949 Leedys and 1938 Slingerland Radio Kings. It is very important to me to have a good sound when I drum. I studied old records magazine articles and such to try to find out how the old guys tuned their drums. Then I tried to play within that style.

The album is released during the Swing craze, and although the Jive Bombers aren’t a proper Swing band, they are quickly assimilated into the scene. “We played all the time and made good money while having a lot of fun.” Sadly, the band stopped when Dattalo got a good job offer in Hawaii and left the band. “I didn’t think it was worth it to replace her so we split up.” It’s a pity, for the Jive Bombers are, with the early incarnation of the Mighty Blue Kings, one of the very best Jump blues bands at the time.

Back to Rockabilly

Busy with all these different projects, Shaun Young only returns to the studio under his own name in 2005. Wiggle Walk is recorded at the now legendary Fort Horton studios in Austin with the Horton Brothers (Billy on bass, Bobby on guitar and lap steel), Dave Biller (guitar) and Buck Johnson (drums). Together or separately, they played on some of the best records ever made in the genre, and this one makes no exceptions to the rule. It’s a killer!

Shaun Young, with Dave Biller, Billy Horton, Bobby Horton and Buck Johnson.
Shaun Young, with Dave Biller, Billy Horton, Bobby Horton and Buck Johnson.

Here’s what Young says about that album “That was a fun record to make! It was great to finally record an album with the Horton brothers, Dave Leroy Biller Buck Johnson and T Jarrod Bonta, the band I’ve been playing gigs with in Texas for ten years. We’ve been gigging with that line-up ever since Billy and Bobby moved to Austin, but other commitments have kept us from doing a record until now.
I had a bunch of songs written that Bobby and I had been getting together and arranging. Bobby is my right-hand man when it comes to fleshing out my song ideas, and Billy is a great producer and engineer in the studio. How can you go wrong with a line-up like that? I can’t say enough good things about all those guys, and I have to pinch myself to make sure it’s real when I’m singing in front of that group of top-notch musicians!

I love High Noon (an understatement, believe me), but the best thing I can say about this record is that it’s not a High Noon album with other musicians and drums. Of course, you still have that Buddy Holly feel (Notably on Billy Fury’s My Advice and Bobby Vee and the Cricket’s When You’re In Love). But one can also hear more pronounced Elvis influences. The brilliant I’ve Found What I’ve Looking For could come from an Elvis RCA album (The Lowells playing the part of the Jordanaires). In contrast, Mean Mean Mean is more reminiscent of the Sun days (with a feeling similar to I Forgot To Remember To Forget). Among the covers figures Little Walter’s Nobody but you Baby. Man, this boy can sing the blues too (did you ever doubt?), and with the help of the late Nick Curran on drums and guitar, you’ve got one of the album’s many highlights. After this, scorchy blues follows the great Don’t ask me why with backup vocal provided by the Horton Brothers. And then another change of style with The List, a great rockin’ and boppin’ song. The album ends with Rocket in My Pocket, where the talent of guest piano player T Bonta shines throughout.

The Thunderchiefs

In 2006, Young starts a new project: The Thunderchiefs. It is surprising to find him playing lead guitar in a surf band. That same year, he explained the origins of the band:
It’s a funny story. I used to play lead electric guitar when I was a teenager back in Colorado. I was an ok guitar player, but when I met Sean Mencher, I thought, heck, I don’t need to mess with this anymore, he’s got it down! So it’s been 15 or 16 years since I’ve tried to play any electric lead guitar. About six months ago, I bought a Fender Stratocaster and started relearning some old instrumental guitar tunes I used to play as a kid. Typical stuff like Walk Don’t Run and Pipeline. Well, I told my buddy Joe Emery that I thought it would be fun to start a Surf band and play some of these tunes just for fun. Joe is a great Surf guitar player who had a band called Death Valley here in Austin back in the early 90s. High Noon used to play shows with them quite a bit back then. He is now the singer and guitarist for a KILLER garage rock band, the Ugly Beats. Anyone who digs 60s garage rock needs to check out the Ugly Beats! Well, Joe says that sounds like fun. I want to play bass!
I thought that would be great since Joe has never played bass in a band before, and I’m not the world’s greatest guitar picker, so this will work well. I figured If I just found a group of guys that wanted to mess around and learn as we went, I wouldn’t make any good players bored with my screw-ups. That whole plan went out the window when Bobby Trimble heard about it. Bobby is one of my closest friends, and we always wanted to play in a band together. We’re both big Surf music fans. Bobby just moved to Austin from California this past year, and it’s great to have him living in Texas! When Bobby got wind of our little plan, he told me, “DUDE, I’m playing drums!!! I thought, well, heck, if Bobby is going to play the drums, I’d better get good fast, or I’m going to start to stick out! So we got together over at Joe’s house for our first rehearsal and had a ball. We new we need to find a second guitar player to fill things out.
That’s when Mike Guerrero called Joe. Mike is well known to Surf music fans as the incredible lead guitar player of the Austin Surf trio, The Sir Finks. Their Songs in the Key of Boss album is one of the best modern surf records ever! Mike hadn’t been playing much since The Sir Finks, spending time raising his family and such. Mike told Joe he wanted to play guitar with us. When Joe told me that, I about fell on the floor! That’s like starting your first rockabilly band and having Cliff Gallup call and say he wants in the band. So suddenly, we had a very good Surf band put together.

The Thunderchiefs release two singles and two albums. The first one is recorded at Shaun’s Jet-Tone Studios, and the second is produced and recorded by Billy Horton at Fort Horton. Emery, Young and Guerero all write originals and play very few covers. But on Dig, one can find a surf rendition of Sean Mencher’s Comanche Moon. Though mainly instrumentals, the albums also features some vocals numbers, ranging from Buddy Holly/Bobby Fuller, the Beach Boys or more garage-sounding stuff. On the band’s second single, Jason Gentry replaces Guerrero on bass.

The Texas Blue Dots and the Three Ringers

In 2013, Young revives Jet-Tone Records, which had laid dormant since the mid-90s, to release music by his new band: The Texas Blue Dots. The combo consists of Paolo Bortolomiol (bass), Alberto Telo (drums) and Massimo Gerosa (piano). A four-song EP on Sleazy Records quickly follows it. Both releases contain a solid mix of Rockabilly, piano-led Rock’n’Roll with a touch of Texas Blues. Ray Sharpe’s Monkey’s Uncle is also the occasion to pay homage to Ronnie Dawson.
In 2015, Young teams up with Italian singer Rockin’ Bonnie to release a single with two duets. The backing band consists of members of Rockin’ Bonnie’s band and the Texas Blue Dots. Broken Hearted Boogie brings back Young to Hillbilly Boogie, akin to Tennessee Ernie Ford’s duets, whereas We’ll Make It Somehow is a more country-rock with a twangy guitar.
2017 sees Young returning to straight Rockabilly with the release of the debut single from Shaun Young and the Three Ringers on Ruby Records. The Three Ringers are Bobby Trimble (of Fly-Rite Trio/Boys fame) on drums, Tjarko (Ronnie Dawson, the Tinstars, Planet Rockers) on guitar and Todd Wulfmeyer (8 1/2 Souvenirs, Marti Brom) on double bass. The three of them also play in the Modern Don Juan. It’s a perfect double-sider.
The Texas Blue Dots returned in 2018 with a single on Rockin’ Records. Side A, Going Wild, lives to its name and finds Young in a Little Richard mood, playing a mean guitar while the piano is hammering behind him. The flip is a cover of the Sandals’ 6-Pak. That same year, the Texas Blue Dots releases a single on Swelltune Records (Look At Me/Drop Anchor). Look At Me is an excellent Boogie Blues reminiscing of John Lee Hooker. On the flip, there’s a superb Rockin’ Blues cover of Harmonica Slim’s Drop Anchor.
Fans of the singer are finally rewarded with the release of Movin’, a full-length album featuring both the Three-Ringers and the Texas Blue Dots.
The Texas Blue Dots are the perfect vehicle for the blues-inspired stuff (Someday or Got It Made with a nod to Gene Vincent’s Baby Blue in the intro), but you’ll also find a bit of jivin’ jazz (Baby Stop Your Jivin’ Me) and plain Rock’n’roll (When You Do That.) The latter featuring a cracking guitar solo.
The songs on which the Three Ringers play, cover the whole spectrum of rockin’ music. Movin has the same tension and menace as the best of Johnny Kidd. Things Will Never Be the Same is pure Rockabilly, straight from the fifties. Willie Lewis would have been proud to release this one on a beautiful 78rpm. I plead the 5th is more on the Honky Tonk side of things and so are Drink Til I Can Feel the Pain and Set Me Up.
On the Buddy Holly-influenced, More than Any Tounge Can Tell, Young sings, “I know that I’m not Shakespeare” well, if that title weren’t already given to Hank Williams, I would call him the Hillbilly Shakespeare. Since the High Noon days, Young has consistently demonstrated his talent as a fine lyricist, and this album is no exception. Another fine example is the rockin’ My Heartaches Been Confirmed.
Knockout closes the album like every good rockin’ album should: letting you beg for more.
Both bands are excellent, but I’d like to mention Mr Wulfmeyer’s harmonies that are a big part of the mix (I can’t tell you how many times I listened to More than any…), and Young’s production is nothing but perfect.
Finally, in 2021, Swelltune Records releases Music For Fishin, the debut album of the Anglers, a mysterious Surf combo. Mysterious, because you can’t find the name of the musicians anywhere. But a quick look at the writing credit gives you the beginning of an answer: all songs, but Blue Skies, are written by Shaun Young. In fact, the Anglers could very possibly be Young playing all the instruments, the same way Deke Dickerson hid behind the Real Bad News. Anyway, their brand of Surf/Fish music is sure to hook you (sorry I couldn’t resist). This is, as far as I know, Young’s latest release.

Shaun Young is still active musically. you can often hear him play live stuff on his Facebook page (and you can donate too), and he just recently launched a Patreon page (https://www.patreon.com/shaunyoungmusic)

© Fred Turgis / the Rockabilly Chronicle
Interviews with Shaun Young conducted by Fred “Virgil” Turgis in 2001 and 2006.

High Noon – the Rockabilly Trio

High Noon

One Summer day in 1988, three Rockabilly enthusiasts rehearsed for the first time together in a garage in Austin, Texas. That day, one of the best contemporary Rockabilly bands was born. The three guys were Kevin Smith, Shaun Young and Sean Mencher. The yet-unnamed band would soon become High Noon

The Early years

Born in 1968, Shaun Young grew up in Denver, Colorado. He developed an interest in music at a very young age, thanks to his parents. “My parents did have a lot to do with it. My dad was a big Buddy Holly fan, and both of my parents loved the Everly Brothers. They would sing Everly songs in harmony together when I was young. They also sang tunes like Frauline by Bobby Helms. Mom liked Ray Price, George Jones and Elvis. After digging into their records, I started to search out stuff myself and found out about Gene Vincent, Johnny Burnette, Sid King and all the classic Rockabilly.” And even though the Stray Cats had an impact on him when they appeared, he realized that the whole Neo-Rockabilly scene had something missing compared to the older records. With a bunch of schoolmates, he formed the Shifters around 1986. Says Young, “The Shifters was a teenage rockabilly band (not real good), but it was a way to start to learn how to ‘play it right’.
Next to his record collection, Bop Street, a Denver Rockabilly band, was pivotal in Young’s musical development. “After graduation we found out about a band in Denver called Bop Street. The Nalty brothers, Pete and Brian, were the core of the group who later formed the Jinns. “They were a big influence, they were older and knew a lot more about the music than us. Pete turned me on to Ronnie Self and Ronnie Dawson to name a few. It was through them I met Todd Wulfmeyer and Kevin Smith.”
Kevin Smith’s first real musical shock was when he stumbled upon She Loves You by the Beatles and Buddy Holly’s Peggy Sue. He later found the same energy in Punk, and a little while later, with the Stray Cats. Like Young, Smith was introduced to more obscure music by Pete Nalty, who owned a record shop in Denver. “Through him I found out about Howling Wolf, Joe Clay, Ronnie Self, Ronnie Dawson, etc.” Also, seeing the Paladins live, with Thomas Yearsley playing the upright bass, made quite an impact on him.
Smith often accompanied his friend Todd Wulfmeyer to the Shifters’ rehearsals. One day the bassist didn’t show up, and Young replaced him.
In January 1988, while on tour in Austin, the Shifters discovered and were amazed by the city’s rich musical scene. The following month, they left Denver to make Austin their home.

Meanwhile, in Washington, Sean Mencher discovered Rockabilly through the great Tex Rubinowitz. Explains Mencher, “Tex Rubinowitz and The Bad Boys are the first live rockabilly band I saw and, well, pretty much changed my life. I saw Tex perform live at an outdoor free concert series at Fort Reno Park, and man, they were rockin’ like crazy and brilliant! I mean Hot Rod Man, Ain’t It Wrong, Feelin’ Right Tonight! Great songs, and excellent rockabilly music!” But Rockabilly wasn’t Mencher’s only interest. He was open to many different genres, hence the breadth of his music. “There was a blues quartet called The NightHawks, who influenced my musical direction a great deal too! A brilliant band who, in my opinion, deserved much greater recognition! Also, others in the area were Robert Gordon, Johnny Seaton, Danny Gatton, Evan Johns, as well as Billy Hancock… and also, all the great bluegrass music, like The Seldom Scene, and the Johnson Mountain Boys. Plus, the brilliant jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd lived in the area. My dad, who is an excellent piano player, took me to see Charlie Byrd, Barney Kessel, and Herb Ellis twice!!! We had a ball. Plus, we went to see the greatest, Andres Segovia. We also went to see the greatest, Chet Atkins!!!” Mencher grew up in a musical environment. His dad and his grandmother played piano, and his mother remembered seeing Louis Armstrong in New York City “Everyone in my family loves music.”
When he was around 18 years old, Mencher started playing the guitar “My dad had an old acoustic harmony guitar that my younger brother, Marc, was taking lessons on. And he did not go to a lesson and asked if I wanted to go instead, so I did. And then just kept on going with it.” In terms of influences, Merle Travis might be the most obvious one. “For several reasons, not only is he a brilliant guitarist, with a whole guitar style named after him “Travis Picking,” he was an incredible songwriter. I mean, all you have to do is a little research on him, and you realize what a giant he was, creatively. Absolutely brilliant. I could go on and on.
The guitarist played in various bands in Washington (one can hear him strumming the acoustic guitar on Polaris, a demo recording made by the Insect Surfers in 1986) before moving to Austin in 1987. There, he played with Jimmie Dale Gilmore and a country band named Chaparral.

Forming the trio

Young, Smith and Mencher met when Chaparral opened for the Shifters. Says Young, “Kevin and I were very impressed by his playing and song writing. He dug the Shifters’ energy, so we started talking about Rockabilly and how we thought a band should sound.” In an interview with Jon Johnson in 2002, he added, “We were freaked out by Sean’s playing. It was the first time we’d ever heard anyone fingerpick like Merle Travis.
The three of them began to know each other better, and it was evident they were on the same wavelength. One day in August, they gathered at Sean Mencher’s home, in his garage, to see how they would sound together. Explains Mencher, “We just played for hours, song after song, Sun Sessions, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, etc. Just all stuff we knew in common that we had always wanted to realize but did not have the right musicians and instruments!” Young concurs, “We had so much fun playing Elvis Sun tunes and such we all decided this was the band we had all dreamed of.” Shortly after that, the Shifters broke up, and Kevin Smith returned to Denver with Todd Wulfmeyer to play with the Jinns, the newly formed band by the Nalty brothers. But he quickly realized that he wanted to focus on upright bass, which wouldn’t happen in Denver. “I realized that I would rather be an upright bassist in Austin than an electric bassist in Denver.” (Kevin Smith to Jon Johnson, July 2002)

I realized that I would rather be an upright bassist in Austin than an electric bassist in Denver.

He then returned to Austin, and High Noon, named after the western with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, was born. High Noon was made of three powerful talents. Shaun Young’s voice conjured the memories of the great Texas Rockabilly singers (among them a certain guy from Lubbock). Sean Mencher’s bag of riffs seemed bottomless. Unlike many Rockabilly guitar players who were happy to rehash Hank Garland, Cliff Gallup or Scotty Moore riffs, Mencher developed his style by listening to those who inspired them, like Merle Travis but also Oscar Moore or Charlie Christian. And there was Kevin Smith, who showed everybody what “slapping a doghouse bass” really meant (and he was more than able to sing harmonies too.)

High Noon
High Noon in 1988

Asked if the band found its sound right from the start, Young answered, “Yes and no. When I see old video of High Noon I’m surprised at how much we sound the same now as then. We did however evolve and refine the sound as we went along with becoming better players and song writers. I think we all had a certain individual style that just messed real well and produced a strong combined result.” The band’s first gig was a fill-in for Chaparral. After that, things moved very quickly for the band.
Mencher, “After that, we just played as much as we could, anywhere, anytime, all the time… 25 gigs a month in and around Central Texas was not unusual for High Noon at that time!” When they weren’t playing, they were rehearsing and writing new material. Soon, a self-published cassette was released with five original songs: three by Shaun Young (I’m Not Blue, Tears Keep on Falling, and Rattlesnake Man) and two by Mencher (When She’s Good, and Flatland Saturday Night which he also sings).

The first album and a collaboration

In May 1989, Janne Haavisto was on holiday to visit some friends. Haavisto played drums in Laika and the Cosmonauts, a Finnish surf band that had just released their debut album on Dojo records. The label owner had given Haavisto some money in case he would find some exciting band to record. One night, he saw High Noon at the Black Cat Lounge. As we can imagine, he was wowed by the band. It didn’t take long to track them down and offer them to record a few tracks. The band agreed, and on May 24, they found themselves at Ben Blank’s Sound Recorders Studio. In four hours, eleven tracks were recorded. These songs cover the whole gamut of Rockabilly music, ranging from the Honky-Tonk tinged My Ex Is Why to the wild When She’s Good, with the threatening Devil Woman and the instant classic Glory Bound. The album (Show & Dance, DOJLP 5013) was released the following year and made a lasting impression on the Rockabilly scene. That same year Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Trio released their debut album, quickly followed by Go Cat Go, the Planet Rockers and Dave and Deke Combo. In the first years of this new decade, it was clear that the Americans were ready to bring back home the Rockabilly crown.
More gigs followed for High Noon, including some trips abroad.
Sometime in 1990, or early 1991, I couldn’t find the exact date despite my searches, High Noon and Lisa Pankratz were hired to back Beverley Stauber for her debut album. It contains songs penned by Young and Mencher (including an early version of Crazy Fever). The album also features two songs by High Noon with Lisa Pankratz. But the final result is more than average, partly due to the production. The whole experience didn’t make a lasting experience for Shaun Young “Man, what can I say about that mess. I hate the way that thing was recorded. It was a huge studio with mikes everywhere. We were just warming up and goofing around when they recorded the songs I was singing. I didn’t know they would put them on the record. Beverley was a friend of ours, and we were trying to help her out.” the album titled Nail My Feet To The Kitchen Floor was released by Nervous Records (NERCD 064) in 1991.

Willie Lewis & Rock-A-Billy Records Co

In 1990, the band met Willie Lewis, of Rock-A-Billy Records Co fame.
Says Young, “Kevin and I had heard his first record in Denver. We were saying ‘Who is this guy?’ Then our old friend Todd Wulfmeyer found him and introduced us. Willie came out to some shows we did up in Colorado. We told him how cool it would be to have a 45 rpm record out on Rockabilly records, and he agreed.” The result came in the form of a four-song EP (Rock-A-Billy R 107) recorded at the Texas Tube Room. It featured two new songs, Train of Misery and a cover of Buddy Holly’s Midnight Shift, and two new recordings of Glory Bound and Rockin’ Wildcat. Those versions have a rawer sound and are even better than the ones you can find on Show and Dance.
1991 saw High Noon and Rock-A-Billy records releasing a 78 rpm (Rock-A-Billy R110) with Baby Let’s Play House on side A and Bop Street’s Too Much Trouble. “Willie Lewis’s Rock-A-billy Records was the only record company crazy enough to put out a 78 rpm disc,” explains Young.

Willie Lewis’s Rock-A-billy Records was the only record company crazy enough to put out a 78 rpm disc.

On November 14 of the same year, the boys returned to Denver to record a few tracks in Willie Lewis’ living room. That day the trio recorded three songs: Sonny Fisher’s Hold Me, All Night Long (Shaun Young) and Crazy Fever (Sean Mencher). The first two tracks were released as a single in May 1992 (Rock-A-Billy R 114). In an interview with Craig Maki for Southern & Rockin’ Music in 1995, Lewis said, “High Noon, in my personal opinion, are the best working Rockabilly band ou there probably today. Them and Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Boys are definitely two of the top three.” Coming from someone like Lewis, these are high praises. He pursued by qualifying All Night Long as “The best record high Noon ever recorded in their life. It’s authentic Rockabilly. When you take that sound and combine it with their talent, you’ve got an unstoppable and unbeatable combination.
Willie Lewis, who contributed some background vocals on All Night Long, also took the opportunity to record one tune with the band. The song was Makin’ Noise With The Boys, penned by Willie’s nephew. In The Story of a Hepcat (Life and Music of Willie Lewis) by Sven Bergmann, Lewis explains how this session took place, “I was playing rhythm guitar while going through the song with these cats, but they were playing just a wee bit above my talent level. After one (less than tight) practice was done, Sean Mencher suggested that I put down my guitar, just do the singing, and let them make the music. It turned out to be one of the best darned idea the boy ever had too.” The song, credited to Billy B. Hepp & the Hep Cats, appeared on the Rock-A-Billy Record Company Compilation Album Volume 1 (Rock-A-Billy Records R 3001).

On the road (again)

May 1992 was a busy month for the Rockabilly trio. On May 9, they appeared for the first time on the stage of the Hemsby Weekender in England, with acts like Ray Condo, Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Trio, Charlie Feathers and more. Years later, Thunder records released a bootleg EP with two live tracks by High Noon (All Night Long, Havin’ A Whole Lotta Fun) which was probably recorded during that trip.
That same month, the band was at Jet-Tone studios to record their next album. Jet-Tone studios were actually Young’s extra bedroom. The name came from the fact that it was close to the airport. “We did have trouble with low flying planes ruining recordings.” jokes Young.
Once again, these ten tracks were a masterclass of Rockabilly. Next to two classic covers (Glenn Barber’s Feelin’ No Pain and Carl Mann’s Mona Lisa) and a song by Darren Lee Spears from Go Cat Go (Who Was That Cat), it features seven originals written by Mencher and Young.
If the core of the album is pure Rockabilly, some songs show different influences. Branded Outlaw is more hillbilly, while the riff of Rocks Me Right is a superb variation around the Charlie Christian A Smooth One lick. There are also some blues with Hannah Lee that Sean Mencher sings. Jussi Huhtakangas, aka Lester Peabody of The Barnshakers, plays steel guitar on two tracks.
Speaking of Finland, the band appeared on Eero Raittinen’s Mies Matkallan, released on Epic records, which features a version of Glory Bound sung in Finish.
The band kept on touring for the rest of the year, including gigs in Germany in September and at the Rock’n’Roll Jamboree in Finland in November, sharing the stage with the Blue Cats.
Also in 1992, a singer named Marti Brom made her first recording with her own version of Crazy Fever (Renegade Records).

High Noon, Texas Style

High Noon in 1992

No time to rest, and in early 1993, High Noon entered the studio with some guest musicians to work on new recordings. They made a deal with Wolfgang Doebeling to release a mini-album on the German label Exile Records. Sadly, half of the tracks recorded during that session weren’t good enough soundwise to be released. So in November, the trio returned to the studio to cut what became Texas Style. For this one, High Noon took a slight departure from their usual brand of stripped-down Rockabilly and brought some guests to the party.
Crazy Mixed-Up World, the Willie Dixon song made famous by Little Walter, opens the set. The trio, with the help of Alvin Crow on fiddle and John Ely on steel guitar, turns it into a superb hillbilly bop with Shaun Young yelling the name of the musicians in the great Bob Wills tradition. Next is He Won, I Lost, She’s Found, penned by Mencher. This Honky Tonk with steel, fiddle and harmony vocals (provided by Brent Wilson of the Wagoneers) is sure to make you cry in your beer. Side A closes with Across the River, another Mencher original. It’s another delicate ballad enlightened by Mike Maddux on accordion.
Side B opens with My Heart Cries Yes, a Bluegrass number propelledw by Danny Barnes (Bad Livers) on banjo. Perkins’ Movie Magg is here to remind you that High Noon is one of the Rockabilly trio. Finally, the steel and the fiddle return for Hank Harral’s western swing-tinged Red Barn Boogie to conclude this mini-album in beauty.
Among the four useable tracks recorded earlier that year, only Elmore James’ Strange Kinda Feelings (though their version owes more to Eddie Dugosh And The Ah-Ha Playboys version) saw the light of the day on a single given with Dynamite Magazine. The other three remain, as far as I known, unreleased.
On the touring front, 1993 was hectic, with gigs in St. Petersburg in July and the Canary Islands in October.
That same year, Goofin’ Records from Finland released Glory Bound. This CD gathers the singles and the album recorded for Willie Lewis as well as some unreleased tracks, including an impressive version of Crazy Fever.
And to complete an already busy year, Shaun Young managed to record and release his first solo single in November.

The Carnegie Hall concert: High Noon with Ronnie Dawson

Though 1994 was steady on the recording front, the year was marked by a one-of-a-kind performance. Ronnie Dawson, the blonde bomber, was offered to play the Carnegie Hall on April 29. This concert, titled Deep in The Heart Of Texas, was part of the Carnegie Hall Folk Festival series. Also on the bill were T. D. Bell, Erbie Bowser and Mingo Salivar.
For this show, Dawson recruited High Noon with Lisa Pankratz on drums. The whole show and the subsequent tour are very well documented on the Bear Family CD “Ronnie Dawson- The Carnegie Hall Tour” (BCD16828). This tour led to an appearance on National TV on the Conan O’Brian show. Seeing Ronnie and the band firing on all cylinders on Monkey Beat City is something everyone who pretends to play Rock’n’Roll should see.

Stranger Things

The touring continued, and 1995 found the band playing another Hemsby weekender as well as playing in the American embassy of Finland. During one of its trips to Finland, the band recorded another album at Hitsville IV studio in Helsinki with long-time collaborator Janne Haavisto.
Stranger Things marked a new step for the band. Of course, the musicianship was top-notch. Sean reached new heights on guitar, and everyone willing to learn the double bass should listen to Bluebonnet Boogie, Long Empty Stretch of Highway or Now You’re Gonna Be Loved. Let’s take this occasion to mention the band’s secret weapon: Shaun’s rhythm guitar. It blends and works perfectly with the slap to build a solid melodic backbone. There are no drums in High Noon, but when I listen to the band, I always think of what the great Freddie Green once said: “You shouldn’t hear the guitar by itself. It should be part of the drums so it sounds like the drummer is playing chords”. High Noon’s rhythm guitar is precisely a snare with chords.
Lyrically wise, the songs are also far above the vast majority of what one can find in Rockabilly, with songs too often revolving around girls kissed by boys in the backseat of a car. Take I’m Done, I’m Through, a verse like “I think congratulations are due, to the one who changed my mind and left me blue, I don’t want to sound cynical – but my condition’s critical, and I don’t think I can ever be true” could have been written by Harlan Howard, while “I done caught on when he winked his eyes, I saw you wink back when he passed by, it may take me a while to figure things out, but I done caught on and now I’m cuttin’ out” echoes the great Hank Williams. As if it wasn’t enough, Kevin Smith joins the songwriting team with two excellent songs (Slow Down Baby and Fishin Hole Boogie).
The touring continued, and in April 1996, High Noon played in Japan. “Japan, what a mysterious place! It was such a thrill to play there. When we found out we were going, the excitement ran high, of course, and man, we were not disappointed. The fans were terrific and the scene was incredible!” (Shaun Young’s liner notes of High Noon – Live InTexas & Japan). The Nagoya show at Diamond Hall was recorded. Three songs ended on the aforementioned Live in Texas and Japan, and the whole show was released on Live At Diamond Hall in 1999.

Going on hiatus

In late 1996, or early 1997, Sean Mencher moved to Maine, which put a halt to the band’s activities. For nearly ten years, the band was touring and recording, and despite all their pleasure, this life began to take its toll on their life. Furthermore, Smith, Young and Mencher’s priorities had changed over the years. Says Young, “We had been on the road for years, making no money, sleeping on floors, riding trains, and missing our family. Don’t get me wrong, we loved to play music for everyone who would listen, and getting to see the world is something not everyone gets to do. But it starts to wear when you’re always worried about paying the bills. Remember, this was before the scene was as organized as it is today. We had to do everything ourselves. Sean’s wife Leslie booked and managed the band; without her and Sean busting their humps, we would have gone nowhere. Sean and Leslie then decided to move their family up to Portland, Maine. It was a chance for their three kids to go to good schools and be close to their Grandparents. So we just had to slow down. I don’t think any of us really look at High Noon as ever being broken up.
High Noon went on semi-hiatus, and each embarked on different projects, documented elsewhere in this magazine.

Back on stage and a new High Noon album…

The band played some one-off gigs during this period, including a show at Viva Las Vegas in 2000 (“The crowd was wild that night,” Smith recalls. “It was like we were the Beatles or something.” High Noon on http://www.lonestarmusic.com)
But the real good news came when the trio was booked to play the Green Bay festival in 2002. Not only the band would reunite for this show, but they’d also record a new album filled with brand new material. Explains Young “The last thing any of us want High Noon to turn into is a reunion band playing all the old hits from the early nineties. You have to have fresh stuff, new songs, and new challenges. If you’re going to do it, do it right.”
Recorded and produced by Billy Horton in January 2002, “What Are You Waiting For?” contains 15 original songs. Their various experiences nurtured the their sound and expanded what they started with Stranger Things.
From the boppin’ Let’s Go Daddy-O to the Cajun-tinged Bayou Beauty, with the excellent Travis/Atkins instrumental Comanche Moon and the beautiful ballad Not For Nothing, the band goes from style to another with class and refinement.
But in case you’d forget that High Noon is “the Texas Rockabilly Trio”. Listen to songs like Hanging (from the old oak tree) with its powerful slap bass, Misunderstood, It’s the Beat, the Holly-esque Beautiful and Railroad Crossin with its guitar solo evoking Grady Martin.
Young’s tremolo makes wonder on slow songs like I’ve Never Felt As Lucky. Kevin Smith proves if needed, that he’s the undisputed master of the slap bass. He provides the backbone of the sound with, here and there, some short and brilliant solos. On guitar, Sean Mencher enlightens the whole album with his amazing licks, quoting Paul Burlison, Grady Martin, Chet Atkins, and Merle Travis.
One could fear that the break impacted the band’s dynamic, but like Young said: “It is always great to play with High Noon; it’s heaven! It’s kind of like riding a bike; we played for so long together that you just kind up pick up right where you left off. I just get swept away by the feel of that band. With just the three instruments, it seems the music has a rhythm all of its own.

© George Brainard


Since then, High Noon occasionally gigged, including a show at the Rockabilly Rave in March 2006. For this show, Kevin Smith was busy touring with Dwight Yoakam and wasn’t available. He was replaced by Jimmy Sutton (Four Charms, JD McPherson). Mencher and Young were more than happy with their new bassist. “Well, when Kevin got the call from Dwight, we were already booked at the Rave, so we had two choices. Either cancel or play with a fill-in bass player. Playing with a fill-in player isn’t something we would normally even consider, but when Jimmy Sutton said he’d play, my mind was at ease. High Noon is a weird special thing, and it’s hard for anyone to step in and play. Not that the music is complicated or no one else out there is good enough to fill our shoes or something, I’m defiantly not saying that! It’s more like the three of us have been screwing it up for so many years together that it makes it difficult for someone to step in and groove like the band normally does. Does that make sense? Anyway, we’ve known Jimmy for almost as long as High Noon has existed, and of course, we are BIG Jimmy Sutton fans, so I felt like yeah, we can pull this off. Well, Jimmy did more than just fill in and pull it off. He took it over and made it his own! That set wasn’t High Noon with Jimmy Sutton filling in on bass; it was High Noon, period.
In 2015, as an acknowledgement of their efforts to the Rockabilly cause, Bear Family released a best-of of the Goofin years (no Rock-A-Billy Records Co recordings on this one) featuring two demos (Quick Hand and My Heart Cries Yes). That same year, they received the first “Keeper Of The Key” award at the second Ameripolitan ceremony.
Today, with Kevin Smith busy touring with Willie Nelson, the trio seldom plays together. But the band manages to surprise its fans, like in 2020, when they released one single on Swelltune records. By listening to these two songs, you wouldn’t believe that 18 years have passed since What Are You Waiting For. The trio sounds as fresh as the first time I heard them when they released Glory Bound on Willie Lewis’ Rock-A-Billy Records. When these three guys are in the same room, you can expect the best in rural bop and drummerless Rockabilly.

Sources
All interviews except where noted conducted by Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Liner notes
High Noon, Show & Dance plus (Goofin Records GRCD 6073), liner notes by Sven Adamski
High Noon, Flatland Saturday Night (Bear Family BCD 17383), liner notes by Bill Smoker
Ronnie Dawson, The Carnegie Hall Tour (BCD 16828AH), liner notes by Greg Wolske, Sean Mencher and Lisa Pankratz
Book
The Story Of A Hepcat, Life and Music of Willie Lewis by Sven Bergman
Magazine
Craig Maki, interview with Willie Lewis in Southern & Rocking Music #5
Website
It’s High Noon for High Noon, Jon Johnson, July 2002
The High Noon Web and Fan Page, hosted by Geocities (beware of the porn pop-ups on this one!)

Discography

Singles

Train Of Misery – Midnight Shift / Rockin’ Wildcat – Glory Bound
Rock-A-Billy Record Company R-107 [1990]

Baby Let’s Play House / Too Much Trouble
Rock-A-Billy Record Company R-110 [1991]

Hold Me Baby / All Night Long
Rock-A-Billy Record Company R-114 [1992]

Dynamite! Magazine -The World Of Rock’N’Roll #03 [1994]
Strange Kinda Feeling
free 7“ issued with Dynamite! Magazine #03 – B-side by Johnny Legend and the Sundowners

Live In Japan
On The Hill Records OTHREP 008 [1997]
How Come It – Call Of The Honky Tonk / Some Like It Hot – Flatland Saturday Night

Let’s Go Daddy-O / Hanging (From The Old Oak Tree)
Goofin’ Records – GRSI 206 [2002]

Change – You Done Did It
Swelltune Records – SR45-007 [2020]

Battle of the Bands Volume 1
Thunder Records, France ( Thunder 707-02 )
All Night Long / Havin’ A Whole Lotta Fun
*Bootleg – Split ep with Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Trio

Albums

Show & Dance
Dojo Records DOJLP 5013 – LP [1990]
Rattle Snake Man / Flatland Saturday Night / I’m Not Blue / Rock Too Slow / My Ex Is Why / Rockin’ Wildcat  / Glorybound / Tears Keep On Fallin’ / When She’s Good / Devil Woman / Just Because

Rocks Me Right
Rock-A-Billy Record Company R-1002-LP [1992]
Late Train / Mona Lisa / Your New Flame ( Is Burning Me ) / Who Was That Cat ? / Crazy Fever / Don’t Have A Heart Left To Break / Rocks Me Right / Feeling No Pain / Branded Outlaw / Hannah Lee

Glory Bound
Goofin’ Records GRCD 6039
Train Of Misery / Midnight Shift / Rockin’ Wildcat / Glory Bound / Too Much Trouble / Baby Let’s Play House / Hold Me Baby / All Night Long / Late Train / Mona Lisa / Your New Flame / Who Was That Cat ? / Crazy Fever / Don’t Have A Heart Left To Break / Rocks Me Right / Feelin’ No Pain / Branded Outlaw / Don’t Have A Heart Left To Break ( Alt. ) / The Beaumont Boogie / Ain’t It Wrong / Havin’ A Whole Lotta Fun / Crazy Fever ( Alt. )

Texas Style
Exile Records EX10 EP09 [1994]
Crazy Mixed Up World – He Won, I Lost, She’s Found – Across The River / My Heart Cries Yes – Movie Magg – Red Barn Boogie

Stranger Things
Goofin’ Records GRCD6060 [1995]
Stranger Things – Slow Down, Baby – Call Of The Honky-Tonk – High On A Hill – Fishin’ Hole Boogie – I’m Done, I’m Through – My Little Thrill – Long Empty Stretch Of Highway – Now You’re Gonna Be Loved – Rockin’ Beauty – Bluebonnet Boogie – She Forgot Her Memory – Mixed Signal Mama – I Done Caught On – Doggone That Cat

Live In Texas and Japan
Watermelon Records Watermelon CD 1063 – CD
Goofin’ Records Goofy 6074 – LP [1996]
 Rattlesnake Man – Branded Outlaw – I’m Not Blue – When She’s Good – Tears Keep On Falling – Rockin’ Wildcat – My Ex Is Why – Devil Woman – My Heart Cries Yes – Flatland Saturday Night – Introductions – Rock Too Slow – Introductions ‘Continental Club’ – Ain’t It Wrong – Glory Bound – Who Was That Cat ? – Intro Japan – Stranger Things – How Come It – Mona Lisa

Show & Dance plus
Goofin’ Records GRCD 6073 ) – CD [1998]
Rattle Snake Man – Flatland Saturday Night – I’m Not Blue – Rock Too Slow – My Ex Is Why – Rockin’ Wildcat  – Glorybound – Tears Keep On Fallin’ – When She’s Good – Devil Woman – Just Because – Baby Let’s Play House* – Too Much Trouble* – Midnight Shift* – When She’s Good* – Rock Too Slow*
*bonus tracks recorded live in Finland in 1991

Live At Diamond Hall
Vampirella Music – MCG 1020058-2 [1999]
Glory Bound – The Beaumont Boogie – Mona Lisa – How Come It – Stranger Things – Call of the Honky Tonk – Fishin’ Hole Boogie – Slow Down Baby – Just Because – Having a Whole Lot of Fun – Now You’re Gonna Be Loved – Rockin’ Beauty – I Done Caught On – Flatland Saturday Night – She Forgot Her Memory

What Are You Waiting For?
Goofin’ Records – GRCD 6116 [2002]
Let’s Go Daddy-o – Hanging (From The Old Oak Tree) – Old Habits – Prelude To The Blues – Bayou Beauty – Not For Nothin’ – Railroad Crossing – Beautiful – Yard Dog – I’ve Never Felt As Lucky – Kiss And Tell Baby – Comanche Moon – Gotta Love That – Misunderstood – It’s The Beat

Compilations

Flatland Saturday Night
Bear Family BCD 17383 [2015]
Glorybound – Stranger Things – She Forgot Her Memory – When She’s Good – Let’s Go Daddy-O – Long Empty Stretch Of Highway – My Ex Is Why – Beautiful – Rock Too Slow – Rockin’ Wildcat – Rockin’ Beauty – Old Habits – Flatland Saturday Night – Bluebonnet Boogie – Not For Nothin’ – Rattlesnake Man – Mixed Signal Mama – Fishing Hole Boogie – I’m Not Blue – Gotta Lotta That – Doggone That Cat – Now You’re Gonna Be Loved – Comanche Moon – Kiss And Tell Baby – Slow Down Baby – It’s The Beat – High On A Hill – Hanging From The Old Oak Tree – My Little Thrill – Call Of The Honky-Tonk – Quick Hand (demo) – My Heart Cries Yes (demo)

The Rock-A-Billy Record Company Compilation Album vol. 1
Rock-A-Billy Record Company, R-3001-Lp [1995]
When My Baby Left Me / Makin’ Noise With The Boys*
*as Billy B. Hepp & The Three Hep Cats, featuring Willie Lewis on vocals & rhythm guitar

The Rock-A-Billy Record Company Compilation Album vol. 2
Rock-A-Billy Record Company, R-3002-LP [1997]
Blues Stop Knocking

DVD

Various – Goofin’ Records 20th Anniversary Party
Goofin’ Records – GRVD 400 [2006]
Let’s Go Daddy-O – When She Is Good – Slow Down Baby – High On A Hill (Down In Tennessee) – Blue Bonnet Boogie – Flatland Saturday Night

Backing other musicians

Beverley Stauber – Nail My Feet to The Kitchen
Floor Nervous Records [1991]
Let’s Have A Party – Lonely Girl – Hot Rockin’ Romeo – Running Back – Gotta Lotta Rhythm – Nail My Feet To The Kitchen Floor – Tough Lover- Too Late Now – Train Of Pain – Crazy Fever -Eenie Meemie Miney Mo – It’s All In The Game – I’m The One – Tear It Up* – Rock ‘n’ Roll Honky Tonk Rambling Man*
* High Noon and Lisa Pankratz without Beverley Stauber

Eero Raittinen – Mies Matkallaan
Epic – 471695 1 [1992]
Jätit Mut Itkemään – Mä Heitän Kaikki Pois – Tiellä Turhuuden – Noin Hieno Mies – Minkä Kaipuullensa Voi – Just Siks’ – Kuin Enkeli – Ouagadougou – Kontulaan – Istun Päässä Laiturin – Kotiin Päin (aka Glory Bound) – Mies Matkoillaan*
as far as I know, High Noon appears on all tracks except *

Ronnie Dawson & High Noon with Lisa Pankratz – The Carnegie Hall Tour
Bear Family Records – BCD16828 [2012]
Yum Yum Yum – Fool About You – Who Was That Cat* – Up Jumped The Devil – Glory Bound* – Beaumont Boogie* – Rockin’ In The Cemetery – Monkey Beat City – Red Hot Mama – The Cats Were Jumpin’ – Yum Yum Yum – The Worrying Kind – Shim Sham Shimmy – Down In Mexico – Party Time – Acoustic Jam – I’m Tore Up – Up Jumped The Devil – Rockin’ Bones
*High Noon without Lisa Pankratz and Ronnie Dawson

Darrel Higham

Darrel Higham – Mobile Corrosion

Nervous Records NERCD082 [1995]
Like A Brand New Man – If You Can Live With It – Long Lonely Road – Deep In The Heart Of Texas – I Like Me Just Fine – Second Hand Information – In My Heart – No One Will Grieve – Revenue Man – Country Lila Rhue – You Were Right, I Was Rong – I’ve Been Gone A Long Time – Don’t Bug Me Baby – Amanda’s Song – Travis Pickin’ – Life Goes On – Rockin’ Band Blues

Recorded in 1995 for Nervous Records with Rusti Steel (lap steel), Les Curtis (drums), Mick Wigfall (bass), and Dave Brown (piano), Mobile Corrosion is one of Higham’s most country-tinged albums.
Like A Brand New Man is a perfect opener, sounding like a cross between Johnny Horton’s Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor and Berry’s Promised Land. If You Can Live Without It is a country ballad yet muscled up by the slap bass and features nice guitar picking.
Long Lonely Road is a Rock’n’roll tune on which Darrel’s Cochran inspired vocal makes wonder. Geraint Watkins’ Deep In the Heart Of Texas is an excellent country drive with a powerful drive. The following track, I Like Me Just Fine, is way heavier, with mean guitar and powerful vocal. Back to traditional Rockabilly, with a hillbilly touch, with Gentleman Jim’s Second Hand Information. Every good Rock’n’Roll album should feature a slow number. Good news, you have two on this album, In My Heart and Amanda’s Song, and one more time, Higham’s voice, not far from Cochran on Lonely Street here, is perfect.
No One Will Grieve is a modern Rocker with a solid bass part. Revenue Man is a cover of George Jones tune, Country Lila Rhue is more on the hillbilly bop vein, while You Were Right, I Was Wrong is a Rockabilly ballad.
I’ve Been Gone Too Long is a mean Country-rock, and you could easily imagine Sonny George singing it. Though Milton Allen did the original of Don’t Bug Me Baby in 1957, Higham’s version comes from the cover made by Shakin Stevens in 1981. It’s instrumental time with Travis Pickin’. No surprise, all is in the title. Life Goes On shows the influence of Gene Vincent, which means brushed snare drums and plenty of jazz influences in the guitar. Rockin’ Band Blues is a Cochran pastiche. Nothing really original but a good song nonetheless.


Darrel Higham & the Barnshakers – Pretty Little Devil

darrel higham

Goofin Records GOOFY 570 [1997]
Sweethearts Or Strangers – Don’t Be Gone Long – Pretty Little Devil – Flattin’ & Thumbin’

Darrel Higham recorded this ep in 1997 with the ever-excellent Barnshakers from Finland. That was not the first collabration between the British guitar picker and the Finnish Rockabilly band. Both recorded a full album together in 1993. Sometimes when two talented artists or bands join forces, the result doesn’t keep up with the expectations (I have a few example that I’ll keep for myself.) That was not the case here, this four-track ep is excellent.
Side one kicks off with a cover of the old classic “Sweethearts or Strangers”. Higham’s vocals and guitar give it a strong Eddie Cochran feel, and Lester Peabody’s steel guitar nicely enhances it. Next is a cover of Bod Doss’ “Don’t Be Long Gone.” Like the original, it’s jet-propelled by a solid slap bass intro.
Vesa Haaja, the singer of the Barnshakers, joins forces to sing harmonies for the Everly sounding Pretty Little Devil, recorded initially by Bob Denton and Eddie Cochran.
The last track is a guitar duet between Higham and Peabody/Jussi Huhtakangas. Well, the title says it all. It’s a gentle battle between these two great pickers. One can only regret that Deke Dickerson wasn’t there at the time of the recording.
There are still a few copies left on Goofin Records.
Fred “Virgil” Turgis

The Barnshakers

The Barnshakers ‎– Whiskey River / Hollow Grave 

Goofin’ Records ‎– GRSI 224 [2012]

Another excellent single released by the Barnshakers. The A-side is a cover of Johnny Bush’s Whiskey River, also a hit for Willie Nelson. They deliver a superb muscled-up version with powerful slap bass and intense vocal by Vesa.
The flip is an excellent Rockabilly with harmony vocals, typical of the style of the band.


the Barnshakers - Twenty one
the Barnshakers – Twenty one

The Barnshakers – Twenty One

Goofin Records GRCD6130
Twenty-One – Come On – Bop Bop Ba Doo Bop – Have A Ball – Knock Knock Rattle – Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby – Yah! I’m Movin’ – Wiggle Like A Worm.

Very good mini cd from the Barnshakers, one of the best, if not the best european band in activity made of one studio track and seven live recording. The studio track “Twenty One”, a Vesa Haaja’s own, is an immediate addictive song with its great vocal and lead guitar part and the piano support. This song proves how right they were to add a piano in their line-up. The live show, with the exception of “Wiggle Like A Worm” is made of covers and songs that were never recorded in the studio by the band. This gives another interest to this record to hear them playing classic songs by Wynn Stewart (Come On), Lew Williams (Bop Bop Ba Doo Bop) and Carl Perkins (Everybody’s Trying To Be My Baby). The set ends with a frantic Vesa singing and screaming on “Yah! I’m Movin’” and “Wiggle Like A Worm” with Lester playing Burlisonnian licks. By far the best cut of this record. An advice, if you want it, you should hurry as the cover states it’s a limited release…


The Barnshakers - the single album
The Barnshakers – the single album

The Barnshakers – The Single album

Goofin Records GRCD6126 {2004}
She Done Quit Me – So Doggone Blue – Big Sandy – Ooh’ Baby -Complicated Fool – Who’s Gonna Be The Next One Honey – When I Take My Sugar To Tea – Take One – Wiggle Like A Worm – Choo Choo’s Coming Back – Desperate Santa – Santa’s Got A Brand New Steel Pedal – Hocus Pocus – Gone A-Rockin’ – You’re The Cause Of It All – Tell My Baby I Love Her – Move On – What’cha Gonna Do – Boppin’ In Roswell – Raining In My Heart – What’cha Doin’ To Me – Lotta Lotta Women

It’s a good idea to issue all the Barnshakers singles on one cd as some are not that easy to find. You can also see the evolution of the band through the years from the rockabilly of the beginning to the addition of a piano player and the touch of boogie of today. The first single shows what a good songwriter Jussi Huhtakangas (aka Lester Peabody) is, too bad he doesn’t write more songs. Vesa, the lead singer and main writer wrote my two favourite songs on the cd issued from the Xmas single «Desperate Santa» and the great «Santa’s got a brand new pedal steel». You got some covers too and a song penned by Shaun Young. So what could you ask for more ? Unissued material ? You’ve got it, two new songs recorded in 2004. So I guess you understood this record is a must have for all Barnshakers and rockabilly fans everywhere.
Fred “Virgil” Turgis

The Barnshakers
The Barnshakers (left to right: Mike Salminen, Vesa Haaja, Mika Liikari, Lester Peabody).

Wildfire Willie and the Ramblers

Wildfire Willie and the Ramblers – Blues, Boogie and Rhythm

Wildfire Willie and the Ramblers

Goofin’ records GOOFY 557 [1995]
My Gal From Kokomo – Crazy ‘Bout You Baby / Honky Tonk Baby – A Bottle Of Loneliness

The A-side opens with My Gal From Kokomo that opens, initially recorded by Roy Brown. The band turns this jump blues into a frantic Rockabilly tune, during which Jan Svenson seems close to asphyxia.
Things calm down a bit with the next song, Crazy Bout You, an original, a mid-tempo rocka-ballad with a country feel.
Hardrock Gunter’s Honky Tonk Baby, the second cover of the EP, is more on the boppin’ hillbilly side. The last track, and for me the best, is Bottle of Loneliness. It’s a great country Rockabilly song with a Carl Perkins feel. I guess that Sam Phillips would have been proud to record this one.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

Marti Brom (reviews)

Marti Brom – Fort Horton EP

[2020]
Damn Little Demon / You Broke the Rules / Hurry Home / Get In the Car Loretta

Billy Horton recorded these four tracks at Fort Horton studios with the rocking brunette. Tjarko Jeen on guitar, Brad Fordham on bass, and Lisa Pankratz on drums and percussions joined forces to provide the backing. You can always expect the best with Brom, and this digital ep makes no exception.
Damn Little Demon is a mean rocker, the kind of stuff at which she excels. You Broke the Rules, sees Bobby Horton joining the band on vibraphone for a 60s-Phil Spector type of song complete with a whole array of percussions.
Tjarko is entirely at ease on the bluesy Hurry Home while Get in the Car Loretta is more Rockabilly sounding and shows the influence of Grady Martin.
Digital only.
Go to https://forthorton.bandcamp.com/releases to buy it right now!


Marti Brom Midnight BusMarti Brom & Her Rancho Notorious – Midnight Bus

Enviken ENREC177 [2019]
Come Destroy Me – Lasso Mr Moon – Belly Of The Beast – Loveaholic – Push Me Till I’m Gone – Last Ten Years With You – Lies Of A Promise – Ambush – Little Ole Wine Drinker Me – Stiletto In Black – If ‘If’ Was A Fifth – Drivin’ Me Crazy – Slippin’ And Slidin’ – Mamas Little Babies Was A Rockin’ – Midnight Bus – Damn Those Little Deamons (vinyl only)

Marti Brom is by far one of the finest singers on the roots music scene, and I said singer, not “female singer.” She seems to be able to do whatever she wants with her voice, and it even seems easy.
That said, I was slightly disappointed with “Not for Nothing,” her 2010 release. Marti’s performance was, as usual, top-notch but I found the production uneven.
Nothing like this here. Recorded in Sweden with a gang of talented Swedish guys (and a couple of guests like Rosie Flores and Chris Ruest), Midnight Bus is perfect from start to finish.
Nine out of the sixteen tracks are from Marti’s pen; the others are covers. But cleverly, next to classics like Slippin’ and Slidin’, Little Ole Wine Drinker Me or the title track, Marti had an excellent idea to include songs from today’s artist. Thus you can finds songs from Crazy Joe (Last Ten Years With You), Kathy and the Kilowatts (Loveaholic) or the late great Nick Curran (Drivin’ Me Crazy.)
From Damn Those Little Demons, a bluegrass tune only available on the vinyl version, on one end to Ambush, a sixties soul number with organ, on the other, “Midnight Bus” covers a broad range of styles. But thanks to the production, it manages to remain coherent and sounds like a whole.
There is a good dose of solid rockers like “Come Destroy Me,” “Last Ten Years With You” or “Mama’s Little Baby Was A Rockin’” which features a solid rockin’ piano.
Album after album, Brom proved she was more than at ease to sing country songs. This one makes no exception. “Lie of a promise” is a traditional honky-tonk with fiddle and steel. As I said before, she makes it sound so easy, and I thought how great it would be to have her cut a single with the Country Side of Harmonica Sam. Labels if you read this. “Push Me Till I’m Gone” is more in the Cash vein and “Lasso Mr. Moon” is a superb country shuffle with a cracking guitar solo.
Talking about guitar, Chris Ruest provides a mean guitar on Curran’s It’ Drivin’ Me Crazy while Mattias Bruhn hypnotically tickles the ivory. “If If Was A Fifth” brings a welcome touch of Jump and West coast blues.
Tunes like “Midnight Bus,” “Stilleto in Black,” and “Belly of the Beast” are the perfect vehicles to hear the intensity and emotivity of her voice. The latter is a mean and menacing rocker that sounds like a cross between Johnny Horton’s “Lover’s Rock” and “Funnel of Love.”
With that album, Brom really reached a new level with her songwriting. Combined that with her always-spectacular voice and a stellar backing band and the result is one of Brom’s very best platter.

Available at Enviken , Raucous, Tessy or other fine dealers.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis


Marti Brom - Not for nothin'
Marti Brom – Not for nothin’

 

Marti Brom – Not For Nothin’

Ripsaw / Goofin GRACD 6705 [2010]
Finders Keepers / Get A Little Goner / Mascara Tears / Not For Nothin’ / Forbidden Fruit / Something Blue / Never No More / Sweet Baby of Mine / Blues Keep Calling / Sweet Thang / Write Me In Care of the Blues / Feelin’ Right Tonight / I Get the Blues When It Rains / A Fool Such As I / Spook House

“Not For Nothing” is not only the return of Marti Brom but it’s also the return to life of a legendary label: Ripsaw. For this album, the rockin’ brunette gathered a cast of musicians of the Washington DC scene.
The opening track – Finders keepers – is a cover of Wynona Carr on which she’s appropriately backed Del Pushert (who toured with Elvis) on sax. The singer does a great job, and it’s good to hear her on this genre of tune. Get A Little Goner, the following number finds her in familiar territories. It’s a twangy honky-tonk number featuring Bill Kirchen. It’s by far the best track of the album with Arty and Linda Hill’s Mascara Tears a straight honky-tonk on which her Patsy Clyne’s voice does wonders. In the same vein, you’ll find Something Blue from the pen of Teri Joyce. The Austin songwriter wrote some of the best songs ever sang by Brom and this song makes no exception. The title track, penned by Sean Mencher, features an organ. The arrangement is perfect until a weak, distorted guitar solo ruins the song.
Pat Brown’s Forbidden Fruit is way better and the solo more inspired.
Bobby Sharp’s Sweet Baby Of Mine could have been excellent. It’s a groovy number in a similar vein than Hit the Road Jack with saxes but once again the guitar could be a little bit more subtle. Globally, one can say that the weak point of this album lies in the rockin’ numbers on which the guitarist can’t help but over playing, and to make things worse, with a bad sound. Strangely, for a singer that delivered some outstanding rockabilly numbers this album works better on the country or blues-inspired numbers. But as they say, every rule has its exception and “I Get the Blues When It Rains” is the perfect demonstration of that. They try to give it a western swing touch but end sounding more than Asleep At The Wheel rather than Bob Wills. In the end “Not For Nothin’” is only half convincing, but I wouldn’t say that Brom is to blame, but the problem comes from the band. You can only regret her previous albums on which she was backed by members of High Noon or the excellent Barnshakers.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis


Marti Brom plays Heartache Numbers
Marti Brom sings Heartache Numbers

 

Marti Brom – Sings heartache numbers

Goofin’ Records
One Way Ticket To The Blues – Alone At A Table For Two – Three Hearts Later – Four Walls – Five Fingers To Spare – Whiskey Six Years Ago – Seven Lonely Days – Eight Weeks In A Barroom – Apartment No 9 – Ten Minutes Till Heartaches – A-11 – The Twelfth Of Never – Thirteen Steps Away

I heard about this “Heartache Numbers” project a couple of years ago, and was very interested in the concept. Each track is a song containing the number of it’s track listing on the CD. (for example: Track #7- «7 Lonely Days», Track #9- «Apartment #9», etc.) HOW CLEVER!!! And it ends with the unlisted track- «Heartache By the Numbers». Okay- so Marti’ gets kudos for the concept of the record alone. Even though I usually have gripes with records that are all covers, this is an exception because of the clever concept and the fact that it is Marti’ Brom and she can pull it off. I was thrilled to find it was no longer just a «concept», and that the recordings were finally finished and released in time for the Oneida 50’s Fest. I had to get a copy. I have always been a Marti’ Brom fan, no matter what she does. Every record is different for her, but she has such an impressive range, she can master a multitude of musical styles. Still my favorite Marti’ recordings are her country ballads. Imagine- a whole record of country ballads by Marti’! The emotion of these songs perfectly showcases her ability as a singer. I don’t know much about 60’s Country, but I was turned on to the genre when I lived in Austin, TX, where it is a staple. I miss the honky-tonks where I could have a tear in my beer, but this CD brings it all back to me. My only warning to listeners is that, if you are drinking while you are playing the CD, you will probably be crying by the end. Remember that the title is «Heartache Numbers».There is only one Patsy Cline cover on the record, but the obvious comparison to her vocal stylings is still evident. Like Patsy, Marti can yank at those heartstrings with her dynamic range and emotional vocal manipulation. (Marti- don’t get offended about another Patsy comparison. It is definitely a compliment from me.) Vocally, this record is flawless. It is, in my opinion, Marti’s best vocal performance on a recording-and all of her recordings are superb. And, as always, she has selected the best backing musicians for the genre. (Bobby Flores- fiddle, Justin Trevino and Kevin Smith- bass, Debra Hurd- piano, Levi Mullen- guitar, Dickie Overby- steel, Buck Johnson and Lisa Pankratz- drums) If you like 60’s country, it doesn’t get any better than this! When I am drinking alone, I am going directly to this CD for company.To top it off, the «Maven of Style» models a «Cari Lee» original creation on the cover- a saloon-girl style satin/fringe dress! (I thought Cari Lee was a singer- how did she have time to become a kick-ass seamstress as well? I want my own «Cari Lee» dress!). Plus, the liner notes are by the one and only Wanda Jackson! You know it must be good if the «legends» are raving about it.

In conclusion, Marti’ is still my idol. Buy all of her records!

Little Rachel

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