Indy Rockabilly Rebel Weekend No. 9:
The Good, The Better, The Best!
A Review By Barry M. Klein
Copyright 2001 - Rockabilly Hall of Fame and Barry M. Klein - All Rights Reserved
Trent Summar & The New Row Mob play some mighty danceable music.
There is a lot to like about the annual Rockabilly Rebel Weekend which David Loehr of the James Dean Gallery has now produced for nine years: great music, seeing old friends and making new ones, intimate surroundings and plenty of room to dance, prompt scheduling, and plenty of food and drink under the same roof.
For Rockabilly Rebel Weekend No. 9, the venue returned to the Fountain Square Theatre, which is a wonderful place to see, hear and dance to the sounds of rockabilly.
Movie posters from the James Dean Gallery in Fairmount, Indiana, owned by David Loehr.Once again, David Loehr assembled a lineup which varied in genre, era, gals vs. guys, and geography - nineteen bands, twenty performances (The Crown Hill Diggers performed twice - on stage and at the Road Rockets Car Show along with the 7 Shot Screamers).
More memorabilia from James Dean Gallery.
This was the first year I drove instead of flying into Indianapolis, and in doing so, I was able to make a stop at the James Dean Memorial Gallery in Fairmount, owned and operated by David Loehr. David and Lenny had already left for Indianapolis, but Brenda was very gracious and showed me around all of the rooms, walls and cases just loaded with everything related to the late actor with a cult following.
The new host hotel for Rockabilly Rebel Weekend No. 9, the Ramada Inn Conference Center, although no chip shot to the Fountain Square Theatre, was a nice enough place, and despite the pool area not being as large as the old Ramada Inn South, the pool parties still went on and the hotel employees there were very nice.
Busts and relpicas for Dean from the James Dean Gallery.
On Wednesday night, some of the first people I ran into included Harry, a Chicagoan attending his second Weekend, and his dance partner Marcia, also from Chicago. Last year, they only stayed the first night, and this year they stayed for two!
Marcia and Harry, both from Chicago, were dancin' up a storm on Wednesday and Thursday.David Loehr likes to lead off the weekends with a local group, and this year it was The Crown Hill Diggers who started the weekend off on the right foot. Playing a wide-ranging repertoire of material, it was a very enjoyable set. I particularly enjoyed hearing their arrangement of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "Little Demon", and it was the first time I heard this song performed by anyone else in public! Another great rendition was their performance of "Big Boss Man", a Jimmy Reed classic that has been performed by everyone from Elvis Presley to Link Wray. (If you haven't heard Link Wray's version of "Big Boss Man" on the Ace CD "Apache/Wild Side of the City Lights", a two-album on one CD disc, it's worth the price just for that cut, although the rest of the CD is pretty darn good too.)
Trent Summar & The New Row Mob played plenty of up-tempo country that sure got the dancers goin'!
Trent Summar is a very animated performer!Batting number two Wednesday night was a band from Kalamazoo, Michigan, The Wild Woodys. I had heard much about The Wild Woodys in the past, particularly their lead singer and guitarist, Scott Spears, who I met last year. Scott seems to have it all, the looks, voice, guitar pickin' ability, and the entire trio delighted the audience with a very good set. And Scott Spears certainly looked like a 50's rock star with his haircut, great clothes, and a Gretsch 6120 guitar. More about the Gretsch 6120 a little bit later. Among the songs performed by The Wild Woodys in their set was Carl Perkins' "Honey Don't", "That's All Right Mama", "Right Behind You Baby", "Tear It Up", and "Milk Cow Blues Boogie". The Wild Woodys currently have one CD release on the market, and based on their set in Indiana, I think the next one should be recorded live!
Eight Ball Gifter: They're not for timid tastes. The debut CD kept me awake on my ride home to Michigan.
Lounging around with The Haywoods after their great show.One of the "breakthrough" performances of the entire weekend came from a group that I had not previously heard, Heather Rose and Her Boogie Rhythm Boys, although Heather had performed previously in Indy with the Roundups. A pretty young lady with a wonderful voice, Heather Rose (her husband Tim tells me that her last name is Garland, and that Rose is her middle name) did a terrific 15-song set with all killer and no filler. Sounding much like a cross between Wanda Jackson and Patsy Cline, some of the songs included "Drugstore Rock and Roll", "Let's Have a Party", "Hey Little Dreamboat", "That's All Right Mama", "Walkin' After Midnight", "Red Hot", "Cutie Pie", "Fujiyama Mama", and "Stupid Cupid". For those who might not recall my review of Indy Rockabilly Rebel Weekend No. 7, I mentioned how "Stupid Cupid" was one of my favorite Connie Francis songs, and I enjoyed Wanda Jackson's version - well, Heather Rose acquitted herself very well considering I have heard that song performed by both Connie Francis and Wanda Jackson!
The Haywoods were fantastic Thursday night - real crowd pleasers!
Nic Roulette of The Blue Moon Boys shows that military school did not blunt his outrageous antics (but the ballet training evidently did him some good).I asked Heather's husband, Tim, where I could get a copy of Heather's CD's, and I was disappointed to hear that Heather has yet to release a CD. With such an enormous talent, I know it won't be long, and I cannot wait to get my hands on a Heather Rose CD!
The Blue Moon Boys, from Ft. Wayne, was one of the only two groups returning from last year.
Heather Rose with two staunch supporters.Well, what can I say about Wednesday night's "clean-up hitters", The Blue Moon Boys, that I haven't already said in previous articles? Anyone who sees The Blue Moon Boys in person will never forget the stage performance of their lead singer, Nic Roulette, whose ballet training evidently has come in very handy. Although people cannot usually take their eyes off of Nic, whose antics on stage I have described as a cross between Jim Carey and Mick Jagger, the music is excellent, particularly Kenny Taylor on the guitar.
Heather Rose, formerly with the Roundups, played a wonderful set on Wednesday.
Showcasing fellow Michigander Scott Spears of the Wild Woodys.The Blue Moon Boys' overall team performances are never short of excellent, and besides their great rockabilly covers and rock and roll classics, they also do quite well in the songwriting department.
The Wild Woodys from Kalamazoo, Michigan rocks the crowd on Wednesday.
As an appreciator of Wynonie Harris who just purchased his four-CD boxed set on the Proper label, I must say that their arrangement of "Good Rockin' Tonight" is probably the best of that song I have ever heard. Although I do not have The Blue Moon Boys' "Rock and Roll Christmas" CD, I have listened to "Live In New York" and "Sticks and Stones" many times, and I think the future is bright for this Fort Wayne, Indiana based quartet.
Scott Spears is the leader, guitarist and singer of the Wild Woodys.The dancers had a field day on Wednesday night, with plenty of room on the dance floor for Harry and Marcia, and others including Randy from Bloomington, Indiana, who I remember seeing up on the dance floor every night last year too.
"Don't bother with now!" says busy sound man Stu Sanders.
THURSDAYOne of the regrettable incompatibilities between the rockabilly lifestyle and that of my personal life is that I usually run eight miles every other day, starting very early in the morning, especially in the summer heat. Thursday morning I started running my eight miles just at daybreak, because I was unfamiliar with the neighborhood or where I could run, and it was already north of 70, which is pretty hot for an easily dehydrated runner like me.
The Cigar Store Indians were warmly greeted late Thursday night.Anyway, after I crossed paths with a runner from the neighborhood who told me where I could run, I had breakfast, showered and went to the pool at about 10:30 a.m., when I witnessed what turned out to be the remainder of an all night pool party, which included an awake Nic Roulette and a not-very-awake-at-all-bass player with the initials C.P., who was "taking a nap" on a very uncomfortable looking wooden chaise lounge. By the time I got to the pool, someone had already painted C.P.'s face with black shoe polish, and other still-partying rockabilly cats devised a big slingshot using the back of a lounge chair. They found two young boys to whom they gave lessons at shooting the slingshot, using our passed-out friend C.P. as a target. The kids, using crushed beer cans and pinecones as ammunition, fired away at poor C.P. Not only did this go on for almost an hour and one-half, but someone left a female blowup doll at the pool which some of the "adults" placed in various positions over C.P., prompting everyone who happened to have a camera handy, including me, to have a "photo opportunity".
Rip Carson literally stands on his head to please his fans.
Rip roarin' dancin' to Rip Carson's music.I must say that when C.P. awakened after several "direct hits" from the pinecones, he took it all remarkably well, and an lady friend showed up at about this time to direct C.P. to a recovery room.
Rip Carson, in one of his rare still moments.
Well, on to Thursday night! The lineup for Thursday, Friday and Saturday included five acts for each night, with the Thursday night lineup consisting of The Haywoods, Eight Ball Grifter, Trent Summar and The New Row Mob, Rip Carson, and The Cigar Store Indians. I was already quite familiar with the music of The Haywoods, a Santa Cruz, California band (Santa Cruz is also home to The Chop Tops, so that town must be a really rockin' place), and I had a copy of their Worm Tone Records release "Drinkin', Cryin' & Moanin'" which I believe was released in 2000. This 14-song CD, containing all original material, I have played many times, so I was particularly interested in getting to the Fountain Square Theatre on time to see their set.
Local favorites, The Crown Hill Diggers, kicked off the Weekender on Wednesday.In person, The Haywoods were nothing short of spectacular! Chad Silva, the lead vocalist who plays acoustic guitar, almost looked and sounded like Webb Pierce, with a booming voice backed up by Johnny "Mo Jo" Munnerlyn on lead guitar, and Rick D'Amore on upright bass and Rick Tahira on drums rounding up the rhythm section. I wasn't the only one diggin' The Haywoods. The entire audience gave thunderous applause and whistles after each song, and I just had to tell the band myself afterwards what a great set they put on. The Haywoods 17-song set included several from the "Drinkin', Cryin' & Moanin'" CD, but several others, including "Big Iron Wheels", "Rainy Day Rock", "Gypsy Woman", and "Real Thing", made me anxious to hear more recorded music from The Haywoods. The Haywoods have a web site at www.thehaywoods.com if you would like more information about a the band, its releases and tour schedule.
Every time I see Paul Galaxy perform in person, I am very impressed.
Eight Ball Grifter, a Lansing, Michigan based trio, was a group of whom I had heard but never seen. A very "heavy" neo-rockabilly type of group, they have a self-titled CD release on the Skully record label, and all songs were composed by the group, with the lyrics being written by Rick Wade Royale, the lead singer and stand up bass player. Knuckles Naylor plays guitar, and Johnny Diablo plays drums, with both providing backing vocals to Wade. I did purchase their CD, and I played it at about the halfway point in my five-hour drive home. I can see how their sound can catch on because it certainly kept me awake the whole time I listened to it! There were actually a couple of songs on the CD that reminded me of another trio I still like to listen to sometimes, ZZ Top.
Paul Galaxy and his Gretsch 6120 (same model used by Scott Spears).
One of the things I like about David Loehr's Rockabilly Rebel Weekend is his ability to pick out performers who do not necessarily fit within the tightest definition of "rockabilly".
Thommy Burns on the bass, former leader of Atomics, formed the super group The Steubenville Knights with King Kerosene leader, Scott Murphy. Dig the two left-handed guitarists!Ironically, it was the third group on Thursday, who were less rockabilly than the first two acts, Trent Summar & The New Row Mob, who created the first avalanche of dancers to assemble on the dance floor. Trent and his band are Nashville country, but the music was very danceable, and Trent himself was a particularly interesting performer to watch. Decked out in a loosely fitting cowboy hat, white shoes, red pants and a black windbreaker, Trent combined his good voice with some very exciting stage movements, constantly losing his hat and picking it up and putting it back on again. Besides his singing and stage presence, Trent proved to be an entertaining character, once asking the audience after a couple of songs, supposedly about the microphone volume, "Are you getting it in the rear?" He also invited the audience to "Come to the autograph tent - I'd like to spend 3 or 4 seconds with all of you." I myself just had to mosey on up to the record table and purchase his CD, the self-titled "Trent Summar & The New Row Mob". Consisting of 11 songs, mostly written by Trent, it sounds pretty good, and I must say that Trent Summar & The New Row Mob went over very well with the crowd, and that includes me! Although the lyrics in his CD are decipherable, the liner notes refer us to the web site, www.trentsummar.com, to see the lyrics, and for more information about the band and its recording. Hats off to David Loehr for not limiting his booking for these weekends to exclusively "pure rockabilly" bands!
Scott and Thommy: That's what you get when you mix Kerosene and Atomic matter.
Levi Dexter, the "Robert Gordon of England" was a pleasure to see and hear in person for the first time.Well, speaking of performers with great stage presence and character, no one can take a back seat to the boppinest, wildest cat on the Left Coast, Rip Carson. It used to be "Rip Carson and The Twilight Trio", and in May at Viva Las Vegas IV it was his new group "Rip Carson and His Chain Gang", but since he debued yet another new band in Indianapolis, he now just goes by "Rip Carson". In any event, Rip and his new band sounded better than ever, and I eagerly await his next CD, scheduled for release this fall.
Yep, that's Rip Carson on the far right playing lead guitar for Levi Dexter.
As soon as Rip Carson started performing, I heard one of the rockabilly purebreds yell, "Finally, some real rockabilly!" Well, I can't argue with that. Besides penning some excellent songs on his first two CD's, Rip tore into some fantastic covers of Carl Perkins' "That Don't Move Me", Charlie Rich's "Lonely Weekends", and just a wild, wild version of Ronny Self's "Bopalena". In addition to Rip's usual dancin' and prancin' while singing and playing rhythm guitar, he jumped into the audience with a stand-up mike, movin' and shakin' like never before, and he even did a headstand! He then used a chair as a prop for a female and, er, well, he did things to that chair that could have got him arrested! I've always said that I have never heard a low-key or mediocre recording performance by Jerry Lee Lewis. After seeing Rip Carson in person several times, I can safely say that whenever Rip Carson performs, it is nothing short of spectacular! Notwithstanding all of the wonderful things I can say without hyperbole about Rip's performances, I was again awed by an unannounced appearance by Rip Carson on Friday night, but more about that shortly.
I had the pleasure of having dinner with Narvel Felts last year. but seeing him perform was practically a religious experience!
Narvel still has one of the finest voice in country or rockabilly.I missed Atlanta's Cigar Store Indians when they appeared in Pontiac, Michigan about a year and a half ago, so I was looking forward to catching them at Rockabilly Rebel Weekend No. 9. Together about six years, the only CD I have of their's is their most recent, "el Baile de la Cobra". One of the songs on this CD "Yipin'", also appears on a compilation of new rockabilly called "The Return of Rockabilly" on the Deep South Record label. Lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and songwriter, Ben Friedman, likes to call his group's music, "hillbilly-martini drinking music". Originally a rockabilly band that has evolved to include a blend of roots, swing, rock, country and rockabilly, The Cigar Store Indians obviously had many fans in the audience, for most of the crowd either got closer to the stage for a better look or started boppin' on the dance floor.
Dig the super group backing Narvel, including Paul "Smokey Links" Cook, Loney Charles and Rudy Varner, all from Michigan.
The Cigar Store Indians have a nice web site, www.cigarstoreindians.com, and I see that they will be performing in my second-home state, Florida, at the Freeberg Cafe in Jacksonville, the Divorce Capitol of Florida, on Friday, July 27, 2001. Hey boys, if you don't get back to Michigan soon, how about this winter in Fort Myers or Naples, Florida?
Robbie Fulks sounded like rockabilly's answer to Bob Dylan of the '60s.Before moving on to Friday night, how about a little acknowledgement to a man behind the scenes, Stuart Sanders, bass man for The Black Top Rockets, who always handles the sound for Rockabilly Rebel Weekend. Way to go Stu! Also, some fellows who are not exactly behind the scenes, including MC Ken Mottett, magician Frank Paporozzi, and DJ Michael "Zombo" Devine, provided solid efforts in their roles.
Robbie Fulks: Leave it to David Loehr to bring refreshing, different sounds to the Rockabilly Rebel Weekend.
FRIDAYWell, now on to Friday night! You would think that after seeing Paul Galaxy and The Galactix twice at Viva Las Vegas, I might have had my fill of that group - WRONG! The more I hear Paul and The Galactix, the more I appreciate them. For a group leading off the evening at 8:00, Paul and his boys got an immediate crowd to gather around them near the stage, and they were particularly watching Paul play his Gretsch 6120 (the same model that Scott Spears of The Wild Woodys played on Wednesday). As an interesting aside, you might remember that it was this model Gretsch that was played by the late Eddie Cochran, as well as Duane Eddy (still alive) and another recently deceased legend, Chet Atkins. Cliff Gallup of The Blue Caps played a Gretsch Duo-Jet. At any rate, the crowd really went wild over "Don't Stop", which I understand is on the new Rollin' Rock CD, "Cross The Line" and just released as this article went to press (Hey Ronny, I wish I could have gotten my review copy before the deadline for this article!).
The 7 Shot Screamers, who performed last year, played at the Road Rockets and Pin-Up shows outside on Saturday.Denver based Paul Galaxy, on guitar and lead vocals, is backed by Chris Cordoba on bass, and Bob Rupp on Drums, with both members of the rhythm section providing backing vocals. I enjoyed listening to Paul Galaxy and the Galactix's' first CD, "Flame Thrower", a 14-cut CD approaching 60 minutes in length, on my ride back home to Detroit. Song lyrics and other information is available on the web site, www.paulgalaxy.com. The new CD, in addition to the self-titled "Cross The Line", has some great sounding titles, including "Pretty Kitty", "Desert Air", "Bad Girl", "Bottle of Mine", and "Hot Tamale 2". Several people approached me after the set to say how much they enjoyed Paul Galaxy and the Galactix.
It's a tough job, Part I: Here's Susan from Chicago, who should have entered the Pin-Up Contest.
Tough job, Part II: With Joanie from Michigan, who changed and did a makeover for the Pin-Up Contest.Do you remember Cream, the super group that debued in 1967 featuring Eric Clapton, who had been with the Yardbirds and John Mayall? Also in that group was drummer Ginger Baker, who had been with the Graham Bond Organisation, and Jack Bruce, who was a bassist and vocalist with Manfred Mann, Graham Bond and John Mayall. The Steubenville Knights can be likened to Cream in a few ways. First of all The Steubenville Knights are a trio. Secondly, all three members have seen successes with other groups. Thirdly, Thommy Burns is the bassist who handles lead vocals, just as Jack Bruce did for Cream. Thommy starred just two years ago at Rockabilly Rebel Weekend #7 as the leader of the Atomics. Scott Murphy is known for handling the vocals and lead guitar duties for his group, King Kerosene. Jason Hicks, the acoustic guitarist for the Steubenville Knights, has been associated with the Peashooters as well as Jason and The Redlines.
Thommy Burns, who is from Steubenville, wanted to name the group The Steubenville Knights because not only does his family hail from Steubenville, Ohio but Dean Martin and former porno queen-turned- "legitimate" actress Traci Lords, also called Steubenville their home town.
The Rocket Gals, associated with the Road Rockets Car Show.The Steubenville Knights played like an all-star band, and they treated the audience to several of the songs from their new CD, "The Royal Party". Also noteworthy is that both Scott Murphy and Jason "Hoss" Hix are both left-handed guitarists.
Tough job, Part III: With Loren of the Rocket Girls (and sister of Fern from the Fountain Square Theater).
Some of the songs I particularly enjoyed were "Flew the Coup", "Send For Me" (a Nat King Cole number), and "Ice Cold Katy", which was written by Thommy Burns. All three of the band's members contributed to the songwriting chores, and they did a great job on the covers too! The Hoss did a song called "That's The Way I Am" that is not on their new CD, so I assume they already have more material in the can. "The Royal Party" is available on Jumbo records and you can find the group's web site at www.members.aol.com/sbilleknights/index.html.
Tough job, Part IV: Here's Barbara of The Rockets Girls.The next act, which I was anxious to see, was Levi Dexter. Levi was a prominent "Teddy Boy" in the English rock and roll scene until about 1977, when he started to do a more pure rockabilly act. In a way, he helped spearhead the rockabilly revival in England much in the same way and in the same era as Robert Gordon did in the U.S. I purchased the Levi Dexter CD, "Rockabilly Idol", and was very impressed with his performances recorded with five different bands.
The crowd enjoyed the cute routines that the Pin-Up contestants performed.
Still a striking figure in 2001, Levi Dexter appeared on stage in a black shirt and slacks accented by white western fringe around the chest, back, and sleeves, and a white belt on his slacks.
A major and pleasant surprise was Rip Carson appearing with Levi Dexter playing lead guitar. All of the other times I have seen Rip Carson perform, he is playing rhythm guitar, and I must compliment him on how well his lead guitar sounded. Rip stood as far away from Levi Dexter as he possibly could and let Levi get all of the attention while Rip just stuck to his pickin'. If my eyes were closed and I didn't know it was Rip Carson, I still would have said, "Wow, that's a great lead guitarist Levi Dexter has".
Tough job, Part V: With Michigan's "favorite daughters," Ilene and Brenda,Footnote: Of the many CD's I played and enjoyed during my five-hour trip back home to Detroit, the Levi Dexter CD was my favorite.
It's a Tie! Becky from Columbus and Lurlene the Trailer Court Queen are co-winners of the Pin-Up Contest.
It really is tough for me to say which particular act was my favorite during Rockabilly Rebel Weekend No. 9, but I guess I could tell you who my top three favorites were. One of them was Narvel Felts, who had stopped in the Ramada Inn South last year for a short social visit while traveling on his own tour. A group of us, including Bob Timmers, Billy Poore, Narvel and Vernon Taylor, had dinner together, and I could not help but being so impressed with Narvel's genuine warmth and humility.
On Friday, June 29, 2001, I found out something else about Narvel Felts: he is one of the most talented performers and possesses one of the finest voices in the history of country or rockabilly music! Backed by a very talented Detroit area band, Narvel had the crowd mesmerized for an hour. I saw something I had not seen since I saw Roy Orbison about 12 years ago, just months before he passed away: so resounding was the applause after some of his songs, Narvel was compelled to do an encore of the last stanza. Even after his long, animated set, Narvel flipped his guitar across his back and then proceeded to do about 12 quick pushups to show the crowd that his physical condition was as great as his voice.
I don't think there was a dry eye in the house when Narvel sang the old Skyliners' hit, "Since I Don't Have You", and dedicated it to his late son, Bub (Narvel Felts, Jr.). I have several Narvel Felts CD's including "Memphis Days" and "Did You Tell Me" containing his old rockabilly material, on the Bear Family label, as well as his '70's country hits, plus his new Rollin' Rock CD. On Friday, Narvel's voice sounded at least as good in person as it was captured in the recording studio.
Lynne Greenamyre of Kansas City is the the alter ego of Lurlene the Trailer Court Queen, Lynne co-hosts a great rockabilly radio show in Kansas City.
I must salute his band for the evening, which included Rudy Varner on bass, and Loney Charles on drums (Rudy and Loney have also recently toured with Jack Scott both in the U.S. and in England). Ably handling the lead guitar chores was Paul "Smokey Links" Cook, and you might remember that Smokey and Loney were most recently in the Big Barn Combo.
Narvel took us on a very complete journey of his career, with songs from his early Mercury and Sun Studio recordings, plus his big country hits in the '70's. It takes a lot of guts (and talent) to handle the lead tenor vocal from the Platters' classic hit, "My Prayer", but Narvel pulled it off so well, he had to do an encore of the last verse on that one too! All I could say when Narvel left the stage for good was "Whew!" and "Wow!"
The Crown Hill Diggers close the show for The Road Rockets.
Closing the Friday night show was Robbie Fulks. I had heard of Robbie Fulks before his performance late Friday, but seeing and hearing him, as well as reading about him subsequently, has only contributed to my inability to articulate what category he fits into. I certainly would like to hear more of his music. I was fascinated by the first song of his set where he sounded like a '60's version of Bob Dylan giving a sardonic view of the rockabilly and roots rock scene. Courageous, and excellent too!
Robbie Fulks lives in Chicago and records for the local alt-country label, Bloodshot Records. One of the CD's I saw on the record table, "The Very Best of Robbie Fulks", contains all new material, including the cynical but delightful "Roots Rock Weirdoes".
All I can say is that his performance left me fascinated and thirsting for more, and my only dilemma now is that I would like to pick out two of his CD's to start listening to, and I don't know which to choose. Can anyone help me?
Once again, a big "tip of the hat" to David Loehr for booking such a unique talent.
Atlanta's Blacktop Rockets did double-duty Saturday night, Also backing up Billy Lee Riley.
SATURDAY AFTERNOONAh, no rest for the weary! After leaving the Friday night show at the Fountain Square Theater, which was really early Saturday morning, I awakened at the crack of dawn after about four hours of sleep to run my eight miles and beat the heat, which was already up into the 70's. At noon, I went to the parking lot, where the Road Rockets Car Show was taking place. Burgers and hot dogs were available for lunch. The 7 Shot Screamers from St. Louis, who performed at Rockabilly Rebel Weekend No. 8 last year, were the first of two groups to perform live outdoors at the car show. By this time, the temperature was in the high 80's, but there was too much to see and hear to shy away from the heat.
The 7 Shot Screamers performed many of the cuts from their CD, and I particularly liked their arrangements of the Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black", and Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen".
Not every cute lady attending the car show was in the Pin-Up Contest. I met Susan from Chicago, who would have made an excellent contestant, but she demurred. The Pin-Up Contest was a lot of good-natured fun, and the Road Rockets measured the crowd's cheers in determining who the finalists and winner would be. All of the ladies who entered were lovely, but it seemed that the highest applause would to go to the ladies with the "best routine", in the 30 seconds or so they had to "strut their stuff" or do a little pantomime routine. The two finalists were Lurlene the Trailer Court Queen (aka Lynne Grennamyre from Kansas City) and Becky from Columbus, Ohio. After several "votes" of applause and cheers, the Road Rockets rightly pronounced both as co-winners who would split the prize money and award. Congratulations to all the women who entered the Pin-Up Show - it was well done, light-hearted, and very enjoyable. After The 7 Shot Screamers finished their set, The Crown Hill Diggers, who have been associated with the Road Rockets Club, took the stage and performed their second set of Rockabilly Rebel Weekend No. 9.
Kevin proposed to Andrea just before The Starlght Drifter went on, and she accepted!
The Swingin' Demons are a straight-up rockabilly trio from Flint, Michigan.
That great bass man and singer with The Swingin' Demons.
SATURDAY EVENINGThe crowds at the Fountain Square Theatre seemed to get larger each night, and Saturday was no exception. David Loehr had quite a program for Saturday, and it included The Swingin' Demons, The Starlight Drifters (both groups from Michigan), The Blacktop Rockets from Atlanta, Sun Studio legend Billy Lee Riley, and The Ranch Girls & Ragtime Wranglers.
When I arrived at the Fountain Square Theater, most of the tables already had people sitting there, so I asked a couple sitting at one if I could join them. They introduced themselves as Brian and Ann from Grand Rapids, so we were all from the same state. I didn't find out until almost two weeks later that Ann had taken Brian to Indianapolis Saturday night to the rockabilly show as a gift for Brian's 40th birthday. How about that!
The first two acts to open Saturday night were Michigan groups, The Swingin' Demons from the Flint area, and The Starlight Drifters from nearby Ann Arbor. I had the pleasure of seeing The Swingin' Demons perform this spring at the Elbow Room in Ypsilanti. I can positively say that they are a swingin' trio that can really kick out the rockabilly sounds. The Swingin' Demons consist of brothers J.P. Reischling on bass and Eric on guitar. They share most of the lead vocals. On drums is Steve Jagenaw. J.P. and his wife Lorraine are proud new parents too! Some of the tunes I remember enjoying were "Rev It Up", "Cool Rockin' Baby", and "Built for Fun". I know that The Swingin' Demons have been together for some time, and that they have performed in the past at Rockabilly Rebel Weekends. Well done, boys!
With Joanie on Saturday night, and her third wardrobe change!
One of my very favorite rockabilly groups of today is The Starlight Drifters. The two mainstays of the band are Bill Alton, a very talented singer and performer, and Chris Casello, who plays both electric and steel guitar. Chris is now sporting contact lenses, and had a constant smile on his face, probably from celebrating his first wedding anniversary. Joining The Starlight Drifters that night was former Big Barn Combo drummer Loney Charles, and Rudy Varner on bass. Rudy had a previous tenure with The Starlight Drifters, and as I mentioned earlier, he and Loney just returned overseas from a tour backing the legendary Jack Scott. Rudy and Loney formerly of Big Barn Combo are prior members of The Swingin' Demons and are on their initial CD offering. The Starlight Drifters now have three CD's under their belt, and while they are all good, each one seems to improve upon the previous one. Their new CD, "Thirteen to Go", was released earlier this year on Ronny Weiser's Rollin' Rock Records label. Bill and Chris have written some good songs, and they also do some very fine covers. I particularly enjoy how The Starlight Drifters made "Wolverton Mountain", a country music hit for Claude King that also crossed over to rock and roll in about 1960, into as pure a rockabilly song as you can get.
This CD is excellent, and so was their performance on Saturday night!
The Starlight Drifters, from Ann Arbor, MI, have a new CD on the Rollin' Rock label.
The Starlight Drifters can really do justice to country, rockabilly, and even swing. "I'm Not The Guy", and "Drivin' Nails in My Coffin", were two great performances that they did Saturday night in the western swing style. Bill Alton can go right from his great rockabilly arrangement of "Wolverton Mountain" into Jack Scott's "Baby She's Gone" without batting an eyelash. Remember, for several years recently, The Starlight Drifters were Jack Scott's handpicked backup band whenever he made one of his rare public performances.
As an extra treat, shortly after I returned home from Indianapolis, I was lying in bed channel surfing one night and discovered that there was a half-hour special on The Starlight Drifters on a local cable program. I believe it was originally aired earlier this year.
The Starlight Drifters are indeed "Big Time" now, but I believe they will even get bigger in the very near future.
Just before The Starlight Drifters started their sizzling set, a gent named Kevin took the stage microphone and proposed to a surprised Andrea, who did say "Yes!".
I was fortunate enough to see the very popular Blacktop Rockets from Atlanta perform several times at Viva Las Vegas IV, and I believe they might have taken the stage there as many as four times. As pure and authentic as a rockabilly band can sound, The Blacktop Rockets have been together for several years and have produced a 45, a cassette, a CD and, I believe, a new CD release is imminent.
In addition, their songs have been on many compilation CD's including "Peach Jam", "Bubbapalooza", and they lead off the Blasters tribute on Run Wild Records' "Blastered", with a stirring rendition of "American Music".
Atlanta's Blacktop Rockets made rockabilly fans proud with their great show.
This quartet can stand shoulder to shoulder with any group, and it doesn't matter if they come on first, middle or last - the audience seems to gather around the stage or get on the dance floor!
I always enjoy hearing their arrangement of Moon Mullican's "Seven Nights to Rock", and their lead singer, Dave, does a great job.
The audience wasn't about to let The Blacktop Rockets get off the stage too soon, and perhaps didn't know that they were coming right back as the hand-picked band to back up Billy Lee Riley.
I had the pleasure of talking to Billy Lee Riley, and his wife Joyce, for several minutes prior to his taking the stage. True to his reputation, as wild and animated as he can be on the stage, he is just the nicest guy in the world off the stage too.
Thanks to the Rockabilly Revival and the fans' fascination with the earliest rockabilly artists, particularly those at Sun Records, Billy Lee Riley probably enjoys more popularity today than he did in the 1950's. Of course, it doesn't hurt to still be a handsome guy with a strong voice, who can still "shake it up" on the stage with the best of them.
This is as close to the stage as I could get after Sun legend Billy Lee Riley took the stage, backed by the Blacktop Rockets.
Hey, I've got a trivia question for all of you rockabilly fans: Who originally wrote "Red Hot" and with what recording studio was that artist associated with? I am sure that many of you know that it was Billy Emerson who wrote and originally recorded it in the early '50's at the same Sun Studios at 706 Union Avenue in Memphis where Billy Lee Riley later covered it. I won't spend a lot of time on this subject, because most rockabilly fans who know their history, or have read the Collin Escott book about Sun know that if it weren't for a fellow named Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Lee Riley would probably have been Sun's next big star after Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins. In fact, it was newcomer Jerry Lee Lewis who was playing piano when Billy Lee Riley recorded "Flying Saucer Rock and Roll" in December of 1956. Just a few months later, Jerry Lee Lewis' star was rising and he had taken two of Billy Lee Riley's key members of his Little Green Men band, Roland Janes on guitar and James Van Eaton on drums. (Of course, it was about this time that Ricky Nelson stole fellow Imperial Records' label-mate Bob Luman's band, incuding James Burton.) Luck of the draw notwithstanding, Billy Lee Riley stands today as an icon of early rockabilly and his good looks and animated stage presence, along with a healthy dose of charisma, make him a popular act all over the world. In fact, immediately after Indianapolis, Billy Lee was going overseas to perform in Switzerland.
When Billy Lee performed "Flying Saucers Rock and Roll" early in the set , an eruption of dancers flowed to the dance floor and for one of the few times during the Rockabilly Rebel Weekend No. 9, the dance floor was jam-packed body-to-body. Just listening to "Flying Saucers Rock and Roll", as well as Billy's two encore numbers consisting of "Red Hot" and a reprise of "Flying Saucers Rock and Roll", was worth the price of admission. I don't know if Billy Lee Riley and The Blacktop Rockets had ever performed together prior to this night, but they sure sounded great together on Saturday night! Billy Lee Riley also performed several songs from his long career, including self-penned songs such as "Pearly Lee", "Trouble Bound", and "Rock With Me Baby".
With Billy Lee Riley moments before he went on stage. He's still got it!!
Rockabilly fans seem to especially appreciate the icons from the '50's, and I would bet that the two most popular acts of the weekend were Narvel Felts and Billy Lee Riley. They are both testaments to talent and the ability to stay healthy. Hey, maybe even Mick Jagger will still be boppin' around ten years from now!
We're not done yet! In this crazy, mixed up world, it baffles me that The Ranch Girls and Ragtime Wranglers are performing for four or five hundred of us lucky people at the Fountain Square Theater, while Madonna plays for ten thousand or more people when she tours.
I first got a taste of listening to The Ranch Girls & Ragtime Wranglers through a long-time booster of theirs, Craig "Bones" Maki, who introduced them to many fans on his "Rockabilly Roll Call" radio show in Detroit. How right he was! If there was ever a female answer to the Delmore Brothers, Louvin Brothers, and Everly Brothers, it has to be the Ranch Girls & Ragtime Wranglers. Hailing from Holland, these gals and their band are an absolutely "must-see" act. There weren't even any of their CD's for sale. What's this world coming to??
As young as they look, The Ranch Girls have been around since 1991, although Mary Lou joined the band in 1998. Mary Ann is the "original" Ranch Girl.
The Ranch Girls are an act as deserving of fame as the Everly Brothers.
From the start of their set with the song "Way Down Yonder in New Orleans", these gals and their band were just a joy to see! The Ranch Girls themselves are cute, have tremendous voices, great stage presence, and they just "knocked 'em dead"!
When I found out that The Ranch Girls were appearing in southeastern Michigan on July 11 and 12, I just had to see them again. Even though I had a terrible cold, and I had just flown back from Florida to Detroit late July 11, I pulled myself out of my sick bed to see them do a show at the New Way Bar in Ferndale Michigan on July 12. After a great opening set by Bill Georgio's band, Nobody's Business, The Ranch Girls proved to me that they are "on" every night! Even when they took turns doing songs solo, you just couldn't make up your mind which one was cuter or had the better voice! For anyone reading this article that has seen The Ranch Girls & Ragtime Wranglers, you know what I'm talking about! I will see them anytime, anywhere, whether I'm sick or not! And how about the band, whose lead guitarist's name is "Joe Six-Pack"?
All of this just goes to show that David Loehr knows what he is doing when he puts a Rockabilly Rebel Weekend together in Indianapolis. It was a great weekend, and I love listening to all the CD's I purchased while I was driving home to the Detroit area. As much as I enjoyed seeing old friends and acquaintances, it was also nice to see and meet new friends and rockabilly fans attending for the first time.
Here's a real Daddy-O with a dancin' daughter.
Marcia has her "moment in the sun" with The Blue Moom Boys' Nic Roulette.
Mark Your Calendars for the Indianoplis RRW#10, June 26 - 29, 2002
More photos at The Steubenville Knights website
Jim & Lisa Dutcher's Tip Top Atomic Shop Photos
Editor's Note: Barry Klein writes for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and his book, "Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll", was published in 1997. To contact Barry, email him at email@example.com.
For a listing of Barry's other articles forthe Rockabilly Hall of Fame http://www.rockabillyhall.com/BarryKlein.html.
The "Button Heading" is courtesy of Mark Kinnaman