By Barry M. Klein - posted August 24, 2001
Copyright 2001 Rockabilly Hall of Fame and Barry M. Klein
There are two things I love about Viva Las Vegas and Indianapolis Rockabilly Rebel Weekend: attending and enjoying them. The one thing I don't like about them: finding the time to write the articles when I return home.
Motor City Spin-Out, Detroit's first-ever all day rockabilly shakedown, was a wonderful event, and even though there is much to write about, the full day's activities are not as taxing to chronicle for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame web site. However, it's still going to take time to describe the splendid day of outdoor music, and a beautiful evening inside the Royal Oak Music Theater in Royal Oak, Michigan.
Your hard-working correspondent.
When I arrived at the outdoor setup at the Royal Oak Music Theater on Saturday, August 11, 2001, the weather was mostly sunny, my top was down, the temperature was near 80į, and I could hear the sweet sounds of Cash O' Riley and The Down-Right Daddies.
Look who came all the way from Austin, Texas: It's Rachel
from The Casey Sisters with Darlene, Kenny Bruce's wife (and my consultant
for the new digital camera used for the first time in this article).
Cash and his crew, Jonny, Brian and Drew were kicking out some great rockabilly songs, and the day began on a high note. For some reason, when I thought I had taken some pictures of Cash O'Riley with my new digital camera, I later discovered that nothing happened.
Thanks to the assistance of Kenny Bruce's wife, Darlene, who talked me into buying this particular digital camera in the first place, I got things rolling again and was able to corner Cash O'Riley and his band shortly after their set for a group picture. Thanks again Darlene, this article wouldn't be the same without some pictures!
Cash O'Riley & The Down-Right Daddies,
just after their rockin' opening set.
Left to right: Jonny, Brian, Cash and Drew.
The next group to perform was the Hi-Q's, a new band featuring two former members of the Big Barn Combo, drummer Loney Charles, and guitarist Paul "Smokey Links" Cook, as well as former Starlight Drifters' bass man, Rudy Varner. Handling the lead vocals and rhythm guitar duties was none other than Slick Andrews from Louisville, Kentucky. Despite only two weeks of rehearsing together, the Hi-Q's sounded as if they had been playing together for quite a spell, and their excellent song selection included some self-penned tunes as well as vintage rockabilly songs that are not the usual covers we hear day in and day out.
As you may have read in my Indianapolis review (http://www.rockabillyhall.com/BKIndy2001.html), Rudy and Loney have been recently performing as the rhythm section for the legendary Jack Scott, and "Smokey" has been developing a band called The Missing Links, which is a "rockabilly/garage instrumental band" that captures the best of the late 50' s and early 60's. I can't wait to hear what that band will sound like! Slick Andrews, who has been gigging regularly in Louisville, Kentucky for the past few years, will be returning to Kentucky, so it may have been a memorable set for more than one reason. Who knows, maybe we will hear from these fellows again - I sure hope so.
The Hi-Q's are, from left to right,
Paul "Smokey Links" Cook on take-off guitar,
Loney Charles on drums, Slick Andrews on lead vocals
and rhythm guitar, and Rudy Varner on bass.
Following the Hi-Q's was one of the most exciting, animated and hardest working bands around, The Lazy Crazies. It's great to know that in the Detroit area, there are so many talented rockabilly-style rock and roll bands besides the five that played at the Royal Oak Music Theater, including The Starlight Drifters, The Twistin' Tarantulas, Nobody's Business, and many more. Although I enjoy the lovely weather in Naples, Florida for most of the winter, I still know that during almost any week of the year I am in the Detroit area, there is always fine live rockabilly music to see.
This is Brian Holly of The Lazy Crazies
pounding the skins and handling the lead vocal chores
Brian Holly, Elvis Asch and Daddy-O Rocker all presented peak performances. While Brian Holly, the group's drummer, handles most of the lead singing chores, Elvis Asch sang a few songs including an Elvis Presley medley, and Daddy-O Rocker closed out the set with a great arrangement of Merle Haggard' s "Working Man's Blues."
The Lazy Crazies are, from left to right,
Daddy-0 Rocker on lead guitar, Brian Hollyon drums and
lead vocals, and Elvis Asch on bass (literally) and vocals.
I have to put Brian Holly right up there on the same level as Rip Carson, Mack Stevens and Johnny Legend because of his over-the-top, animated style of singing and playing. If you take Brian away from his drum kit, as we did at Viva Las Vegas IV during one of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame jam sessions, he was moving like a bull on speed, and the audience would simply not let him off the stage for at least six or seven songs.
The fourth local group that took the outdoor stage at the Royal Oak Music Theater was Bones Maki and The Sun Dodgers. Bones Maki, whose real first name is Craig, first came to my attention as the excellent host of the old Rockabilly Roll Call radio show on 90.9 FM in Detroit, the Detroit Public Schools' radio station. Craig is one of the most knowledgeable rockabilly cats around, and when I found out how old, or should I say young he was, I was doubly surprised. In the last three or four years, Bones has honed both his singing and songwriting abilities, and it's amazing what talent has developed in this fine young man.
That's Shannon with her husband, Del Villarreal,
and their Jack Russell Terrior.
Many people, myself included, were extremely disappointed when Craig's prior group, Big Barn Combo, broke up nearly one year ago. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence in rock and roll, and all of these talented young lads are at the beginning of a long career path.
Bones Maki and The Sun Dodgers, from left to right,
Tom Limbaugh on lead guitar, Randy Wixtrom on drums,
Craig "Bones" Maki on vocals and rhythm guitar, and
Kenny Bruce on bass.
Kenny Bruce, a former bass player for The Starlight Drifters, and most recently another former member of Big Barn Combo, is the bass player for Bones Maki and The Sun Dodgers. New members of this group include lead guitarist Tom Limbaugh, and drummer, Randy Wixtrom. Tom and Randy have been making a living playing music since they were in high school, and Tom, Randy and Kenny have performed locally in the Detroit area as a trio playing strictly instrumentals under the title "Tom Limbaugh's American Guitar". Tom's guitar picking is described by Daddy-0 Rocker of The Lazy Crazies as "clean", without much of the feedback and echo prevalent in today's rockabilly. Tom's pickin' is more akin to Les Paul-inspired tunes and original western swing, and Craig says that his rockin' numbers harken back to the styles introduced by Phil Baugh and Dick Dale. Bones Maki and The Sun Dodgers' set included more pure rockabilly than I heard them perform in Las Vegas, but also some country sounds, as well as some excellent new songs written by Bones. Bones Maki's voice just seems to get better and better, and just when I think this guy has really reached his peak, he still surprises me! I look forward to hearing the new CD release from Bones Maki and The Sun Dodgers.
His star is still rising: Craig "Bones" Maki of
Bones Maki and The Sun Dodgers.
The Zig-Zag man poses with Sarah Klein.
Rockabilly fans, Gene and Laura, enjoy the sun and music.
Anchoring the last set of the outdoor show was The Swingin' Demons, about whom I wrote in my article covering the Indianapolis Rockabilly Rebel Weekend No. 9. This was the third time I had the pleasure of hearing these three talented musicians, and this trio is a crowd pleasin', foot-stoppin', hard drivin' rockabilly group!
Brian Holly and friends!
If all Del Villarreal did was book Cash O'Riley & The Down-Right Daddies, The Hi-Q's, The Lazy Crazies, Bones Maki and The Sun Dodgers, and The Swingin' Demons into the Royal Oak Music Theatre for an evening show, this alone would have been a great, crowd-pleasing success. The fact that he made these five very good bands part of an afternoon outdoor prelude to the evening venue inside the Royal Oak Music Theater, is a tribute to Del's ability to put together a great show.
The Swingin' Demons from left to right, J.P. Reichling on bass,
Steve Jasenaw on drums, and Eric Reichling on guitar.
EVENING FESTIVITIES INSIDEI have been to the Royal Oak Music Theatre sporadically for more years than I would like to mention: I vividly remember when it was a movie theater, and I believe I saw "Gone With the Wind" there when it was reprised in the early l960's. In 1977, I took about 20 people to see Tom Waits and Jerry Jeff Walker perform (as a matter of fact, I believe I correctly remember the date as Thursday, October 27, 1977). Today the Royal Oak Music Theater is part dance ballroom, part saloon, part nightclub seating, and no matter where you are, you can see and hear everything that is going on with the stage shows.
THE ROYAL OAK MUSIC THEATRE
The opening act was Eddie Clendening and The Blue Rhythm Boys. Eddie is a very charismatic rockabilly singer and guitarist from Denver, Colorado. Eddie could not bring his band with him, but luckily for Eddie, he wound up with not only the Hi-Q's backing him up, but Detroit's own legendary Jack Earls, a Sun Studio star from the 50's, took the stage for a cameo appearance, and the audience and Eddie didn't let Jack off the stage too quickly! It seems that no matter what rockabilly and old rock and roll shows I attend, the younger audiences seem to be most turned on by the original acts from the 1950's, and Jack Earls was no exception to that rule.
After Eddie's fine set, I was surprised to learn that the Original Comets, the headliners for the show, were the next act to perform, still leaving the stage for Nick Curran and Cari Lee and the Saddle-Ites.
That's Sun Records' legend, Jack Earls, on the near right joining
Eddie Clendening during Eddie's set.
Batting order notwithstanding, the predominantly young crowd rushed to the stage when The Comets were introduced by Del Villarreal.
The Original Comets start their show.
What a sight!! I had heard several CD's by The Original Comets, including the one that Ricky Lee Brawn of The Big Six recorded live in England, and the release about a year ago on Ronny Weiser's Rollin' Rock Records where The Comets had to use the name "The Original Band" because of legal complications using the title "Comets."
Anyone attending this concert knew that they were listing to as many of the original Comets as any license would allow. Some members of the group, including bassist Marshall Lytle, joined Bill Haley in 1951, when he was still playing country music. Marshall Lytle, saxophonist Joe D'Ambrosio, and drummer Dick Richards left The Comets in 1956, after Bill Haley refused their request for a $50.00 per week raise on top of their $225.00 weekly salaries. Two of the other Comets, guitarist Franny Beecher and pianist Johnny Grande, stayed with Haley until he disbanded the group in 1962. When Marshall, Joey and Dick left the group in 1956, they formed The JODIMARS which title comprised the parts of each of their first names - Jo for Joey D 'Ambrosio, Di for Dick Richards, and Mar for Marshall Lytle. In 1987, The JODIMARS formed a group with Johnny Grande and Franny Beecher. The actual guitarist of The Comets who played on "Rock Around The Clock", the late Danny Cedrone, died of a massive heart attack not too long after "Rock Around The Clock" became a big hit. Franny Beecher was the longest tenured guitarist with The Comets.
Now that I have given a brief, fractured history of The Comets, I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful they were in person as a group, and I am not even handicapping for their "seasoned citizen" maturity. With their traditional loud, plaid tuxedo jackets, these guys were really rockin'! I believe their set lasted about an hour and a half, and there must have been at least six or seven encore songs! To see Marshall Lytle on the floor, hoisting his bass upward toward the heavens and still pounding away, while Dick Richards slapped those skins and Franny picked and Joey blew, it was an experience of historical reckoning!
Marshall Lytle, Bass Man
To think that Bill Haley died over 20 years ago at the age of 55, and seeing these guys, whose ages range from the middle 60's to 79, carry on as they do, is a tribute to the fact that rock and roll can keep you young!
Franny Beecher, Guitarist
Although my age was in the single digits, I remember when "Rock Around The Clock" became a hit, and I remember seeing Bill Haley and The Comets on Dick Clark's American Bandstand in the early 1960's, when many already considered them passť, but the regulars on American Bandstand just went crazy over them. I have seen Ricky Lee Brawn and The Big Six, and they do a great job of recreating the Original Comets' sound (Ricky Lee Brawn even produced a live CD by The Original Comets a few years ago). Too see these fellows perform the way they did, even forgetting for just a moment what their actual ages are today, was a lifetime experience that I will cherish and never forget as long as I live.
The "Original Comets"
For those of you interested in knowing more about the all-time best selling rock song, you might like to look at my live-in-person interview with Jim Myers, co-writer of "Rock Around The Clock", which was done just a year before he passed away (http://www.rockabillyhall.com/BarryMeyersIntvw.html)
For anyone interested in ordering the most recent Comets' CD, it is called "Still Rockin' Around the Clock" and is available from Rollin' Rock Records. Email Ronny Weiser at email@example.com. Although the title for the second CD is not yet selected, it is scheduled to be released around Christmas time.
Joey D'Ambrosio on Saxophone
Well, by the time the crowd finally let The Comets leave the stage, and we had not yet seen Cari Lee and The Saddle-Ites, or Nick Curran, it was already past Cinderella Time, and it was time for this good old boy to take a 20-minute drive home, let the dog out, and sleep fast in order to get up and run 8 miles early in the morning.
Jacko Buddin, an English lad who has been The Comets' lead vocalist
since the mid-1980's.
Joey D'Ambrosio acknowledges a thunderous ovation
after one of his saxophone solos.
Johnny Grande on piano.
Marshall with Fran and Dick
The boys just rock harder as the night goes on.
That's Marshall Lytle ridin' and slappin' the bass,
Dick Richards on drums, Joey D'Ambrosio wailing his sax,
and Jacko Buddin on rhythm guitar.
Left to right: Marshall Lytle, Dick Richards, Joey D'Ambrosio,
Jacko Buddin and Franny Beecher.
I understand that Cari Lee & the Saddle-Ites, due to the late hour, only played a short set, and included a cameo appearance by Nick Curran as part of her band's performance. For those lucky enough to come to Ypsilanti on Sunday night, Nick Curran gave a big full set at the Elbow Room.
Another encore! This is the entire band! From left to right,
Johnny Grande on Piano, Marshall Lytle on bass,
Jacko Buddin on guitar and vocals, Dick Richards on drums,
Joey D'Ambrosio on saxophone, and Franny Beecher on Guitar.
By the way, the Summer 2001 issue of Blue Suede News gave a favorable review of Cari Lee & The Saddle-ites' new CD, "Red Barn Baby", available on the El Toro label.
I would like to thank Kenny Bruce's wife, Darlene, for sending me pictures of Cari Lee, and although I am disappointed that I still have not seen either Carie Lee & The Saddle-Ites or Nick Curran, I think the people who attended the entire day's festivities will agree with me, that this was one heck of an all day, big blast rockabilly rumble!
Cari Lee & The Saddle-Ites closed the show.
I think special thanks are in order to Del Villarreal for conceiving and implementing this great event, Sarah Klein for her support, and the sponsors, which included Heineken Beer, and Detroit's Talk Radio 97.1FM. Also, a special thanks to the weatherman, who made the afternoon so delightful with warm, sunny weather, much less than the oppressive heat the Detroit area had experienced just shortly before this event.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
For a list of Barry's other articles and interviews for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, go to http://www.rockabillyhall.com/BarryKlein.html