ROLLIN' ROCK 30TH ANNIVERSARY -
INTERVIEW WITH RONNY WEISER

By Barry M. Klein

As the Rockabilly Hall of Fame celebrates its 4th birthday, we are also celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Ronny Weiser's Rollin'Rock Records.

Rollin'Rock Records has been a catalyst in the rockabilly revival movement worldwide, and many important artists and groups have recorded there for three decades including:

Richard Berry, Freddy Blassie, Ray Campi, Johnny Carroll, Rip Carson, Ezra Charles, Jackie Lee Cochran, Tony Conn, Mac Curtis, Charlie Feathers, Sarah Harris, Chuck Higgins, Sid King, Johnny Legend, Ronnie Mack, Jimmy Lee Maslon, Cort Murray, Jessica Rooth, Samy Salazar Don Sawyer, Jerry Sikorski, Colonel Jim Silvers, Screamin' Scott Simon, Mack Stevens, Merle Travis, Gene Vincent, Alvis Wayne, Chuck E. Weiss, Mae West, Colin Winski, Billy Zoom, and groups including The Alley Gators, The Blasters, The Chop Tops, The Comets, Dragstrip77, Johnny & The Blades, The Rattlers, Ravenna & The Magnetics

This is an impressive line up of talent.

Since the Rockabilly Hall of Fame is an internet phenomenon, I conducted this interview with Ronnie via e-mail.

BARRY: On Saturday, April 14, most of the evening at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame stage at the West Lounge of the Gold Coast Hotel at the Viva Las Vegas weekend will be devoted to performances by Rollin'Rock artists and groups. Who will be performing? RONNY: "Rollin Rock" Records 30th Anniversary Tribute Show:
     8:30 - 9:15 - Paul Galaxy & the Galactix
     9:30 - 10:15 - Rip Carson & his Chain Gang
     10:30 - 12 ...
          Ray Campi
          Alvis Wayne backed by the Chop Tops


BARRY: As I recall, Rollin'Rock started as a magazine "alternative" to Rolling Stone. How did the magazine evolve into a recording label?
RONNY: That was almost a given. Back then we did not have the thousands of re-issues of 1950s material as we have today. The readers of the magazine were starved for real rock'n'roll, and they always asked me to find rare records. Some suggested I try to contact the original labels and ask them to have the stuff re-issued.

BARRY: So why not on the Rollin' Rock label as well?
RONNY: When I went to Sage Records in Hollywood and asked Mr. Mooney if I could license the Jimmy Patton masters, he thought I was a crackpot. Anyway we drew up a four line contract and soon thereafter I released my Jimmy Patton EP, Rollin' Rock EP 45-001! It included the scorching rocker "Let Me Slide", previously unreleased.



BARRY: Over the years, Ray Campi has played a pivotal roll in the history of Rollin'Rock Records. Can you tell us about how you and Ray got together and how important he has been to Rollin'Rock Records?
RONNY: One summer I was visiting some German rockabilly fans in Berlin and one of them plays a 78 called "Caterpillar" and says - "You know this guy Roy Campi lives in Hollywood."
        So, when I was back in California I asked information for Roy's telephone number but they didn't have a Roy Campi, but instead they listed one Ray Campi! I called Ray, and explained to him - "I publish Rollin' Rock Magazine and own Rollin' Rock Records and I'd like to come over and interview you for the rockabilly and rock'n'roll fans in Europe." I went there at 7 o'clock in the evening. Ray plays me all these scratchy 78's, shows me his scrapbooks, plays his old tapes, tells me about the 50's: Merle Travis, Lightnin' Hopkins, The Delmore Bros, Gene Vincent, Elvis, Fats Domino, and on and on!
        Finally, at about 7'o'clock in the morning Ray looks at his watch, pulls up his tie and says - "Well, it's time for me to go to school". "School???" - I ask him - "What are you, a student??" "No, I'm a school teacher, I teach English and Grammar."
        I thought to myself: "My God, this guy's been talking and talking and playing records all night and now he's going to school to teach!"
        I went home very tired and I tried to get some to sleep. Around 3:30 in the afternoon, bzzzzzzzz!, the buzzer rings and I think to myself - "Who in the devil could this be?"
        I went to open the door, and to my total amazement, there are tapes rollin' on the floor, my dog Ollie is chewing on them, 78's cracking on the steps, papers flying all over the neighborhood, 8 by 10 glossies of legendary Hillbilly singers being blown by the wind unto the Hollywood Freeway and Campi comes barreling in. Ray Campi has arrived and says - "By the way, I forgot to tell you ... blah, blah blah, blah, ..."
        Another eight hours pass, and I think to myself, my God, this Campi is a dedicated cat, and I think he's gonna be around for a long long time!!!!
        Two days later we recorded my first two Ray Campi singles - "Tore Up" and "Eager Boy".
        Without Ray Campi, Rollin' Rock would have never achieved such success. Without Ray Campi Rockabilly Music may not even had such a strong revival into the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and to this day!

BARRY: 3 years ago, you wrote in one of your columns that Rollin'Rock was established on September 13, 1972. What exactly happened on that day?
RONNY: That was when the Jimmy Patton EP was released. But the first recordings for Rollin' Rock were the four Gene Vincent tracks which were recorded in 1971, 30 years ago.



BARRY: For the past several years that you have been in Las Vegas, do you incorporate any different recording techniques than you did in California?
RONNY: Not that much different, it's just that now I am using an ADAT digital 8 track machine instead of the Tascam analog 8 track. I recorded Narvel Felts on both machines and I could not tell the difference, so it's no big deal really!

BARRY: You recorded Gene Vincent not too long before his tragic demise at the age of 36. Any good Gene Vincent stores you can tell us?
RONNY: Gene was totally dedicated to Rock'n'Roll, and we always talked about all the great Rock'n'Roll Legends who he not only admired professionally, but who also were close friends of his, American giants such as Elvis, Sam Cooke, Carl Perkins, Eddie Cochran, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee, Brooke Benton, etc.
        Just as he was wild and frantic on stage, Gene was meek and mild off stage. He was a true Southern Gentleman and a Savage Wildcat at the same time!!

BARRY: You have recorded many rockabilly legends. Billy Poore devoted much of his book to stories about Charlie Feathers. Have you got any good stories about Charlie?
RONNY: I always wanted to record Charlie, but lack of funds prevented me from flying him to Los Angeles. One day he shows up unannounced a the door with his son Bubba, daughter Wanda, and says he's ready to cut a record.
        So we spend hours recording a slow number, "She Set Me Free", when Charlie looks at the clock, and says, "Well it's time to go to the Dodgers' game", and I reply," Whaaaat?? Hey Charlie, I cannot put out a 45 with only one song, I need a second song, a rocker, a rockabilly stomper!!" Five minutes later, in one take, we had "That Certain Female", a precious gem, according to most fans, including Charlie Feathers himself, the best record Charlie waxed since the 1950s!

BARRY: I know that there is other "real rock and roll" that you enjoyed as a kid that might not be classics purely as "rockabilly" including Little Richard and Chuck Berry. What rock and roll legends would you record if you had the opportunity?
RONNY: The above two, Jerry Lee, Fats Domino, and unfortunately many of the greats are already gone and will not be able to record anymore for anybody!!

BARRY: You know I am a big fan of Rip Carson, and David Loehr will confirm that it was my ringing endorsement that caused him to book Rip for this June's Rockabilly Rebel Weekend #9 "sight unseen". How did you and Rip hook up?
RONNY: Rip has always been a Rollin' Rock fan, so he just e-mailed me. Then he sent a cassette. I gave him some suggestions, and more cassettes followed, each one sounding better. Finally he recorded at Rollin' Rock.

BARRY: Another of my favorite current groups, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Starlight Drifters, recently recorded in your studio. What can you tell us about the forthcoming CD and when will it be released?
RONNY: It's a hot rockin' CD with a couple of Western swing tunes for variety. Bill Alton's voice is very soulful, and Chris Casello's guitar sizzling. The pumpin' bass is courtesy of Dave Roof and the crashing drums come from Billy Mack.
        There are also some tight "Sons Of The Pioneers"-type harmonies, really killer stuff!

BARRY: Much has been discussed and written about the meaning of the word "rock". When I mentioned to Jim Myers (the co-writer of "Rock Around the Clock") that the word "rock" in jazz and blues circles prior to the 1950's was sometimes used as a synonym for sex, he became offended and said that he never meant for the term to be understood that way in "Rock Around The Clock". How do you define "rock" and how do you differentiate it from "rockabilly" or "rock and roll"?
RONNY: I do NOT distinguish between Rock and Rock'n'Roll. To me Rock is just an abbreviation for Rock'n'Roll, the same way that Fedex is an abbreviation for Federal Express.         I will NEVER concede the word of my beloved music, whether Rock or Rock'n'Roll to the enemy 1960s-1970s Rolling Stone Millionaire Hippie type Record Mafia Establishment. "Jailhouse Rock", "Rock Around The Clock", "Rollin' Rock", that's Rock, not Jefferson Airplane, nor Led Zeppelin.
        Rockabilly is just one variation of Rock'n'Roll. Doo Wop is another. New Orleans is another.

BARRY: Ronny, can I get something off my chest? You always seem to lump "hippies" into a category that is antithetical to rockabilly or pure rock and roll. As a hippie living in Haight-Ashbury during the Summer of Love in 1967, I saw numerous acts including Chuck Berry that were very well received when performing at the Avalon Ballroom or the Filmore. Maybe some of the music that was popular at the time (Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane) were departures from the rock and roll of the 50's, but many hippies certainly appreciated the rockabilly roots of rock and roll e.g., Albert Lee and Ten Years After with their long medley of 50's rock and roll songs captured in the film "Woodstock". Can you lighten up a little bit on the hippies?
RONNY: Of course all generalizations are inherently flawed.Yes, it's true, many Hippies also loved Rock'n'Roll, and some even bought Rollin' Rock Records.
        But we cannot alter the fact that the whole 1960s scene was the beginning of the destruction of the American Way. Music deteriorated, cartoons turned to garbage, Western movies faded away, Western Wear was diluted, and blue-jeans were sissified and suburbanized, the guts were taken away, and most modern cars look like bubbles with the same boring design. There are of course exceptions.
        Politically, I vividly remember the 1960s-types ( some Hippies?) burning the American flag at UCLA, and carrying banners praising mass Murderers like Mao Tse Tung, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel Castro, Pol Pot and various Arab terrorists and Anti-Semites. These same people were advocating: "Do your own thing". Well how many people were able to "do their own thing" under Pol Pot or Khadafy?
        As somebody who lost relatives in the Holocaust I feel deep hostility for Nazism, Communism, Fascism, Socialism and any form of Racism, or for anybody who cozies up to these ideologies.



BARRY: For those reading this interview who do not know you well, tell us something about what it means to be an American.
RONNY: America is a precious dream, a dream which has become a reality, but also a dream which can be snatched away from us if we dont stay alert, and if we allow an ever more oppressive Federal Bureaucracy to interfere in every facet of our lives, and dictate to us everything we do, or don't do, what to eat or not to eat, what to smoke or not to smoke, when to gamble, how many windows our house should have, how big the steps should be, what cars we are allowed to buy or build, or not to build, etc., etc., ad infinitum!!
        The reason this country was founded was to be DIFFERENT from Europe. This country was founded to make the INDIVIDUAL, and NOT the STATE, sovereign and predominant. Unfortunately too many people are forgetting this. To me America will always be the land of Freedom & Justice, and Rock'n'Roll, and Blue Jeans, and Boogie Woogie, and Pink Cadillacs, and Western Wear, and Turquoise Thunderbirds, and Tex Avery Cartoons, and Gene Vincent and Fats Domino and Elvis Presley and Little Richard and Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon and Texas and Disneyland and Roy Rogers and Rhythm & Blues and New Orleans and Memphis, and rodeos, and cheeseburgers, and soda fountains, and diners, and ... .do we have a week???

BARRY: Many articles have been written about you and Rollin'Rock in publications such as Blue Suede News. What are your goals for Rollin'Rock for the future?
RONNY: Basically to stay the course musically, while trying to get the "Rock'n'Roll Message" out there to a much wider audience. It is my strong opinion that if more teenagers were able to hear Real Rock, they would enthusiastically embrace it, and forsake the Hippie/Metal/Rap stuff that they currently listen to.



BARRY: PLEASE JOIN US AT THE WEST LOUNGE OF THE GOLD COAST HOTEL IN LAS VEGAS ON APRIL 14, 2001 FOR THE ROLLIN'ROCK RECORDS' TRIBUTE SHOW. PLEASE NOTE THAT GLEN GLENN WILL BE RETURNING TO THE STAGE FOR AN ENCORE PERFORMANCE BEFORE THE ROLLIN'ROCK SHOW. DON'T MISS IT!!!!.


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 bmk@bmkre.com For a listing of Barry's other articles for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame http://www.rockabillyhall.com/BarryKlein.html



br> © Rockabilly Hall of FameĆ