The Strikes were among the numerous white vocal groups that sprung up around the middle-1950's, trying to grab a piece of the rock 'n' roll action that was starting to swirl around the charts. They'd started out as a country vocal trio, consisting of Willie Jacobs on lead, Ken Scott singing tenor and playing rhythm guitar, and Paul Kunz singing bass, at North Texas State College in the first half of the 1950's - their sound in those days was honky-tonk, and their main influence was Hank Williams, but they also had an interest in and appreciation for rhythm-and-blues which, combined with their country roots, made them a natural fit for the burgeoning sounds of rock 'n' roll.
By 1956, the Strikes - named, according to one interview, in response to a fellow student's observation that they would "strike out" - were a sextet, rounded out by top-flight rockabilly guitarist A. B. Cornelius, bassist Don Alexander (who soon started singing as well), and drummer Paschal Parsons. They played around East Texas and cut records backing other artists, most notably Andy Starr at Lin Records in September of 1956, for which Jacobs and Alexander also wrote all four songs that Starr recorded - in the process, Lin founder Joe Leonard was impressed enough to sign the group up, despite the fact that none of the Starr sides hit.
"The Strikes first record was "Baby, I'm Sorry" b/w "If You Can't Rock Me." Lin 5006. This excellent two sider (both sides of which be later covered by Ricky Nelson) would be leased to Imperial on March 1957, as Lin 5007 would also be, as part of an arrangement with Imperial's Lew Chudd. (They, as well as two subsequent Strikes' sides from a second session in February 1957 that were also issued on Imperial, are included in the Bear Family CD, "That'll Flat Git It, Vol. 12, BCD 16102.)
Heard here from this first session are two tracks not initially issued that saw the light of day on a much later Record Mart 45: an alternate take of "If You Can't Rock Me" that features Willie Jacobs solo-vocal throughout, unlike the trio-dominated version Leonard issued, and Don Alexander's Gene Vincent-inspired "Come Back to Me," the only of the Strikes' surviving recordings ro feature Alexander on vocal.
Their first record, "Baby I'm Sorry" b/w "If You Can't Rock Me", cut in November of 1956, was as good a piece of rock 'n' roll as the Lin/Kliff labels ever released, and that says something as Leonard was mainlining some of the best musical talent in his corner of Texas.
Their music intersected Carl Perkins and Gene Vincent without ever sounding exactly like either, and they also called to mind Buddy Holly & the Crickets. They were equally adept at slow r&b-style numbers, such as "I Do", and the rhythm numbers that showed off their virtuosity -- even better, Alexander, Jacobs, and Scott wrote their own material, and that material worked in various settings, as the surviving alternate takes of the group's sides confirm; Jacobs was a fine solo lead, on top of their usual shared vocals, and Don Alexander was also no slouch as a solo lead.
There seemed to be vast potential in the group, but it was never realized - their first single never charted and their work was later picked up by Imperial Records as part of a national distribution deal involving Lin's one confirmed national star, Ken Copeland.
Their music at a second recording session in February of 1957 was as good as that from their first session, but they ran out of time - Willie Jacobs was drafted in September of 1957, and the members - except for Alexander and Scott - soon left music.
"Andy Starr's second and final MGM session found him in rare, raucous form - he sounded in fact, like he had been listening closely to Little Richard - on four hot, rockabilly-cum-rock 'n' roll sides cut with the Strikes, a college group from North Texas Sate who had recently come to Joe Leonard's attention and who would soon record their own sessions for Lin.
A tight, constantly exciting vocal and instrumental group, full of fine songwriters, the Strikes had, upon Elvis' arrival on the scene, evolved from a country-based vocal trio (Willie Jacobs, lead vocal; Ken Scott, tenor vocal and rhythm guitar; Paul Kunz, bass) into an electric guitar-driven rock 'n' roll sextet. The original vocal trio was joined by the Carl Perkins-influenced A.B. Cornelius, bassist (and sometime singer) Don Alexander, and drummer Paschal Parsons.
In addition to their peerless backing, Strikes members also wrote all four sides for Starr's session. Jacobs supplied "Give Me a Woman" and "No Room for Your Kind"; Don Alexander wrote "Round and Round" and "One More Time."
The band's full blooded support, both instrumentally and vocally, sent Starr into orbit - and the vocal backings didn't sweeten or soften him, the way the Jordanaires and similar groups did with so many other singers. Unfortunately, the date yielded no hits and effectively brought the Lin-MGM relationship to an end, apart from Buck Griffin's one-off Metro release in 1958."
They continued writing songs, and Alexander (working as Don Terry) recorded a single for Lin Records late in the decade. Ironically, Jacobs enjoyed some welcome and unexpected rewards for his work in music following his stint in the army, when "If You Can't Rock Me", which he'd written, was recorded by Ricky Nelson and included on the pop-rock superstar's debut LP, which was one of the biggest selling rock 'n' roll LPs of 1959, and Nelson subsequently recorded Ken Scott's "Baby I'm Sorry" as well.
The group's recordings (including unissued tracks) were later unearthed as part of European reissues devoted to the r&b output of Imperial Records and 50's southern rock 'n' roll, including Bear Family Records' That'll Flat Git It series and the same label's four-CD set, The Lin And Kliff Story. -Bruce Eder, All Music Guide
Posted August, 2005
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