Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Teenagers in the '50s were all hip rockabilly rebels, while their parents where strictly squares-ville, daddy-o. Right? Wrong. As evidenced by this stupendous collection, compiled by Windbag, a good friend of this here blog, no-one really knew what the hell rock 'n 'roll was all about when it first hit an uncomprehending public. Was it simply swing aimed at teenagers? Goofy novelty records? Easy-listening songs with "rock" in the lyrics? Many of these tracks, all rescued from 45s, came out on major labels based far from Memphis, desperate to get in on the phenomenon, and willing to throw anything at the teen market to see what stuck. Much of it sounds awfully white in it's attempts to bleach out the whole Negro-ness of rock.


Apart from this, miscellaneous exotic/novelty/oddities/atrocities are strewn throughou
t the mix. Windbag's notes [my notes in brackets]:

"Little Blue Man" Betty Everett on Atlantic. Hugh Downs (tv journalist) is the other voice on this disc. Apparently an embarrassment for him. [Classic flying saucer novelty!]

"To Old To Dance The Rock 'n' Roll" Patty Andrews on Capital (of the Andrews Sisters) [Reminds me of Nat King Cole's "Mr Cole Won't Rock 'n' Roll"]

"I Walk The Line" Carole Bennett on Capitol [If Johnny Cash wasn't dead, this woulda killed him.]

"Black Denim T
rousers and Motorcycle Boots" Edith Piaf on Capitol. A Leiber & Stoller song in French.

"The Teenage March" Carlson's Raiders on Capitol

"The Return of a Soldier" Ric King on Capitol. Lex De Acevedo (also k
nown as David Axelrod) on the label credits. A "talky" song along the lines of "Open Letter To My Teenage Son" travesty by Victor Lundberg.

"Cootie Wootie" Tommy Sands on Capitol.

"Tokyo Boogie Woogie" Columbia Tokyo Orchestra on Columbia. I think this song turned up on "M.A.S.H."

"My Baby Rocks Me" Rosemary Clooney on Columbia. This is the "dirty" version before she and Columbia realized that they made a white pop version of a song about f...ing. They re-recorded it after cleaning up the lyrics. Check out the [original] version of the song on the COPULATING BLUES album.

"Song of the Sewer" Art Carney on Columbia. John Lithgow did a passable version of this on a recent CD.

"Rock 'n' Roll Mops" Henri Cording with Big Mike & His Parisian Rockets. A pseudonym for Henry Salvador, well-known French singer (Celine Dion recorded with him not that long ago). Other side of the Columbia 45 is "Hiccough Rock) Rock-Hoquet)" [Aw, man, I gotta hear that!]

"Rock-A-Billy" Guy Mitchell on Columbia. So someone stamped Elvis and all his co
piers as perjorative "rockabillies" and this pop artist tried to cash in with a song title. This is to "rockabilly" what square-dance records are to honky-tonk. I didn't include his later "If You Ever Go Away (I'll Go Out And Eat Some Worms)" 45; I thought this was enough.

"Rock Around the Island" The Lancers on Coral. The Lancers vocal group backed Kay Starr on several Capitol sides. This was a song from a movie "The Lieutenant Wore Skirts."

"Rhythm & Blues" The McGuire Sisters on Coral.

"Teenage Meeting" Don Cornell on Coral. Songwriting credit has Alan Freed as the #3 credit on the label.

"Rock This Joint" Lola Ameche on Mercury. I think this is a pop version of a Bill Haley song?

"The Polka Rock" Angele NcNeill on Prep (Capitol subsidiary label). [Reminds me of Annette Funicello's "Rock-A-Polka"...still think '50s teens were such rockabilly hepcats? They wanted to POLKA!]

"Rockin' Shoes" The Ames Brothers on RCA.

"Pineapple Rock" Claude Gordon & His Orch on Warner Bros. Songwriting credit shows Billy May.

"Ko Ko Mo" Perry Como on RCA. Billboard ad at the time: "He Rocks! He Rolls! Perry Como!" or words to that effect, circa 1954. [Hey, it hit #2 on the charts Jan '55, so plenty of kids apparently thought that he did indeed Rock! and Roll!]

"Bad Bad Leroy Brown" Frank Sinatra on Reprise. 1974-ish, charted around the bottom of Billboard. I like the final gruff Sinatra comments at the end of the song. [There's a great version of Stevie's "You Are The Sunshine of My Life" off that same Sinatra album.]

"Rockabilly Party" Hugo & Luigi on Roulette. These guy's schtick was the "cascading voices..." albums on Roulette and RCA. On this turkey, it's one of those list songs - those 1956 rock 'n 'roll artists. [Ha! Maybe the most ludicrous thing on here - Mitch Miller? Andy Williams? Just what is their definition of 'rockabilly'?!]

"Moscow Cha Cha Cha" Kay Thompson on Signature. I only recently found out this c.1959-60 45 was by THE Kay Thompson, Liza Minelli's godmother and author of those Eloise kids' books. From the height of the Cold War, and the flip was "Dasvidanya."

"I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You") Ray Odom on Torino. I believe an indie vanity record. When you play it, you'll know why.

A million thankyous to Windbag, who has sent plenty of other goodies my way that I hope to get to in the future. (Although you might not want to thank him after you've heard the final track on this collection...)


DDay said...

Tx for sharing this collection!

However, would it really be Betty Everett singing the first one? Are you sure it isn't Betty Johnson?
Also, http://www.themadmusicarchive.com/song_details.aspx?SongID=101 states it would be Fred Ebb, not Hugh Downs as the voice of the Little Blue Man.

French title of the Piaf track would be L'Homme à La Moto (The Man with the motorcycle).

Still, fun songs from more 'innocent' times.

Ted Hering said...

What fun! Thanks for the clever compilation.

I've heard that Guy Mitchell was a country singer, who was pressured into these "pop" arrangements by Columbia A & R man Mitch Miller... and that he HATED these records he made! On the other hand, they sure sold plenty of copies. I guess that's what they mean by "crying all the way to the bank."

Anonymous said...

Wingbag: A stupid typing error on my part--"The Little Blue Man" by Betty Johnson on Atlantic 45-1169. I've always heard that Hugh Downs was the little man's voice and that he wants the whole episode forgotten.

The Edith Piaf 45 (sent to me as a joke by a Reno pal) is Capitol F3368, which shows the title as "Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots (L'Homme a La Moto)"--the English title in large black bold print and the "(L'Homme a La Moto)" in small print brackets immediately undernearth. Songwriting credits are "(Drejac-Leiber-Stoller)" With Robert Chauvigny's Orchestra. Master number on the track is 45-40226; flip is "Suddenly There's A Valley"; master 45-40223.

I have a Guy Mitchell Lp on Starday, roughly 1969 issue, which suggests he had emotional problems in the back cover liner notes: "...In the 1950's everyone loved Guy Mitchell...But he has had difficulty learning to handle 'success,' and he may be one of those rare, wonderful people who never do...." --Starday SLP 432

Darryl W Bullock said...

Lex De Acevedo and David Axelrod are two different people. Lex is a cousin to America's famous King Family and Ric King is actually his brother, Ric De Acevedo who is now a member of the post-Lettermen vocal act Reunion. David Axelrod and Lex recorded for Capitol at the same time during the mid sixties, so perhaps that's where the mistake came from. De Acevedo is a Mormon and still active as a composer today, as is Axelrod - active, I mean, not a Mormon!! Axelod is most famous for his work with the ElectricPrunes and Lou Rawls

windbag said...

Lex De Azevedo/David Axelrod:

My Four King Cousins UK CD reissue (Lp INTRODUCING THE ..., Capitol ST 2990) back cover liner notes states:

"Produced, arranged, and conducted by David Axelrod using the pseudonym Lex De Azevedo...." My vinyl copy of the album shows producer credit to Lex De Azevedo.

I have a 45 by Ric King, Capitol 5845, "Hymn to a Returning Soldier"/"The Return of a Soldier," a Vietnam 45, shows songwriting credit and producer credit to Lex De Azevedo.

With any luck, I hope to get a response to an email that I sent to Lex's daughter, who lives across town here in Salt Lick City, about the David Axelrod/Lex De Azevedo question.

windbag said...

I'm a dirty duck. Yep, I was wrong. Bio on David Axelrod says born in 1936; Lex De Azevedo's book, POP MUSIC & MORALITY, states de Azevedo born 1943. That CD liner notes gaff tripped me up.

Mr Fab said...

Nice work readers, and windbag, on these follow-ups. If they gave out Nobel Prizes for pop culture archeology, I'd be booking flights to Sweden right now.

windbag said...

I just got a response back from Lex De Azevedo's daughter:

"They are different people, according to my dad. He said that David Axelrod's
office was next to his.
So...did you win or lose the bet?"

Ah, well....

Darryl W Bullock said...

fantastic stuff - all grist to the mill as they say. Well done for tracking down Lex's daughter.

Any chance of a scan of the Ric King 45? I'd like to post it on my own blog www.worldsworstrecords.blogspot.com

Mr Fab said...

worldsworstrecords?!? Def. added that to my blogroll, looks awesome.

Just heard from windbag, he can scan it and send it to me Monday or so. Your wish is our command!

Darryl W Bullock said...

You guys are brilliant! Thanks to Windbag and Mr Fab for the help

Indeterminacy said...

These songs were actually quite innovative - they define a whole new genre: cringe