BY BARRY M. KLEIN - August, 2002
For those of us who attended the Green Bay 2002 Rockin' 50's Fest at the Oneida Casino, we brought home many memories. Many of us returned with CD's recently released by artists performing at Green Bay, which will help perpetuate our memories. Whether you attended Green Bay or not, there are many noteworthy CD's recently debuted by Green Bay performers which bring out much of the excitement generated in Green Bay during that week.
        " This is my third column reviewing CD's for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. I have been asked more than once, "Have you ever given any CD you have reviewed a bad review?" The answer is "No. I have heard some CD's about which I was not crazy about, but there is so much good music out there today, I would rather dwell on the positive and recognize some of the more outstanding performances.
        " The first two CD's I chose to review were by U.S.A. groups. One group is based in Nashville, Tennessee, and the other group is in Austin, Texas. They share several common denominators: both groups were formed ten or more years ago; both had very successful CD releases, extensive tours, and stirred the interest of discriminating rockabilly fans everywhere. Each group was "on hiatus" for one reason or another. By now, you probably know I am speaking of The Planet Rockers and High Noon.
        " Both groups still have something else in common: they play great together, and they have each just released five-star CD's.

The Planet Rockers' new release, "Hillbilly Beat", on the No Hit label, comes right at you off the bat and takes no prisoners! I like my red wine rich, dark, full-bodied, and powerful. Well, "Hillbilly Beat" comes right at you just like that - and especially the powerful! As I listened to each of the first five songs, "One More Drink", "Best Dressed Beggar (in Town)", "Like a Rollin' Stone", "Swamp Gal"and "Rockin' Mama", I thought "Man, these guys sure pick five of the most powerful, in-your-face, rockin' rockabilly songs anyone could possibly put on a CD." Guess what? They keep comin' right at ya' - all 16 of 'em.
        " Taking a wide range of material, mostly written by others, Sonny George and Eddie Angel, the main honchos of The Planet Rockers, have put together one of the best CD's I have heard in years. Ironically, this CD was recorded in London, England, at the Toe Rag Studio, and the rhythm section is an all English team consisting of Matt Radford on bass and Brian Nevill on drums. Other guests, including Tjarko Jeen, the guitarist for The Tinstars, help create that "full-bodied"sound. Incidentally, Tjarko made quite an impression on me in Green Bay, as I saw him play with several other performers, including Ray Campi, before I heard his set with The Tinstars. Of the first three CD's I review in this column, it was really difficult to pick out which I would "lead- off"with, and I think I will listen to the High Noon CD and The Barnshakers just as often, but this is the one I picked to be the "lead-off hitter". Incidentally, Sonny George and I share something: we both like the song "Gotta Travel On", written by Paul Clayton. I remember seeing Billy Grammer perform it on American Bandstand in 1958, and it peaked at the No. 4 position on the Billboard charts by the end that year. Sonny included the song on his "Sonny George's Rockin' Country and Western Roundup Volume 1"a few years ago. Even though Sonny George and Eddie Angel still individually do their "own thing"(Sonny George recently released "Live At The Tennessee Prison For Women", reviewed here, and Eddie still owns, produces and plays for the Spinout label), they apparently remain friends, cohorts, and frequent collaborators. Eddie Angel still played guitar on several numbers and co-wrote a song on Sonny's aforementioned "County & Western Roundup Volume 1"CD, so we all have hope that The Planet Rockers will "keep on truckin'".

There area two primary reasons why High Noon reunited: supply and demand. The synergism that these three gentlemen create when they pool their talents is just unbelievable, and their finicky fans fanatically (and correctly) appreciate and embrace them as a group. "What Are You Waiting For?"is a 15-track CD released on the Goofin' Records label (you can email or go to the web site at Sean Mencher, an extremely gifted guitarist whose name always comes up in any discussion of our generation's best rockabilly guitarists, contributed seven songs to "What Are You Waiting For?", while Shaun Young wrote eight of the tunes.
        " On the last song, Sean Mencher says, "If you ask the hepcats of today why they dig rock and roll, this is what they'll say, 'it's the beat, the beat, the beat, it's the beat'". Well, they've definitely got the beat, they also have one of the greatest rock and roll guitarists alive today, a great singer and songwriter in Shaun Young, and, yes, Kevin Smith does a great job providing the "beat", but these three together have the synergism and that's why we all love High Noon. Every rockabilly fan should have this CD. What ARE you waiting for?!

While we are the subject of Goofin' Records, let's give a tip of the hat to Pete Hakonen, President of Goofin' Records, not only for releasing the High Noon CD, but for releasing so much music by Finland's finest, The Barnshakers. "Five Minutes To Live"is a 15-track CD that visually uses a theme of 1920's tough gangster characters riding around in an early 1950's convertible.
        " The music is, pure and simply, just delicious rockabilly! Although lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Vesa Haaja, writes about half of the tunes, there is some fine song selection featuring other songwriting talents of Marty Robbins, Billy Lee Riley, George Jones, Ronnie Self, and Johnny Cash. Having an absolutely fantastic lead guitarist seems to be an important component of all of the top rockabilly groups, and Jussi Huhtakangas, aka Lester Peabody, can fill that requirement handily. It was fun to watch Jussi (Lester) and JJ of Wildfire Willie & The Ramblers be equally adept at both electric and steel guitar during their many performances at Green Bay 2002. Another similarity of both groups is the inclusion of a pianist. In The Barnshakers' case it is Harri Saanio, aka Boogie Boy Harris. The Barnshakers have been together several years now, and as good as they have always been, they are just excellent on this CD. I enjoyed just about every song on the CD, but the ones that particularly stayed in my mind were "Nature's Goodness"(written by Vesa), "Boppin' In Roswell"(also written by Vesa), "Two-Gun Daddy"(Vesa's song also), a pretty faithful version of Billy Lee Riley's "Trouble Bound", George Jones's "Maybe Little Baby", "Black Night Blues"(Ronnie Self), and the title tune, Johnny Cash's "Five Minutes to Live". An outstanding CD!

The idea of having Sonny George play "Live At The Tennessee Prison For Women" sounds pretty dangerous in the first place. After all, here's Sonny George: a striking, leather-clad, handsome (in a dangerous-looking way), provocative singer playing to and off of locked-up female state prisoners of Tennessee. It creates a rather electric, eclectic environment. While Sonny George and Eddie Angel did not write many of the songs on The Planet Rockers "Hillbilly Beat"CD, here on this CD, similar to his other solo CD's, Sonny penned most of the titles. Sonny imported an entire English-based band for this concert including Boz Boorer on guitar. Boz has built quite a reputation on guitar, and his resume includes tenures with The Polecats, Adam Ant, Boz and the Baughsmen, Ronnie Dawson, and several others, including Morrissey.
        " Some good vintage Sonny George tunes are on this live album, including "Look-A-Here", "Who's Been Playing My Guitar", and "Big Iron". A lot of good up-tempo stuff with excellent guitar pickin', and a real "feel"that you're right there in the audience. After a medley of "Love Jam" and "I Love Women", Sonny apparently exits, but the women chant for his return, and Sonny obliges their request to perform "Jailhouse Rock". The 48-minute live performance fades during "Jailhouse Rock", and I would have liked to hear the rest of it - he was doing it good!

Bob Timmers was a little reticent when I told him I was going to review his CD, "Pickin' With My Friends". After all, Bob is the curator of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and I don't think he would want to be perceived as creating a conflict of interest, but I told him that, inasmuch as he gives me practically unlimited, unedited freedom, I assured him that the readers would understand that this was my own doing. The 18 tracks on this CD were recorded over a period of probably two years, primarily from sessions at the famous Burns Station Sound, Tennessee Studio where he hangs his hat. Joined by the likes of D.J. Fontana (Elvis' original drummer), Stan Perkins (Carl Perkins' son), and W. S. Holland (Johnny Cash's drummer), Paul Burlison (Johnny Burnette Rock and Roll Trio guitarist), Narvel Felts (rockabilly and country legend), Bob Moore (legendary Nashville bass player), super guitarist Marco Di Maggio, Piper Vincent (Gene Vincent's sister), The Dempseys, the late Bobby Lowell, Sun Records' engineer/picker Roland Janes, Dave Hermsen, and several others, this CD is packed with all-stars giving all-star performances. On three of the numbers, Bob Timmers actually plays all instruments, and one of them is the great rock and roll song, "Rock & Roll Saddles", with Kenny King on vocals.
        " But more often than not, Bob is playing alternate lead or rhythm guitar with the likes of Marco Di Maggio, Paul Burlison and other giants of rockabilly.
        " Some of you might not be aware that Bob has been a picker for many years, and he is the person who plays lead guitar at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame stage at Viva Las Vegas the last few years with Dave and The Bad Cats, led by Dave Hermsen, and Dave joins Marco Di Maggio and Bob on the Buddy Holly classic, "It Doesn't Matter Any More". Quite a compilation - a lot of excellent music, well-known names as well as others perhaps not quite as well known, but Bob is the thread that weaves through all of this wonderful music. Definitely not a conflict of interest to review and recommend this CD! It's available on this web site.
        " Oh, and by the way, that Dale Hawkins' song that I referred to in my Green Bay 2002 review, "La Do Da Da", which is performed here with Mike Vincent on vocals, D.J. Fontana on drums, and BR549's new bassist Goef Firebaugh, was one of Dale Hawkins' top-selling hits on the Checker label.

I had never owned a Barnstompers CD until Green Bay 2002. That's not to say that I did not enjoy listening to them, because Craig "Bones" Maki, on his long-running Detroit rockabilly radio show, "Rockabilly Roll Call", often played their tunes. After their great set at the Iroquois Ballroom, I found their latest CD release at the record stand in the 3 Clans Ballroom and purchased "Western Rhythm". It is a 17-track CD on the Barn label or email
        " Definitely a western-flavored rockabilly sound, The Barnstompers still provide a lot of catchy, finger-snapping, very danceable tunes here. Kees Stigter, who handles the vocals and lead guitar, also writes several songs, although the excellent song selection includes tunes by Hank Penny, Johnny Cash, and Lefty Frizzell.
        " Not to be confused with The Barnshakers, The Barnstompers come from the Netherlands, and this CD is a great Dutch treat!

It's so nice to have the new Johnny Powers CD! I had two other Johnny Powers' CD's before acquiring his newly released CD, "I Was There When It Happened". In 1992, Norton Records in New York came out with "Long Blond Hair", a 23-track CD with all of Johnny's 1950's hits, including "Long Blond Hair", "Rock Rock", "Mama Rock", and most of the songs on this CD sound like they were derived from the original acetates. In 1993, Johnny released a 73- minute, action packed CD entitled "New Spark (For An Old Flame)"and, again, it is a very rocking, entertaining CD. There are even some collaborative bonus tracks featuring the "king of funk", George Clinton, for whom Johnny Powers represents as a businessman, licensing Clinton's music to various record labels around the world.
        " "I Was There When It Happened" was released just a few days before the Oneida Casino Green Bay 2002 Rockin' 50's Fest. It features some terrific music, including a new recording of "Long Blond Hair", Johnny's signature song, as well as the self-titled historical narrative, "I Was There When It Happened". There's quite a variety of material on this 15-track CD, which includes such Johnny Powers staples as "Me And My Rhythm Guitar", but also a variety of sounds, including "Doo-Wop Shang-A-Lang", Big Al Downing's "Everybody's Got A Dream", "Till Honky Gets Tonky", and several other entertaining tunes.
        " Backing up Johnny Powers on this CD is the excellent Ann Arbor, Michigan-based rockabilly group, The Starlight Drifters, who also backed Johnny at his excellent show in Green Bay. Other folks making guest appearances include Leather & Lace, Mary Lou Livingston providing background vocals and duets, and George Canterbury on piano. This CD can be ordered from the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, or any inquiries can be directed by e-mail to
        " The excitement that Johnny provided in person at his show in Green Bay is definitely felt on this CD, and Johnny is really a guy who can still don the leather pants, strap the guitar over his shoulder, and give a rockabilly performance probably just as well as he did in the 1950's. Whether it was at Fortune Records in Detroit, Sun Studio in Memphis, or his historic signing with Motown Records, Johnny Powers was indeed "there when it happened". He's still making it happen! Way to go Johnny - keep rockin!!

One of the most enigmatic, but very interesting CD's released at Green Bay was "Hot Guitars, Legends & Legacies". It is enigmatic only in terms of explaining how all of the groups and personalities who participated on this CD were able to be assembled. The answer to this question lies with Dave Moore, a great guitarist who plays lead for Billy Adams and Vernon Taylor, as well as turning up as the leader of a contemporary group called The Saddle Pals. This exciting CD features some old classic rockabilly material by Keith Anderson, Billy Adams, Vernon Taylor and Dale Brooks, all of whom had major roles in the 50's sounds of rockabilly music. Dave has also put together some contemporary groups including Spit Fire (also accompanied by Dave Moore on lead guitar), The Hale Bops (who come from Sweden), The Sanders Sisters, White Lightning, Johnny B. Rebb, and a mysterious group called The Ego Tones, whose actual names were withheld "to protect the innocent".
        " With the common denominator of the "hot guitar" theme, we get 18 tracks by 11 different groups or individuals, with some of the recordings being originals from the 50's, and others by contemporary groups. 9 of the 18 tracks were previously unreleased, and this is probably the most interesting and unusual compilation I encountered during the entire week in Green Bay. Some books are called "a great read"; this CD, because of the talent and variety of performances, is "a great listen". NBT records can be accessed via email at, or you can call them in West Virginia at (304) 258-3656. My respect for Dave Moore continues.

Another CD of note, which was released just prior to Green Bay 2002, is "Gone Fishin", by the San Francisco group Rockin' Lloyd Tripp and the Zipguns. I purchased "Ride That Rocket", the CD on the Uranium label that was out a couple of years ago. Based in San Francisco, Rockin' Lloyd Tripp and the Zipguns center around Lloyd Tripp, who handles most of the vocals and song writing. As a matter of fact, all 12 songs on each of Lloyd's CD's on Uranium Rock Records were written all or in part by Lloyd. Although the rest of the band seems to have changed personnel since 2000, "Gone Fishin'"is a tasty treat of 12 songs, with a pretty good variety of sound. Most are up-tempo rockers, and several stood out for me, including "Country Boy", "She's The One", "Fool, Fool, Fool", "Don't Stop", "How Come You Didn't Tell Me", "Hot Dang", "Rock Pretty Mama", and the title track, "Gone Fishin'".
        " Lloyd sort of reminds me of a group in Detroit I get to see more often, The Twistin' Tarantulas. They both feature a singer/songwriter who plays the upright bass, both groups are trios, both have a couple of CD's out (at least these two on Uranium are the only ones I know about for Rockin' Lloyd Trip and the Zipguns), both groups have undergone "facelifts"in the personnel department without any serious side effects, and they both play some heavy rockabilly sounds, coming from a trio. I wish Lloyd Tripp could make more appearances in the Midwest so I could see the group in person more often, as I have liked what I have seen at Viva Las Vegas (including Ronny Weiser's parties) and Green Bay. "Gone Fishin'" is a good CD, so I felt compelled to include it in this review of other fine CD's that were released coincidental to the Green Bay Rockin' 50's Festival by groups performing there.

I believe that all of these CD's provide great souvenirs and remembrances of that wonderful week in early July 2002 that we will always refer to as "Green Bay". My thanks to Phil Doran of the Oneida Casino in Green Bay and Bob Timmers of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame for making it happen.

Editor's Note: Barry Klein writes for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and his book, "Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll", was published in 1997.

Rockabilly Hall of Fame