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by Shaun Mather

Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers
         The Teddy Boy is a UK phenominum that is still visual today, over 50's years after it's inception. Now that's a long time for a popular culture idiom to last, and it does so because of the quality of the music and the pride of a Teddy Boy, a real sense of belonging. The image Joe Public has of a Teddy Boy has pretty much been that of a hard nut from the wrong side of the tracks, and it's been that way since the begining. The kings of the Teddy Boys are the legendary Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers, and they are happy to uphold this bad boy image. Just listen to Teddy Boy Boogie if you need reminding. The band, like teds in general are die-hard (or in this case, Dai Hard) lovers of rock 'n' roll, both the music and the lifestyle.
         They formed as early as 1964 when leader Cavan Grogan, Lyndon Needs, Terry Walley and Gerald Bishop formed "Screamin' Count Dracula & the Vampires" in Newport, South Wales. Before they started writing their own material they were a cover band, igniting the Welsh valleys with the sounds of Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent and Johnny Burnette. By 1968, Cavan, Needs and Walley and been joined by piano player Brian Thomas and bass player Don Kinsella and become known as "The Sundogs". Two years later Mike Coffey joined the ranks and they finally became "Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers". Apart from the introduction of Steve Vincent, the line-up as far as I know has stayed pretty regular ever since. The touring started to become more serious and the band were developing quite a name on the rocking scene with their high energy Crazy Rhythm, a sound that became almost as familiar as Johnny Cash's boom-chicka-boom.
         The next logical step was to get a record out, so they set up their own Crazy Rhythm label in 1973 and released the classic Teddy Boy Boogie backed with Bop Little Boogie. The perfect anthem for teds, TBBoogie is a menacing stomp that wrote the blueprint for the future recordings. The crazy rhythm sound is a solid backbeat courtesy of Coffey, Walley and Vincent, flashing lead guitar and screams from Needs and the coolest vocals from Cavan. They sounded like they looked, and it was this combination that made them fan favourites right through Europe.
         The first single and the ensuing EP soon sold out and it became obvious that they needed to move to a bigger label. On February 26, 1976 they signed with Charly Records and just missed the charts with their label debut single, Knock! Knock backed with Get Yourself a Band. Knock Knock got Radio 1 airtime by missed the boat. The first version I heard of this was on the Teddy Jive 10 incher, where the song closes, "knock knock - who's there. Knock knock - who the fucking hell's there?". I'm assuming DLT and Mike Read faded the song out long before that bit!
         The hits have never come on the UK charts despite some blistering singles from the heyday of the rockabilly revival era, but I believe they've had chart hits in places like Finland. My Little Sister Gotta Motorbike should have charted when it was re-released in 1980, but as we know, life ain't always fair. Despite any big hits, Crazy Cavan and the Rhythm Rockers have remained one of the biggest attractions on the scene, constantly playing the big festivals around the continent. I'm not sure whether they've ever played in the USA but I reckon they'd kill them at Green Bay or Vegas. The American rockabillies that haven't seen them before would be gobsmacked as these Welsh rockers stomped throgh their classic originals to the delight of the travelling Europeans. I seriously feel they could go toe to toe with anyone on the bill. Long live the pride of the Wales, the king of the Teds, the Wildest Cats In Town.

  • Teddy Boy Boogie ­ the ultimate ted song, and the ultimate Cavan song.
  • My Little Sister Gotta Motorbike ­ should have been a biggie.
  • Rockabilly Rules OK! ­ Another great anthem.
  • Get Yourself a Band - "a thousand miles away from home, playing in the band, doing all the smoke filled bars up and down the land" - still rings true.
  • Knock Knock ­ Ivor open this door or I'll smash it down ­ aaaahhhh.
  • Rhythm Rockin' Blues - more recent vintage. Linda Gail Lewis helps set the song on fire.
  • Frankie Got A Quiff - Frankie might have but poor old Cavan ain't anymore. What he still does have is a menacing voice that fits a stroller like this perfectly.
  • Delores - great ballad with Cavan sounding like a parody of himself. Brilliant.
  • Wildest Cat In Town ­ Cavan sure is!
  • Rockabilly Star ­ Cavan sure is!!
  • Trouble Trouble ­ Cavan sure is!!!
  • Gonna Rock, Gonna Roll, Gonna Boogie ­ mean, menacing stroller in the best CC style.
  • Teddy Jive ­ mad and great.
  • Sweet Baby Jean - great ballad, and I love the simple guitar solo.
  • Stompin' Shoes ­ let's stomp.
  • Sweet Little Pretty Thing - gentle rockaballad with a nice gear change at the 1:48 point, sweet little purty thing, yes indeed.
  • Lizzy Beth - relentless beat and dig that solo from Needs.

  • Lonesome Baby Blues - Brillaint cover of the David Ray rocker.
  • Both Wheels Left the Ground - Rock 'n' roll heaven.
  • Alabama Shake - Gene Summers original is a classic, this is even better.
  • Wolverton Mountain - I'd be more scared of Cavan than Clifton Clowers.
  • Ol Black Joe - most bands have had a crack at this, but Cavan and the boys made it their own.
  • Saturday Night - crazy rhythm to the max, Cavan sounds great and Roy Brown's whoops and hollers are just made for Lyndon Needs.
  • My Bonnie - CC&RR turned it from a traditional folk song to a manic rocker with frantic piano.
  • Okie Boogie - Cavan slurs to great effect as the boys law down the crazy rhythm.
  • Crazy Love - beautiful, melodic ballad with guest Dave Wood adding some tasteful fiddle. Love the gentle boogie beat.
  • Tennessee Border ­ Eat your heart out Jimmy Work, this is the version that supercedes any other.

    (with their crazy rhythm obviously)
  • Rumble in Brighton (Stray Cats)
  • Rockin' My Life Away (Jerry Lee Lewis)
  • I Knew The Bride (Dave Edmunds)
  • I'm A Teddy Boy (Vernon & the G.I.'s)
  • I'm A King Bee (Slim Harpo)

    1.Get yourself a band 2.Stompin' shoes 3.Sweet baby Jean 4.Knock knock 5.Waitin' for my baby 6.Feelin' blue 7.That's what made me cry 8.Hey pretty baby 9.Sweet little pretty thing 10.Delores 11.Nobody else like you 12.Gonna leave this town 13.Get yourself a band (reprise)
             Their first British album on the Charly label in 1977, this was an absolute classic way to hit the sales racks. The country tinge to Get Yourself A Band sets the scene for the next half hour. Stompin' Shoes was as wild as they've ever been, scorching. Knock Knock should have got them on Top of the Pops and the trio of slowies are superb.

    Rhythm Rockin' Blues
    1.Rhythm rockin blues 2.They raided the joint 3.Frankie got a quiff 4.Wolverton Mountain 5.The feeling of love 6.Lizzy Beth 7.Crazy love 8.I go ape 9.Somebody's stealin' my baby 10.Gamblin barroom blues 11.Teddy boy flick knife rock'n'roll 12.Crazy moon 13.Oh sugar 14.I'm gone Crazy Cavan & The Rhythm Rockers with Linda Gail Lewis - raw and rockin', yet at the same time - maturing as only they can!
             The modern day Cavan, but if you played it back to back with Rockability you wouldn't know the difference - if it ain't broke don't fix it. With Linda Gail Lewis guesting on piano on eight tracks, the album's title pretty much tells you all you need to know. Nervous Records owner and fellow Welshman Roy Williams writes "Cavan's voice still 'rasps' as well as ever, but it also sounds a bit more 'mature' and 'interesting' on some of the mid-tempo songs." I'd certainly go along with that - witness Feeling of Love, Gamblin' Barroom Blues and Crazy Love for perfect examples.

    Our own way of rockin'
    1.Boppin' 'n' shakin' 2.Whatcha gonna do 3.Old black Joe 4.My own way of rockin' 5.Drinkin' wine 6.That's my house 7.My little sister gotta motorbike 8.Why don't somebody 9.Tennessee border 10.Teddy jive 11.Gotta be my baby 12.Monkey and the baboon 13.Gonna rock, gonna roll, gonna boogie 14.Saturday night
             The track listing tells you all you need to know about this album ­ quality. The originals and the covers run seamlessly side by side. Any album that starts with Boppin' 'n' Shakin' ois pretty much guaranteed to grab your attention.

    Crazy Cavan and the
    Rhythm Rockers Starter Kit

             A flick knife, a comb, drapes, attitude and the 'Wildest Cats In Town') CD. The best of CC&RR it's features a massive 28 tracks, mixing originals with covers and boppers with slowers. Taken from albums and singles between 1973 and 1981, most of them have become rockabilly/teddy boy anthems. The perfect introduction for any poor sod who hasn't heard them before. Get it, and then dig further.
             1.Stompin' shoes 2.Wildest cat in town 3.Boppin' and shakin' 4.Rockabilly rules ok 5.Teddyboy boogie 6.Teddy jive 7.Gonna rock gonna roll gonna boogie 8.Old black Joe 9.Saturday night 10.Trouble trouble 11.Alabama shake 12.Knock knock 13.Bonnie 14.Sweet little pretty baby 15.Sweet baby Jean 16.Hey pretty baby 17.Delores 18.Sadie 19.Waitin' for my baby 20.Rock around with Ollie Vee 21.Bop pretty baby 22.My little sister's got a motor bike 23.She's the one to blame 24.Okie boogie 25.Get yourself a band 26.Rockabilly star 27.Gonna leave this town 28.Real gone lover.


    Teddy Boy Boogie
    From the Blue Suede Shoes movie, filmed in Caister in 1979.

    Teddy Jive
    More from the Blue Suede Shoes movie. The bands as wild as the crowd.

    Real Gone Lover
    From the "Bop'n'Roll Party" tv show recorded in Paris in 1982. The picture quality might not be the best but you get to see what they're all about.

    Ole Black Joe A storming anthem. Concerts just aren't like this anymore.

    Both Wheels Left the Ground
    From Hemsby 35 in 2005, this clip shows the boys are still the ducks nuts.




    Sleevenotes from the Rockability album:
             Thursday, February 26, 1976: Crazy Cavan 'n' The Rhythm Rockers with faint, nervous smiles on their faces shuffle awkwardly into the Finsbury Park office of their manager, Lee Allan. They congregate in a small room on the first floor, which looks over the noon bustle of the Seven Sisters Road traffic. Today the band will sign their first major British recording contract with Charly Records. John Schroeder, their producer who previously worked with Status Quo, is already in the room. He's a quiet, softly spoken gentleman with collar length white hair, and he wears a leather suit. Bleary greetings are mumbled while the band push wooden chairs into a cluttered, tight semi-circle.
             Then they sit down and nervously wait for their Big Moment. Charly's Chief, Joop Visser, the guy who snatched up the British rights to Hank Mizell's 'Jungle Rock' from the King catalogue, places himself next to the group. On a desk is a thick pile of contracts. There's an air of nervous anticipation. Muffled Welsh voices idly pass the time of day. Feet scratch over the floorboards while fingers drum relentlessly on knees. Deliberate smiles of reassurance are passed between the band like comics in a dentist's waiting room. Then Lee scoops up the contracts and begins to explain the terms of the deal. 'I think they're the most dramatic band in the country' Joop proudly states. He'd seen them headlining at the Strand Lyceum, and on numerous other occasions in pubs and clubs throughout the country. He was impressed. Cavan Grogan is an evil looking dude with a strong, powerful vocal; Lyndon Needs, a fresh faced young fella, leg splits and slides all over the stage while snapping out dazzlingly effective lead licks; Terry Walley (rhythm), Don Kinsella (bass) and Mike Coffey (drums) quietly position themselves behind the two front men, firmly laying down steady rhythms. Their style is simple and direct, influenced by Rockabilly, Country and Rock 'n' Roll, but interpreted by the individual musicians to create a unique musical form which they describe as Crazy Rhythm. Joop has been known to bop at their gigs.
             Hopefully, John comments, I can bring out a lot more in them than has been found. The problem I have is to take this group, who're very good live with all the atmosphere and excitement, and transfer that into a studio and capture it on a record. And at the same time produce a commercial record that isn't offensive to their fans. Broaden their appeal without destroying what they are. One by one the band sign on the dotted line. Lee continually pacifying their last minute qualms. Pop! Pop! The bubbly's poured into waiting cups. The Welsh voices rise with cheerful relief. Photos are snapped. Hands shaken. Then somebody passes round a bowl of peanuts. Now that's got to be a joke, coz Crazy Cavan 'n' The Rhythm Rockers are on their way. Perhaps to the top?
             Wednesday, April 18, 1976: Two months later. After popping in and out of the studio while playing a full gig schedule the band are putting the finishing touches to this album down at Olympic Studios. They're pleased with their progress and crack open the beers to pass round as the rough mixes are blasted from the control room speakers. John Schroeder is proudly pleased. Friends and well wishers can't help but involuntarily tap their feet, wolfing down halves of brown and cheese 'n' pickle sandwiches. Joop is over the moon, drooling enthusiasm over the heads of his new signings. Embarrassed, they respond with detailed accounts of their recording sessions: How there's one or two uncharacteristic surprises in style, besides the development of their burly, energetic Crazy Rhythm.
             Everybody is delighted. I thought it was going to be good, Cavan says, because we had a good producer and a good studio. But I think the album's turned out better than I expected. So that's the story. Now all you have to do is snatch this record from the rack, run home, play it, and decide for yourself whether you consider it all worthwhile. I know I do.
    Tony Stewart, New Musical Express.

               Shaun Mather

    Page Posted February, 2007

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