Browse Tag

Rockabilly

Son Demon and his Holy Boys

Son Demon and his Holy Boys

Bluelight Records BLR 45176 7
When My Baby Passes By – Blues Stop Knockin’ / Too Hot To Handle – Wait for Me Virginia

Son Demon and his Holy Boys

Son Demon and his Holy Boys is a Finnish group formed in late 2021 by Vellu Lehtonen (Son Demon) on vocals and guitar, Iikku Riepponen on double bass and Viiljami Kujansivu on guitar. Riepponen is also known for playing double bass with Mike Bell & the Belltones.

It’s a traditional Rockabilly trio with an authentic, almost primitive sound. The band is good, the singer has a good voice and sings well, the guitarist does a good job and the rhythm is solid. All the ingredients are there to make this record a good Rockabilly record. It just lacks a hint of originality. The group does not have, for the moment hopefully, that little extra that can differentiate it from the others. Moreover, the fact that this EP only includes covers (Glen Bland, Al Ferrier, Vince Anthony and Ben Wasson) does not really allow us to judge the band at its fair value. A group to follow, hoping to find them over a longer distance with their own songs.

Also available on CD.

Fred ”Virgil” Turgis

Stray Cats

Stray Cats, neo-Rockabilly legends, formed in 1979, by Brian Setzer on guitar and vocals, Lee Rocker on double bass and Slim Jim Phantom on drums.

Stray Cats – Stray Cats

Stray Cats

Arista [1981]
Runaway boys – Fishnet stockings – Ubangi stomp – Jeanie jeanie jeanie – Storm the embassy – Rock this town – Rumble in Brighton – Stray cat strut – Crawl up and die – Double talkin baby – My one desire – Wild saxaphone

In the late ’70s, a trio of three young Rockabilly cats dug in their parents’ records collection. Without any complex and a good dose of naivety, they took 25-year-old music and made it sound fresh again (which led to a certain animosity from the purists.) Sure they liked Cochran, Vincent and Burnette, but they also grew up in New York during the heydays of Punk music.

The construction and the progression of the album itself are faultless. A-side opens with the hypnotic beat of “Runaway Boys” and ends with the rockin’ hymn “Rock This Town”. In between, two covers get the Stray Cats treatment (Warren Smith’s “Ubangi Stomp” and Cochran’s “Jeanie, Jeanie, Jeanie”) and two original songs. Of course, “Fishnet Stockings” is similar to Lew Williams’ “Bop Bop Ba Doo Bop”. That’s obvious. “Storm The Embassy” is a solid rocker but have nothing to do with rockabilly (actually Setzer played it in his previous band “The Bloodless Pharaohs” under the name “Boys Having Babies” and with different lyrics). The song is rather political and refers to the Iranian crisis and American hostages in the late ’70s. With a song so closely linked to the actuality, it didn’t allow them to perform it on stage long after 1981, which is a pity because, musically speaking, it rocks (listen to the live bootlegs issued from this period).

The B-side is more or less built on the same structure. The wild (also with a hypnotic riff) “Rumble In Brighton” opens the show. Depending on the pressing, one can hear Setzer yell “Ein, Swei, Drei, Vier” to open the tune, but you have to listen closely.

The origins of “Stray Cat Strut”, which became their signature song, were subject to questions. Of course, it’s the same chord progression as “Hit The Road Jack” and some advanced “Icky Poo”, an instrumental by the Nomads or “Lonely Travelin’” by Lonesome Lee as possible sources. But these are somewhat obscure songs, especially in the late ’70s, and it neglects the fact that Setzer grew up in New York and, as we said, was a Punk fan in his youth. That’s why I believe that the origin of Stray Cat Strut is to be found in Richard Hell’s Blank Generation (a band that often had as a support act the Bloodless Pharaohs). Listen to the guitar solo from Robert Quine and the “Woo-Woo” in the middle. It’s all here. Anyway, the band put enough of them to make it a great number and one of the highlights of their shows.

Crawl Up And Die” is a variation on Bill Allen and the Back Beats’ “Please Gimme Something” and shows another side of Setzer’s voice, the torrid one. The covers on this side are Ricky Nelson’s “My One Desire”, Vincent’s Double Talkin’ Baby and Roy Montrell’s “Mellow Saxophone” renamed here “Wild Saxophone.” Slim Jim Phantom provides a solid beat and Gary Barnacle (who played with the Clash) on sax. Brilliant.


Stray Cats – Little Miss Prissy

Arista – SCAT 5 [1981]
Little Miss Prissy / Sweet Love On My Mind – Something Else

Little Miss Prissy comes from Gonna Ball and shows the influence of Chuck Berry. The B-side features two unissued live tracks recorded in November 14th, 1981 in Newcastle: Johnny Burnette’s Sweet Love On My Mind and Eddie Cochran’s Something Else; both played in a wild and punkish manner.


Stray Cats – Gonna Ball

stray cats gonna ball

Arista [1981]
Baby Blue Eyes – Little Miss Prissy – Wasn’t That – Good Cryin’ Shame – (She’ll Stay) Just One More Day – You Don’t Believe Me – Gonna Ball – Wicked Whisky – Rev It Up and Go – Lonely Summer Nights – Crazy Mixed Up Kid

Following the massive success of their debut album, at least in Europe, the Stray Cats took a break in their heavy touring schedule. In August 81, they flew to Air Recording Studios in Montserrat in the East Indies to record their second album. This time the band took over the production duties with the help of sound engineer Heinz Hoven. The presence of prestigious guests augmented the trio. It included veteran Lee Allen (Little Richard, Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis and later The Blasters) on sax and Ian Stewart (Rolling Stones) on the keyboard. Helped by that prestigious line-up, they played a bluesier form of rock’n’roll rather than the modern Rockabilly they were known for.

Half of the album consists of blues or blues-influenced songs. “Rev It Up and Go” and, to a lesser extent “, Little Miss Prissy” are obviously influenced by the great Chuck Berry. “You Don’t Believe Me” shows the influence of Elmore James with Setzer on slide-guitar. “Wasn’t That Good” proves that they are more than able to deliver a good jump blues (which they’ll later confirm with “Look At That Cadillac” and Lucky Charms”) and “Cryin’ Shame” features a fine harmonica part. Only “(She’ll Stay Just) One More Day” sung by Lee Rocker sounds weak and artificial. Though it features a nice organ part, the song is not great and Lee at that time wasn’t the singer he is nowadays.

Of course, there’s also some solid Rockabilly with Johnny Burnette’s Baby Blue Eyes and the raw Gonna Ball (actually a remake of the Wheels’ Let’s Have A Ball). The album also features one instrumental titled “Wicked Whisky”, which also cut as a vocal track under the name “Cross That Bridge” as a b-side and on Japan pressings. “Lonely Summer Night” proves that Setzer can top the greatest ballads of the ’50s, and “Crazy Mixed-up Kids” ends this album at a frantic pace.

This blues orientation confused the fans, and the “Gonna Ball” was only a semi-success compared to “Stray Cats”.


Stray Cats – Built For Speed

stray cats - built for speed

EMI [1982]
Rock This Town –  Built For Speed –  Rev It Up & Go – Stray Cat Strut –  Little Miss Prissy – Rumble In Brighton –  Runaway Boys –  Lonely Summer Nights – Double Talkin’ Baby – You Don’t Believe Me – Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie – Baby Blue Eyes

By 1982, the Stray Cats finally achieved success in their own country which led EMI to release this compilation featuring 6 tracks from their debut album, five from Gonna Ball and one new song, the title track, a great country-rockabilly.


Stray Cats – Look at that Cadillac

Look At That Cadillac / Lucky Charm [1983]
Arista 106-271

This is the 7″ that started it all for me. I still clearly remember the day I bought it with my older brother back in 1983 (I was 10, man, how time flies). The A-side is a classic jump blues with saxes and piano. Good song, if not very original, with Setzer talking about how hard he needs a Cadillac. “Look At That Cadillac” pleased me for sure, but the real jewel was on the B side. “Lucky Charm (oh Wee Suzie)” was – and still is – one of the best songs the Stray Cats ever wrote. Setzer’s voice is perfect. It looks like the curse of the great guitar player, as sometimes no one pays attention to their vocals. The song was probably recorded during the same session, as the saxes and piano are still here. This one is more a swingin’/rockin’ tune with every musician taking a hot solo each, especially a very inspired boogie-woogie part by Geraint Watkins (Crazy Cavan, Shakin Pyramids, and many others) and at the end, a short slap bass break. And at this moment I thought, “Woah! That’s what I want to hear!!!”. And now, more than 20 years later, I still listen to this single with great joy. I guess this is the power of the 45.


Stray Cats – Rant n’ Rave

Arista / EMI [1983]
Rebels Rules – Too Hip Gotta Go – Look At That Cadillac – Something’s Wrong With My Radio – 18 Miles To Memphis – Sexy & 17 – Dig Dirty Doggie – I Won’t Stand In Your Way – Hot Rod Gang – How Long Do You Wanna Live Anyway

Following the success of Built For Speed, the Stray Cats reunited with Welshman Dave Edmunds in 1983 to record “Rant & Rave” in London. They opted to return to what made their success and went back to their rockabilly roots (with an exception or two) after the blues-inspired “Gonna Ball”.

Rebels Rule” is an excellent choice to start the selection. With a strong Diddley Beat, Slim Jim playing like a madman on his toms, and Setzer yelling, “Rock’n’Roll is never too loud!” the pace is quickly set. The Stray Cats are back!

The next one, “Too Hip Gotta Go”, is a good rockabilly and shows Setzer ability on the strings. A fun one to play (see the time Setzer takes to explain it on his instructional video), it’ll remain in their live setlist for a very long time. “Look At That Cadillac” is a fine jump blues with juicy saxes and piano. Though it’s more a “sax” tune, Setzer plays an exciting rhythmic pattern in the background.
Sexy & 17” opens the b-side. It’s a good song with a solid solo, and it’ll make its niche in the charts. Inspired by Roy hall’s Diggin’, the Boogie, “Dig Dirty Doggie”, is one of their most rockabilly effort with huge slap bass.

The style changes with “I Won’t Stand In Your Way”, a delicious ballad with a doo-wop arrangement. The band is joined by the vocal group 14 Karat Soul for this song. An acapella version exists too.

Hot Rod Gang” was undoubtedly written with Gene Vincent in mind and features a fine Cliff Gallup influenced solo. The album ends with “How Long You Wanna Live Anyway?” the closest thing to Psychobilly the Stray Cats ever played with heavy guitar and pounding drums.

With ten songs and not a weak track, the Stray Cats star rose high. Sadly one year after the release of Rant & Rave, the band disbanded, and though they made different come-back with some solid songs and albums, this is the end of the golden age of the Stray Cats.


Stray Cats – Rock Therapy

stray cats rock therapy

EMI [1986]
Rock Therapy – Reckless – Race With The Devil – Looking For Someone To Love – I Wanna Cry – I’m A Rocker – Beautiful Delilah – One Hand Loose – Broken Man – Change Of Heart

By 1986 each member of The Stray Cats was deeply involved in his solo stuff. Setzer had released his first solo album, “The Knife Feels Like Justice”, in a John Cougar vein at the beginning of the year. Lee and Jim teamed with David Bowie’s guitarist Earl Slick in Phantom, Rocker and Slick for two albums if far to be exceptional contain some interesting things if you’re curious or nostalgic of the ’80s (and dig crazy hairdos). But the three of them were tied to EMI with, according to Setzer, a bad contract. The best way to solve it was to record this album.

So from the start, it wasn’t really a “new” Stray Cats album. One can suppose that they logically wanted to keep their best material for their solo career. This also explains why half of the songs are covers. But this album has its good moment, and even a half-successful Stray Cats album is better than 90% of the rest. The five covers are very well done, the best being Gene Vincent’s Race With The Devil. But it’s true that, except for Charlie Feathers’ One Hand Loose, the band is in a well-known territory with Johnny Burnette, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry (the trio often played “Beautiful Delilah” on stage around 1982).

Things are a bit different when it comes to the band’s songs. Setzer’s own “Reckless” shows the influence of his solo stuff and announces with an advance of 5 years how the Stray Cats would sound on Let’s go Faster. “Broken Man” is far better with its banjo. Setzer had already toyed with the banjo on stage, playing tunes like “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”, which can be heard in the solo part. Phantom and Rocker provide “I Wanna Cry”, sung by Lee, that owes more to their solo stuff than the Stray Cats. And when I listen to the guitar solo (a crappy heavy metal mush), I wouldn’t swear that Setzer plays on it but blame Earl Slick for it. Finally, the three join forces to write “I’m A Rocker”. Nothing original here, just a solid rocker with a strong train rhythm and two wild guitar solos, but that’s enough. “Change Of Heart” is different from what the Stray Cats ever released, more pop, but eventually very pleasant. After this session, they returned to their respective solo career but quickly reformed the Stray Cats, this time for good, in late 1988.


Stray Cats – Bring It Back Again

Stray Cats – Bring it Back Again 7″

EMI 12MT 62 [1989]
Bring It Back Again – Runaway Boys (live) – I Fought The Law

Bring It Back Again” was co-written with Jonnie Barnett (real name Jonathan Barnett Kaye – 1946-2002). Jonnie Barnett was a singer and songwriter who began his career as a solo guitarist opening for Cheech and Chong, Frank Zappa, Eric Burdon of The Animals, Ronnie Milsap, Dion, Tom Rush, Hank Williams Jr. and others. For the last 18 years of his life, he became a well-known songwriter on the Nashville music scene. He wrote songs for Etta James, Johnny Adams, Dobie Gray, Clay Walker, Hank Williams Jr., Eric Burdon, Irma Thomas, Dan Penn and many more.

The B-side features a live version of Runaway Boys (recorded at the Ritz on October 18, 1988.) and a studio version of I Fought the Law. According to some early promo sheets, I Fought the Law was considered for the album (Blast Off) but didn’t make the final list. This version, produced by Dave Edmunds, is far superior to the slicker one recorded a couple of years later at Virgin Convent Studios in Los Angeles for “Original Cool”.

Bring It Back Again” was performed live during the 1989 tour, the 2004 reunion tour, some dates in 2007 and during the 2008 farewell tour (and this time Lee sang it lead).

Lee Rocker also performs this one during his live shows.

The single peaked at #35 in the US Rock charts and #64 in the UK.


Stray Cats – Gina

gina

EMI USA – MT 67 [1989]
Gina – Two Of A Kind – Stray Cat Strut (live)

Though it seems written explicitly for the Stray Cats by the Paine Brothers (who wrote several songs for the Rockats), this song had a long journey before ending on the band’s fifth album.
Then, three years later, in 1984, Josie Cotton recorded it for her second album, “From the Hip”, also produced by Bobby and Larson Paine. Eventually, the Stray Cats finally covered it in 1989 for “Blast Off” and slightly adapted the lyrics. They accentuated the Buddy Holly feel with Slim Jim adding a tom to his drumkit to emulate a Jerry Allison pattern.It remained a favourite of their live set, sometimes performed acoustically.

The B-side is one of the Stray Cats hidden gems. It’s a superb rocking ballad and proves that the band’s B-sides are often superior to the others’ A-side. The first EMI promo sheets show it was considered to be included on “Blast Off”, though it was later dropped, maybe because it was too similar to Nine Lives.

The maxi version also featured a live cut of Stray Cat Strut, recorded at the Ritz in October 1988, and a poster.


Stray Cats – Blast Off

stray cats blast off

EMI [1989]
Blast off – Gina – Everybody needs rock n roll – Gene and Eddie – Rockabilly rules – Bring it back again – Slip slip slippin in – Rockabilly world – Rockin’ all over the place – Nine lives

In 1988, after respective solo careers not entirely convincing – to say the least – Setzer, Phantom, and Rocker reunited and returned to what they do the best: rockabilly. Even the fourth Stray Cat (like George Martin could be the fifth Beatle) Dave Edmunds was back in the producer’s seat. Slim Jim Phantom said, “It’s probably our most rockabilly effort”, and he’s right. Rockabilly with a modern edge and a 90’s sound, but the backbone is here. They cover Eddie Bond’s “Slip, Slip Slippin’ In”, and half of the songs borrow from 50’s rockabilly tunes. “Gina” is a Buddy Holly influenced song with Phantom adding a floor tom to get the Jerry Allison pattern. “Blast Off” sounds like “Jungle Rock” on speed but has good enough lyrics to be original. “Everybody Needs Rock’n’ Roll” bears more than one common point with Glen Glenn’s Everybody’s Movin. And of course, “Gene And Eddie”, Setzer’s tribute to these two pioneers, is very effective if not very original (the song is made of various verses from Vincent and Cochran songs). “Rockabilly Rules, Ok” – the title says it all – and “Rockabilly World” reinforce the rockabilly orientation. You also have a clear attempt to chart with the more commercial “Bring It Back Again” lifted as a potential single (sadly, it’ll fail to climb very high). The best track is “Nine Lives”, a jazzy variation around “Stray Cats Strut”, with clever lyrics, outstanding guitar solo and vocal from Setzer. Indeed this album marks a turning point in Setzer’s vocal. He seems more confident in his talent as a singer, and his voice has gone more profound and more mature. This album may suffer the lack of powerful hits (like Stray Cats Strut, Rock This Town or Runaway Boys) and originality (four songs with the word Rock in the title might sound a bit cliché).

Nevertheless, it’s a solid rock album, very well produced and most of all, the listener can feel the fun and the joy to play together. The gigs to promote this one were good, energetic and fans had big hopes for the next album. Alas, a big disappointment was waiting for them.


Stray Cats – Let’s Go faster

stray cats - let's go faster

Liberation records D30519 (AUS) [1990]
Toshiba-EMI TOCP 6520 (JAP)

Cross of love – Town without pity – Shotgun baby – Struck by lighting twice – Thing about you- Baby don’t drag me down – Tight black leather – Give it to me – Let’s go faster – Keep on running – Runaway train – Gonna be your rock (Japan only)

We wanted to try something new” is what Setzer said in 1991 about this album. Probably disillusioned by the lack of success of “Blast Off”, the Stray Cats hired producer Nile Rodgers (Chic, David Bowie, Madonna…). On the paper, this association sounded quite weird. In reality, it was even worse. At best, the result sounds like Setzer solo stuff (and some songs come from his solo period: Cross Of Love, Thing About You), and at worse, you have bad and already out of fashion 80’s new wave. Very little can be saved from this wreck: “Let’s Go Faster” (nothing original but a solid rock song with a riff ala Eddie Cochran), “Give It To Me”, another one written with Buddy Holly in mind and on the contemporary side “Keep On Running”. The remaining songs are mostly weak, and the production is weaker. Looking for a modern (and a chart appealing) sound, the band has lost its identity and specificity. The result is the absence of the slap bass (replaced by an electric bass), a key element of their sound the same way the Gretsch and the stand-up snare are. The band was probably disappointed by the result and issued “Let’s go Faster” only in Japan and Australia. Later a bootleg album appeared with the demos. The lame songs stayed lame, but at least the good ones weren’t wasted by the production.

The Japanese edition has a bonus track called “Gonna Be Your Rock”, which is, in my own opinion, in a good place for the title of “Worst Stray Cats song ever”.


Stray Cats – Struck By Lightning

stray cats - struck by lightning

Liberation Records – K10340 [1991]
Struck By Lightning / Give It To Me

This 1991 single was released in Australia only. Struck By Lightning is a heavy rocker, with a threatening riff, maybe closer to Setzer’s solo stuff than the Stray Cats, but that remains a solid song. The B-side is Give It To Me, a lighthearted love song, that sounds like a modern version of Buddy Holly. Both songs were played by the trio during its 1990-1991 tours. One can find on Youtube an amazing live version of Struck By Lightning in Tokyo and of course Give It To Me was captured on video for Rock Tokyo.


Stray Cats – Choo Choo Hot Fish

Choo Choo Hot Fish

Pump Records – 50286 [1992]
Elvis On Velvet – Cry Baby – Please Don’t Touch – Sleepwalk – Lust’n’Love – Cross Of Love – Beautiful Blues – Can’t Go Back To Memphis – Jade Idol – My Heart Is A Liar – Let’s Go Faster – Mystery Train

“Choo Choo Hot Fish” can be seen as the successful version of “Let’s Go Faster”. It is innovative yet still with a feet in the tradition and is their most ambitious effort to date. It also sees the return of Dave Edmunds behind the glass.

The opening track is representative of that mood, pumping sound, modern drums mixed with rockabilly elements for a tribute to Elvis. Next is “Cry Baby”, a non retro melodic rockabilly tune. It is an instant Stray Cats classic and has that timeless sound that makes the trio so special. And with Edmunds on second guitar and on duet vocal it reminds the good old days of “The Race Is On”.

Johnny Kidd’s Please Don’t Touch rocks like hell in Setzer and Rocker setlist in their respective solo careers. Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” appears here for the first time, long before the orchestra and the Grammy Award. Though I grew rapidly tired of the heavy orchestra version, this one still sounds fresh today.

Both “Lust’n’Love” and “Can’t Go Back To Memphis” harden the sound with heavy guitar and Jim hittin’ the drums as hard as he can. “Lust’n’ Love” keeps the backbone of rockabilly while “Can’t Go Back…” is not that far from ZZ Top and it’s very interesting to listen to this album today and compare it with Setzer’s most recent albums (“Nitro Burnin’ Funny Daddy” and “13”). Many elements were already presents 15 years earlier. In the same vein is “Cross of Love”. I suppose that Setzer saw a lot of potential in this one as he recorded it twice before this album (once on “Let’s Go Faster” and once during his first solo stint between 86-88).

The best song to appear on “Choo Choo Hot Fish” is “Beautiful Blues” co-written with Larson Paine. It’s a splendid jazzy song with rich gipsy chords, astounding solo and superb brushwork from Slim Jim. Don’t be fooled by the apparent simplicity of his drumkit this guy can really play. “Jade Idol” proves it too. This is a stunning atmospheric instrumental that would fit a James Bond movie to perfection. My definition for this kind of tune is “Music to drink Martini with…”. “My Heart Is A Liar” is a fine acoustic ballad in the vein of Chris Isaak with once again a rich assortment of percussion. The last two numbers are solid rockers.

A new version of “Let’s Go Faster” far better and richer than the previous one (courtesy of Dave Edmunds and his good sound) and a “Hey we have 5 minutes left in the studio how about doing a Elvis song?” version of Mystery Train. They clearly recorded this one live and it perfectly captures the feel and the excitement of the band. It also features a yodel part from Mr Setzer. Funny to see an album opening on Elvis On Velvet and ending on Mystery Train.

Sadly, “Choo Choo Hot Fish failed to reach a large audience.


Stray Cats – Original Cool

original cool

Toshiba [1993]
Somethin’ Else – Oh Boy – 20 Flight Rock – I Fought The Law – Lonesome Tears – Your True Love – Be-Bop-A-Lula – Blue Jean Bop – Can’t Help Falling In Love – Flying Saucers Rock ‘n Roll – Train Kept A Rollin’ – Stood Up – Let It Rock – Trying To Get To You – Chet Ditty (Hidden Charms)

The Stray Cats last studio album was a bit of a disappointment. Of course, Setzer gives some of his best vocal performances (listen to Ricky Nelson’s Stood Up), and the band is on top form (with Jeffrey Baxter guesting on steel guitar). Even the production, though a bit slick, is not that bad. But why, at this point of their career, release an all cover album, especially of songs that one has heard a zillion times. This incredible band deserved a better career-ending than this “not-good-nor-bad” album.


Stray Cats – Live From Europe

stray cats live from Europe

Surfdog Records 44045 to 44059 [2004]

Neo-rockabilly kings, the Stray Cats produced some mighty fine records but were mainly known for their wild and furious Rockabilly live shows. Strangely, they never issued an official live album, letting the door open to a bunch of bootleggers. When they reformed in summer 2004 for a European tour, the Stray Cats must have thought that they wouldn’t let bootleggers make money on their back this time. The result is here, 17 gigs and 15 CDs. Don’t look for booklets, photos of the show etc. The covers design is the same for all, except the colour. The sound is not top quality, they manufactured them very quickly, and they didn’t take time to produce them. I know many bootlegs that sound better than that. So depending on the records, you can’t hear the drums, have too much bass etc. Also, why didn’t they include the whole show on the cd’s (only 17 songs, no more, no less)? This is the first question one will ask. But the answer seems evident when you realize that the songs not on Paris CD are on the Bruxelles one, and so on… It really looks like an economical choice as they know that many fans will buy a maximum number of records to have all the songs.

On the other hand, it’s good to hear tunes the Stray Cats rarely performed live (18 Miles to Memphis, Rev it up and Go), a few covers never played on albums (Unchained Melody, in french for Paris; That’s All Right, Blue Moon Of Kentucky celebrating the 50 years of rock’n’roll; Red Hot). But I think these records concern primarily those who attended the shows. But if you weren’t there and want to buy one, I’d recommend the second part of the tour as the band is getting better and better as the tour progresses. I suppose they used the first shows as rehearsals (too bad that I went to Paris, the opening show).


Stray Cats – 20\20

Stray Cats - 20/20

Arista – 74321131172
Runaway Boys – Rock This Town – Can’t Hurry Love – Rumble In Brighton – Stray Cat Strut – Double Talkin’ Baby – Cross That Bridge – Baby Blue Eyes – Built For Speed – (She’s) Sexy + 17 – Lookin’ Better Every Beer – Cruisin’ – Lucky Charm (Ooh Wee Suzy) – I Won’t Stand In Your Way (a cappella) – Look At That Cadillac – Rebels Rule – Looking Out My Backdoor- Drink That Bottle Down -Sweet Love On My Mind -Something Else

20/20 is probably one of the best (if not the best) Stray Cats compilation or best-of ever released. Not only it contains the well-known and best songs from the first three albums (the Arista years) but what makes the difference with the other releases is that it also contains the b-sides and some rarities, most of them being unavailable on cd before.

It includes covers of Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Supremes, Gene Vincent but also originals like the excellent jump blues “Lucky Charm” (b-side of Look At That Cadilac), the a Cappella version of “I Won’t Stand In Your Way”, the country-tinged ballad “Looking Better Every Beer”, and “Built For Speed” the original that gave its name to the compilation album gathering Stray Cats and Gonna Ball for the American market.


Stray Cats – 40

Stray Cats - 40
Stray Cats – 40

Surfdog / Mascot M75895
Cat Fight (Over A Dog Like Me) – Rock It Off – I’ve Got Love If You Want It – Cry Danger – I Attract Trouble – Three Time’s A Charm – That’s Messed Up – When Nothing’s Going Right – Desperado – Mean Pickin’ Mama – I’ll Be Looking Out For You – Devil Train – Cry Baby (Live) (Bonus Track – Deluxe CD only) – Double Talkin’ Baby (Live) (Bonus Track – Deluxe CD only)

The first three Stray Cats albums blew me away. Maybe Gonna Ball had some fillers but these initial trilogy was perfect. After that, and the 1984 split, their albums were either good (Blast Off, Choo Choo Hot Fish thanks to the Edmunds touch), forgettable (Original Cool, Rock Therapy) or almost plain bad (Let’s Go Faster.)

However, on stage, they were still one of the best rockin’ band on the planet. So when the trio announced that they would record a brand new album full of original material, though I tried not to be too excited, the teenager inside me was smiling from one ear to another.

The name of Peter Collins to produce the forthcoming album surprised me. Even if he produced Setzer’s Dirty Boogie and Rockabilly Riot, Peter Collins was notorious for his work with Bon Jovi, Rush and Nick Kershaw to name but three. Nothing to make me feel that he was the ideal guy to replace Dave Edmunds. Most of all he was the producer who sabotaged the Stargazers’ Ain’t Nobody But Here but us Chickens.
The cover design also came like a warning. Here came guys who didn’t release anything for 25 years and to celebrate that they used the laziest design and ugliest cover possible. Hum…

I carefully changed my mind little by little and came to the conclusion that I would be happy with a basic Rockabilly album.
Then Cat Fight the first song was released. Nothing too original. A rock’n’roll song like you’ve heard a thousand times before. At that moment I was kinda resigned, this is not gonna be great, maybe good, at least average. But both Rock It Off, a rip off of Eddie Cochran’s My Way and Cry Danger a recycling of the riff of Aztec on Setzer’s debut solo album almost sealed the fate of that album for me: don’t expect anything.

I finally received the album and my fears were soon confirmed. It’s a shame that a band that returns with a new record after such a long hiatus didn’t put more work in it. The compositions are at best average (Mean Pickin’ Mama which is at least a Rockabilly number) but most of the time the term ‘lazy’ pops to mind. From the boogie blues riff of the aptly named That’s messed up that you’ve heard a zillion times to Three Time’s A Charm which is nothing but a variation of Setzer’s Hot Rod Girl, or I’ve Got Love that borrows its intro to Ubangi Stomp and its melody to You’re Humbuggin’ Me (Lefty Frizzell, Fabulous Thunderbirds…) and Desperado an instrumental which is a carbon copy of the Shadows’ Apache, it’s hard to believe Setzer when he says in mumerous interviews that he started writing these songs one year ago. Actually many songs sound like an embarassing caricature of Setzer’s Live Nude Guitar or Let’s Go Faster when trio tries to venture into unfamiliar territories (I Attract Trouble with – what a surprise – a quote of Pipeline).

It’s kinda weird to have Lee Rocker say “We are the best band that has ever played this music.” and find so few Rockabilly (even with a wide definition of it) on ‘40’.

And the production doesn’t help either. The drums sound buried and muddy and the fans of Lee Rocker will be surprised to find barely no slap on that album.
A couple of years ago I regretted that the Stray Cats ended their recording career with the uninspired Original Cool, but listening to this poorly written and badly produced effort, it was not that bad, after all.

PS – Don’t expect the so called “deluxe” version (two live tracks, two stickers, two coasters and a postcard) to save things.


Stray Cats – Rocked This Town From LA To London

Rocked This Town From LA To London

Surfdog records 85968-2 [2020]
Cat Fight (Over a Dog Like Me) – Runaway Boys – Too Hip, Gotta Go -Double Talkin’ Baby -Three Time’s a Charm – Stray Cat Strut -Mean Pickin’ Mama -Gene & Eddie -Cry Baby -I Won’t Stand in Your Way -Cannonball Rag – Misirlou – When Nothing’s Going Right – (She’s) Sexy + 17 -Bring It Back Again -My One Desire -Lust ‘n’ Love -Fishnet Stockings -Rock This Town -Rock It Off -Built for Speed -Rumble in Brighton

Despite what its title may suggest, “Rocked this town, from LA to London” is not a testimony of the Stray Cats’ latest international tour to promote 40. Setzer Rocker and Phantom recorded it in various US cities (but not in LA), and some of the songs were even recorded during the 2018 tour.

That said, it’s an excellent live album. It’s very well recorded, and the band is in fine form (way better than the 2004 tour). Moreover, it features five songs from 40. Not only they sound way better than the poorly produced studio versions, but it adds some diversity to the usual setlists of the band that turned to be quite repetitive over the years. It also features two instrumentals (Cannonball Rag and Misirlou.) Besides these two tunes and Double Talkin’ Baby and My One Desire on the vinyl version, the set focuses on the band’s songs rather than covers, thus allowing some place for a song like Lust’ n’Love. I was a bit sad to find no songs from Gonna Ball but with only 23 songs, I suppose that you have to made choices.
After all these years, the Stray Cats, especially on stage, still remain the kings of modern Rockabilly, and this live album is here to confirm that.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

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.

Bellhops (the)

Bellhops (the) – A Nickel and a Dime

the Bellhops

MAC 133 [1991]
A Nickel and a Dime / Let’s Rock

Released in 1991, this is the debut single of the Bellhops. At the time of the recording, the band consisted of Frank Marquez on vocals and rhythm guitar (later known as Junior Marvel), Jeroen van Gasteren on bass, Marco Blonk on drums and guitarist exceptional Emilio Garcia.
A Nickle and a Time is a middle-paced blues number, with a superb Rockabilly touch added by the guitar. Conversely, Let’s Rock, which Garcia sings, is a frantic Rockabilly that takes no prisoners.

Fred “Virgil” Turgis

bellhops

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

The Droptops

The Droptops were a trio from Mayland formed by John Bozarth on double bass and lead vocals, Christine Bozarth on drums and Elizabeth Doschek on guitar. They were active during the first decade of the new century. However, I couldn’t find the exact date when the band stopped.

All three members of the Droptops were musically inclined at a very early age. At 7, John learned to play trumpet and piano. “We had a piano in the house that no one used, so I started playing. As I focused on different instruments, I listened to different kinds of music featuring the kinds of things I was playing. That’s when I discovered jazz, listening to Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, all the standards.” Elizabeth’s father played classical piano, and her mother was a fan of 50’s Rock’n’Roll. They later went on to play in different bands in high school. John played trombone in the Jazz ensemble, Christine played the flute in the concert band and orchestra, and Elizabeth played violin in the orchestra. Like many, the three members of the Droptops were members of the Punk scene in their teens. Before forming the band, John and Christine played in a Punk band called the Drednoks, and Christine was a member of the Connecticut punk band the Snatch. And through that scene, they got introduced to the music of the Reverend Horton Heat and Johnny Cash. John was also a fan of Elvis, the Stray Cats and Bill Haley. “They were a different sound from most stuff played on the radio.” He found out that bands were playing that style of music. Elizabeth’s introduction to roots music came from her mom “pretty much since birth” with artists like Chuck Berry and Little Richard.

The Droptops
The Droptops

The Droptops formed in 2003 though the band’s origin is slightly older. Says Christine, “All three of us had been friends for years. Christine and I met in middle school, and we became friends with John a few years later in high school. After returning to the DC area after college in 2001, we decided to get together along with another friend, Brooks, to put together a rockabilly band. We played as a four-piece (with John on vocals and rhythm guitar, Elizabeth on lead guitar, Christine on bass guitar, and Brooks on drums) for a couple of years. In 2003 John and Christine switched instruments, Brooks left the band, and we formed the current version of the Droptops.” The guitar player adds, “We liked the sheer enthusiasm of the music and the excellent musicianship of many rockabilly artists. Rockabilly is both interesting musically and fun.” John completes, “I always liked the fact that you could make good music without having to be overly-proficient at your chosen instrument. It’s a lot of fun when you don’t have to concentrate on whether or not you’re the best at what you play.

I always liked the fact that you could make good music without having to be overly-proficient at your chosen instrument. It’s a lot of fun when you don’t have to concentrate on whether or not you’re the best at what you play.

Their influences

Asked about their influences, the band cited the Sun sound, Eddie Cochran, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. John added Marshall Lytle of the Comets “because that’s what got me into playing upright bass”. Christine said she worshipped Chuck Berry, “my guitar idol” She also added Chicago Blues artists like Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy to the list. But the taste of the band proved to be broader than that. When I asked what was on their turntable at home, they gave the following answers: Christine “a lot of 50s rhythm and blues, rock and roll, and doo-wop; anything with a solid beat and energetic delivery”, John “Hank Thompson, Jackie Wilson, Louis Jordan, The Ramones, Gene Krupa, Bob Wills, Charlie Feathers” and Elizabeth “Chicago style blues, jazz from the 1940s to today, and 50s rhythm and blues and rock and roll artists.

The album

In 2007, the trio released an album on Wild Hare records. This album is made of 10 self-penned songs (although titles like “Rock! Rock! Rock!” and “Lovesick Blues” sound familiar, they are written by the band and are not Johnny Powers and Hank Williams’ songs), alternating slow and mid-tempo tunes. The whole cd is very coherent, and the production (as on every Wild Hare productions) manages to capture the excitement of the music. As they said, their sound is obviously influenced by Sun records, but you can also find some similarities with Jimmy Bowen in John’s voice. If you dig Rockabilly artists like Carl Perkins and Johnny Powers or today’s bands like The Flea Bops or The Raging Teens, this one will please you from start to finish.

We do think about whether our songs sound too much like other bands’ songs, particularly famous songs, when we write. This can be hard, especially if you’ve spent the day listening to Rockabilly! On more than one occasion I have written what I thought was a great song only to realize afterwards that it was exactly like some song I was listening to earlier.

About the songwriting

When we talked about the songwriting process and the trap of unconsciously re-writing some classics, Elizabeth answered, “We do think about whether our songs sound too much like other bands’ songs, particularly famous songs, when we write. This can be hard, especially if you’ve spent the day listening to Rockabilly! On more than one occasion I have written what I thought was a great song only to realize afterwards that it was exactly like some song I was listening to earlier.” That said, the brand of Rockabilly played by the Droptops remained very fresh. I see two main reasons. The first one can be found in the blues element added by Elizabeth. She developed her Rockabilly style by listening to the Rockabilly pioneers’ same things and not copying note-for-note Rockabilly solos.
The second reason is their songwriting “When we write, we don’t worry too much about sticking to the “rockabilly” genre. Most of our stuff is probably more like 50s rock and roll than Rockabilly anyway. We do probably try to stay away from writing material that sounds too modern. Our main goal in writing songs is to try to write songs that tap into our strengths as a band.


The band worked on material for a second album, but I believe they stopped playing before it was recorded or released. As I said in the introduction, I couldn’t find exactly when the Droptops actually stopped playing. During his stint with the band in 2008, I know that John Bozarth joined the Garnet Hearts, who released one album on Wild Hare and a second one on Another Mile records. He later formed with Christine on drums and Andrew Ladson of the Garnet Hearts a band called the Charmers. An album was announced on Another Mile Record though I don’t think they ever released anything.
When writing this article, I searched the internet to complete my info. I was surprised that very few existed about the Droptops on the web. It’s quite unfair since it was an excellent band with a personal style and solid originals, and I hope this small article will fill that void.

Discography

Wild Hare Records presents… The Droptops
Wild Hare07002 [2007]
Where There’s Smoke – Rock! Rock! Rock! – Walkin’ The Floor – You Treat Me Mean – She’s My Baby – Back With My Baby – Lovesick Blues – Stuck On You – When You Go – Disappearing Baby

1 2 3 30