Rockabilly music; meeting and greeting old and new friends; meeting and talking to the top performers in the business; dancing up a storm or just watching the dancers; buying vintage clothing; browsing through vinyl and CD recordings of rockabilly musicians from all over the world; enjoying the sun and music during the car show. These are some of the attractions which brought over 4,000 rockabilly music fans to the 4th Annual Viva Las Vegas during Easter weekend, 2001.
This custom job looked pretty hot at the car show.
'61 pink Caddy at the car show.
This is the third Viva Las Vegas review I have written for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and I must say, I did have a very enjoyable time at Viva Las Vegas IV. However, I want to make a confession: I never spent more than 45 minutes cumulatively at the Ballroom upstairs during the entire weekend! I only caught two acts, The Blue Star Boys on Friday night and the Flatfoot Shakers Sunday night. "Why?", you might ask. It wasn't because of my job as MC at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame stage show in the West Lounge - Bob Timmers gives me vacation time whenever I want it. I guess it was just the West Lounge: the great talent, an emphasis on the music, the relaxed atmosphere with good seating, and a more intimate setting which allowed everyone to see and hear the performances, while still providing room for the dancers to have their way.
Before talking about the great four days and nights at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame West Lounge shows, how about that "Meet and Greet" party that Ronny Weiser had at his home on Wednesday, April 11??!!
Rockabilly Hall of Fame's Bob Timmers does "duelling dancin'" with Rockin' Ronny at Ronny's "Meet & Greet" Party.
The Wild Wax Combo gets wild again at Rockin' Ronny's.
The Rockabilly Hall of Fame joined Ronny in celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Rollin' Rock Records by posting a 30th Anniversary Interview on the web site just prior to Viva Las Vegas, and dedicating the big Rockabilly Hall of Fame Saturday night show to celebrating Ronny Weiser's 30th year at the helm of Rollin'Rock Records.
Some of the people who performed at Ronny's stage in back of his home included The Wild Wax Combo (who provided musical support for the second year in a row), former Blue Caps bass player Bill Mack, San Francisco's Dave Crimmen (who again did a terrific job fronting his own set, but also unselfishly contributed his vocal and guitar talents on behalf of other performers), Paul Galaxy and the Galactix, Lurlene the Trailer Court Queen (backed by Paul Galaxy's group), The Knocked-Outs from Seattle, Washington, Craig "Bones" Maki giving a preview of his new band, Bones Maki and the Sun Dodgers, and Chicago's Carl Schreiber and his new band, The Cadillac Kings. At one point there was Marco DiMaggio on guitar singing several Eddie Cochran songs, Dave Crimmen on guitar, Rene from Wild West Combo on bass, and Matt Lucas on drums. Quite and all-star cast, eh? I was yelling out for Marco to do "Something Else", and when he didn't do it, Dave Crimmen stepped up to the mike and got every single lyric down pat, word for word!
Lynn Greenamyre a.k.a. Lurlene the Trailer Court Queen always cracks 'em up, including the bass man. (Last year it was Kenny Bruce who laughed so hard he almost couldn't play).
One of the supergroups jammin at Ronny's that included Matt Lucas, Dave Crimmen and Marco Di Maggio.
When Ronny calls his parties "Meet and Greet", he really means it! It's like going to a preconvention party and seeing all your old friends, and still being able to meet new ones. Ronny's wife Laurie, looking very sharp in her western outfit, was her usual gracious self, and made all guests feel at home.
Great Party, Rony! Where'd you get those orange Levi 501's??
Some good, old-fashioned rockabilly people at Ronny Weiser's Ranch.
After Ronny's party, which usually ends about 6:00 p.m., Kats Like Us put together a show at the Junkyard that featured The Knocked-Outs, the Blacktop Rockets, Trailer Park Casanovas, The Chop Tops and Three Bad Jacks. Although I missed Three Bad Jacks Tuesday evening, I saw Elvis and his group give a very spirited show in Ypsilanti, Michigan on April 27. For those who wanted to stay up all night without having to wait for the official opening of Viva Las Vegas, there was a show at Gilley's at the Frontier later Wednesday night, which started at 9:00 p.m., and went on to the wee hours of the morning.
THURSDAYOn Thursday at 7:00 p.m. the Rockabilly Hall of Fame kicked off its first night with The Chop Tops from Santa Cruz, California. You may have read my Hep Cat Happenings: "Motorbilly Rules" article late last year on this web site (http://www.rockabillyhall.com/BarryKleinHappenings2.html) where I mentioned seeing The Chop Tops show in Ann Arbor on July 30. It was one of the top performances I saw in the year 2000, and I saw scores of acts that year! The Chop Tops are now a trio consisting of Shelby Legnon on guitar, Gary Marsh on drums and vocals, and Dusty Grave on bass. The Chop Tops were the Rockabilly Hall of Fame's "Official House Band" for the entire Viva Las Vegas weekend, and they even hosted the jam sessions held in the afternoons. We hear The Chop Tops are releasing a new album this summer, and I can't wait to get my hands on it. Judging from the crowd's wild and spirited response to The Chop Tops, I had very good "vibes" about how the rest of the weekend would go - and I was right!
Following The Chop Tops were Rockin' Ryan and the Real Goners . The quote we heard - "Real gone rock 'n' roll, one of the most authentic Rockabilly/Rock'n'roll acts to date" proved right. They performed a couple of tracks off their latest CD, "If You Wanted More Wild Rock 'n Roll..." One of the last acts to sign up for our show and we're glad they did!
Dr. Tom Butt jams with the Chop Tops at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame's West Lounge show.
Atlanta's Blacktop Rockets played many times at Viva Las Vegas IV, including this set for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
At 9:00 the always well-received Dave Crimmen took the stage with an all star band that included Gary "Flash" Sax, from Flash and the Retro Rockets, a Las Vegas based band that played often during the weekend. More about Flash in just a little bit. Dave Crimmen is a multi-talented musician with a great voice, very competent guitar work, and a gifted songwriter whose material has been performed in movies and television. Dave gave such a great show on Thursday that he was "booked" to lead off the most spectacular night of talent and surprises I have ever seen at any rockabilly show, but more about Saturday night later.
Following Dave Crimmen was Billy Adams of Nashville, a singer and performer who I was seeing for the first time. I personally would not want to follow a dynamite act like Dave Crimmen, but Billy's sweet voice and his excellent backup band kept the crowd happy. For over 40 years Billy Adams has written, performed and recorded rock, country and gospel music. His rockabilly repertoire includes "You Heard Me Knocking", "True Love Will Come Your Way", "You Gotta Have a Duck Tail", "That's My Baby", and many others. A native of Kentucky, Billy's newest CD, "Legacy", contains 17 tracks and includes new renditions of many of his hits. "Legacy" is available at Tower Records or may be purchased via Vision Management at (615) 321-5766.
Flash and the Retro Rockets took the stage next, and all I can say is that Flash had quite a debut with all of his exposure during the weekend. First, he was on stage at Ronny Weiser's party, and he appeared with everyone from Dave Crimmen to Johnny Legend at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame's West Lounge shows. Besides playing a great saxophone and singing with Flash and the Retro Rockets, Gary is also President and Producer of Sax Entertainment Group, Inc. in Las Vegas. He is a talented guy who knows his way around the business. Not only is Flash a great performer; the band is pretty good too! If we had a contest for the best "show clothes" for Viva Las Vegas, I think that Flash eked out a narrow victory over Dave Crimmen, but both of them would have made Nudie proud. (For those interested in a story about the greatest costume designer in country music history, read http://www.rockabillyhall.com/BarryKNudie.html.
San Francisco's Dave Crimmen always is a crowd-pleaser.
Matt Lucas takes the stage with an all-star band.
Following Flash and the Retro Rockets, Dave and the Bad Cats led by Dave Hermsen took the stage along with Bob "Git It" Kelly. The Rockabilly Hall of Fame's Bob Timmers also stood in on guitar for this group which featured T.C. Gebheim on drums. In addition to being a good friend of Bob Timmers, T.C. Gebheim is a country singer and drummer from the Phoenix, Arizona area. T.C. played drums several more times at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame's show in the West Lounge.
FRIDAYFriday the 13th was certainly not an unlucky day, at least at the West Lounge show. Just as they had closed late Thursday evening, Dave and the Bad Cats opened at 6:00 p.m. Dr. Tom Butt joined the group, and Sonny Burgess will confirm that a trumpet can go a long way with a rock and roll band!
At the Jam Session, the crowd wouldn't let The Lazy Crazies' Brian Holly leave the stage!
It's a tough job job, but somebody's got to do it.
Barry with the Bud Light Ladies at the car show.
At 8:00 p.m. the Official House Band of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame's West Lounge show, The Chop Tops, gave an encore performance to their opening act on Thursday night. Once again, The Chop Tops lit the fuse and the crowd exploded. I thought that the hot reception The Chop Tops received in Ann Arbor late last summer was special, but judging from the audience's reaction to the sets on Thursday and Friday, I guess everybody digs them! Shelby, Gary and Dusty, you guys certainly are not just an ordinary rockabilly band - you are at the top of the heap!!
At 9:00 p.m. rockabilly veteran Lou Hobbs performed with Bob Black on guitar. Bob is a cousin to Elvis' original bass player, Bill Black, and Bob has a CD release out too. Many of Lou Hobbs' peers came to see and videotape his show.
At 10:00 p.m. there was a very special show featuring a fellow who I call the "Eric Clapton of rockabilly", Marco DiMaggio. All I had to do was announce at what time Marco DiMaggio would be performing, and the word would spread all over the Gold Coast Hotel, and by show time it was either "stand up or sit on the floor". For this particular set, Marco had invited legendary guitarist Gary Lambert to join him. Gary Lambert has been the lead guitarist of Glen Glenn's band ever since they met over 40 years ago. It was a very very special occasion to see them playing together, and the crowd was very appreciative of this opportunity.
At 11:00 p.m. Matt Lucas, a rockabilly performer from the 50's who can still shake it up pretty well on stage, fronted an all star band that included Flash of Flash and the Retro Rockets, Gator, and Dave Crimmen. After sitting in on drums at Rockin' Ronny's Meet and Greet Party as well as on the Rockabilly Hall of Fame shows at the West Lounge, it was nice to see Matt standing up and fronting the band as lead vocalist. He was really dancin', shakin', and carryin' on throughout his enjoyable set.
Go Cats Go! Left to right: Dave Hermsen, Bob Timmers, Rockin' Roary and T.C. Gebheim.
Flash, Marco Di Maggio and Gary Lambert (Glen Glenn) pleasing the crowd.
At midnight, Rockin' Roary, who fronts the German rockabilly group, Rockin' Roary and the Stone Valley Band, took the stage and treated the crowd with his take on many rockabilly classics. I was fortunate enough to take some of Rockin' Roary's CD's home with me, and I discovered that many of the songs which appear on CD's by Rockin' Roary and the Stone Valley Band are originals written by Rockin'Roary. I would love to see Rockin' Roary play in person with his own band someday, performing his own songs. Accompanying Roary on his trip from Germany was his wife, Bridgett, and they are the nicest couple you could ever meet.
Closing the Friday night show at 1:00 a.m. was Pep Torres and his band. Hailing from the L.A. area, Pep drew a lot of comparisons with Ritchie Valens, and he even treated the crowd to songs in both Spanish and English. His spirited Spanish version of Buddy Holly's "Oh Boy" was particularly noteworthy. I sure know now why they call him "Pep"!
SATURDAY NIGHT SPECIAL!I have been to many fine rockabilly shows, but I cannot remember any day that could compare to what went on at the West lounge on Saturday, April 14. First of all, The Chop Tops hosted a jam session all afternoon, and there were some terrific sets going down during the day. I arrived at the West Lounge at 12:00 noon, and didn't leave until 4:00 a.m. the next morning!
Marco pickin' behind his back!
Lou Hobbs is amply backed by Dusty and Gary of the Chop Tops and Dave Crimmen.
Much of the evening Saturday night was dedicated to celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Ronny Weiser's Rollin'Rock Records, and this celebration included many artists who have in the past or are currently recording for Rollin'Rock Records. Even though we were booked solid with wonderful acts throughout the night, there were some additional opportunities for very rare performances by celebrated artists, so we just had to bring them all on board to an already full docket of performances. Even though our schedule went awry, the quality and quantity of performances did not, and judging from the crowd that was still present at 4:00 a.m. on Easter Sunday, I think that the evening was a resounding success!
Starting off the show at 5:45 was our good friend and tremendous performer, Dave Crimmen. On all four nights, we had simply outstanding opening acts, and Dave Crimmen was perfect for this special night! In his 16-song set (plus encores) Dave did it all. Demonstrating his own great songwriting with "Been There, Done That", "Beautiful Women", "Rockin' Bop Baby", and several others, he also did songs by Eddie Cochran, Elvis Presley, and even a 3-song Ricky Nelson "mini-set", including one of my favorite Ricky Nelson songs, "Poor Little Fool" (written by Eddie Cochran's girlfriend, Sharon Sheeley) and two songs written by the Burnette brothers, "Stood Up" and "Believe What You Say". Dave is a gifted talent, being able to write songs, play guitar, possess a great singing voice, and project great charisma and audience rapport when he is on stage. Let's all tip our hats to Dave Crimmen for his many performances on the Rockabilly Hall of Fame stage for the past three years!
Rockin' Ronny puts the mic to Flash's sax.
Mr. and Mrs. Rockin' Roary, all the way from Germany.
Well, Dave Crimmen sure started us on the right foot, and it didn't slow down from there! At 6:45 (still on time at that point in the evening) the Blacktop Rockets from Atlanta took the stage, and these guys were "all killer and no filler"! I had caught the Blacktop Rockets at the Junkyard three nights before, and they don't mess around: straight-up rockabilly, good vocals, and a tight, up-tempo sound.
As we had announced all weekend, at 7:30 p.m. the Glen Glenn band took the stage, led by Glen's long-time lead guitarist, Gary Lambert. Joining the band on stage was Gary, the drummer for The Chop Tops, Gator on bass, and Alan Clark on guitar. After several enjoyable tunes by the band, the inimitable Glen Glenn took the stage, and once again wowed the Rockabilly Hall of Fame show with several of his classic hits, including "Everybody's Movin'", "One Cup of Coffee and a Cigarette", and one of my favorites, "Blue Jeans In a Boy's Shirt". Glen then asked Sue Thompson to come on stage and sing three of her several hits from the early 1960's. Still a beautiful woman who had her first hit 40 years ago and is now a grandmother, Sue Thompson sang some songs which everyone recognized, including "Sad Movies (Always Make Me Cry)", and "Norman". As a surprise for Sue Thompson, Shelby Riggs was asked to come on stage and present Sue Thompson with her induction certificate to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Welcome aboard Sue, and keep on rockin'!
Flash and The Retro Rockets were great!
That's George Tomsco playing guitar for the famous fifties-sixties group, The Fireballs.
After Glen Glenn had packed 'em in, we seized an opportunity for a unique moment in rock and roll history: Kay Wheeler, who as a 16 year old was featured in the very first rockabilly movie, "Rock Baby Rock It", recreated her famous dance scene from that first-ever rockabilly movie, and with no less than Marco DiMaggio providing the music. Kay was 16 years old when the movie was made in 1956, and when it was released in 1957, it featured the late Johnny Carroll in several musical sequences. Well, 45 years after the picture was made, Kay did a wonderful job duplicating her dance scene - and she did it barefoot just like the movie!
Following this performance, five of the next six acts were artists or groups who had released music on Rollin'Rock Records. Rollin' Rock's Rockin' Ronny Weiser is the subject of a recent 30th Anniversary interview in the Rockabilly Hall Fame http://www.rockabillyhall.com/BarryKRollinRock.html and we at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame wanted to have a special salute to Ronny Weiser, appreciating his significant role in the "Rockabilly Revival Movement". Always a supporter of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, Rockin' Ronny has a featured monthly column on the Rockabilly Hall of Fame web site, and he frequently participates in our e-group discussions.
The first performance during this tribute was by Paul Galaxy and the Galactix. I was lucky enough to see Paul Galaxy and the Galactix perform at Ronny Weiser's Meet and Greet party Wednesday, so I knew the crowd was in for a special treat on Saturday. Paul's new CD is available on Rollin'Rock Records, and I am sure we will be hearing a lot more from them.
The party goes on! After his unforgettable performance, Johnny Legend is still "up" in the casino, with Barry and Flash.
Alvis Wyane, most capably backed up the Official House Band, The Chop Tops.
At 9:30 Rip Carson and his Chain Gang (yes, he has a new band), took the stage. There are two performers in rockabilly who truly measure up to the billing "Over the Top": Mack Stevens and Rip Carson. With either performer you just don't know what will happen next. Rip started his set just after being tightly tied up in a straightjacket and it took him about three songs to shake himself loose. Rip's group now includes a saxophone player, which adds yet another dimension to his sound. I frankly cannot wait until the new Rip Carson CD is released, because I think that his second CD for Rollin'Rock, "Stand Back", is even better than the first, and I still like the first one! Rip has two songs on a new CD called "High-Octane Presents Volume I" which Carlos Eldorado recently produced from live performances at the Bowlarama in southern California. One of the songs, "Someone Else Was ****ing My **** Last Night", was performed by Rip and his new band at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame show. Incidentally, I first heard this song performed by the Fred Wolff Combo on a "Dirty Blues" album released by Zu-Zazz, an imprint of the Bear Family. If you are into hearing famous singers sing dirty songs, you might want to look for "If It Ain't a Hit, I'll Eat My Ö" At any rate, Rip once again showed why he is one of the most difficult acts to follow in rock and roll. I just can't wait to see him again in Indianapolis on June 28th!
Gator McKinley, no stranger to the stage shows of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, recently formed a new group that also features George Friend (original guitarist of the Twistin' Tarantulas) and Dave Drewry on drums. The group is called Black Beauty and this group also has a couple of songs on the "High Octane Presents Volume I" CD. Considering all the fans that Gator has, and his frequent playing at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame stage shows, we had to have Gator and his group do a few songs on Saturday night, and judging from the audience's reaction, people will eagerly anticipate the release of the first Black Beauty CD.
Rip Carson - It took about three songs for Rip to wiggle out of the straight jacket. Then watch out when he gets free!!
Kay Wheeler recreates her dance sequenes from the first rockabilly movie, "Rock Baby Rock It," originally release in 1957. Marco Di Maggio provided the music.
The next act featured a rockabilly legend most appropriately suited to appear in a Rollin'Rock tribute show, the legendary Ray Campi. With an all star band that included Eli of Johnny and the Blades, and Pep Torres, Ray wowed the crowd with his usual rockin', bass slappin', flamboyant performance. What a fitting tribute to have Ray Campi anchor the Rollin'Rock tribute show! Ronny Weiser himself will tell you Ray Campi can be singled out as the most pivotal performer in the development of Ronny's label.
On Thursday evening, I happened to have run into the only man who deserves such a last name, Johnny Legend. For those who are unfamiliar with Johnny Legend, he was an original member of The Wildcat Shakers in 1971. This band, later renamed The Rollin' Rock Rebels and then The Rockabilly Rebels, recorded for Ronny Weiser's Rollin' Rock Records and included in its lineup Ray Campi, Jimmie Lee Maslon, and Billy Zoom. An Actor, wrestler, promoter and T.V. producer, Johnny Legend has brought his outrageous rock and roll performances to Europe, Japan and the U.S.A. Besides "Soakin' the Bone", Johnny has written other songs, including "The South is Gonna Rise Agin", "Guess Who Ain't Getting' Laid Tonite", "Rockabilly Rumble", "The Naked Die Young", and "Rockabilly Bastard". Rockin' Ronny Weiser himself describes Johnny Legend as: "Wild, savage, crazy, sexy, fun, swingin' ..." I told Johnny that we were having a special salute to Ronny Weiser on Saturday night, and asked if I could I talk him into performing. Luckily for us, Johnny agreed, and there is absolutely nothing "half way" about Johnny Legend! Assembling a band which included Deke Dickerson on guitar and Flash on saxophone, Johnny even fulfilled my request and performed a 15-minute version of "Soakin' the Bone", one of the raunchiest, rip roarin', rockingest rockabilly songs you will never hear on radio. Some women in the audience were willing "participants" in Johnny's show; others weren't, but everyone hung around to see what would happen next! All in all, it was very entertaining and truly unforgettable, and Johnny blows a pretty mean harmonica too!
Johnny Legend gets .. er, "tied up" with a chick during his 15-minute live version of "Soakin' The Bone."
Johnny Legend on the floor with microphone and harmonia in hand.
Johnny's group included Deke Dekerson and Flash.
You might think that any performer would shudder at the prospect of following the kind of set that Johnny Legend did. Not Alvis Wayne! Many Alvis Wayne fans started to congregate in the West Lounge before Alvis' performance. In fact, by the time Alvis Wayne started his show, all copies of his new Rollin'Rock CD, "Proud of My Rockabilly Roots", were sold out. It wasn't until Sunday night that we were able to replenish the supply at the CD table. Alvis showed why he is one of rockabilly's most durable performers, pounding out song after song that highlighted his long career. I had an opportunity to listen to the new CD before coming to Viva Las Vegas IV, and there is a lot of great music and vocals on this 14-song disc. Containing quite a variety of material, including songs by Ernest Tubb, Mack Stevens, Jimmy Reed, and of course, Alvis Wayne, the CD also includes a three-song tribute to Johnny Horton. The crowd could have listened to Alvis Wayne perform all night, but we were far behind in our schedule, and there were still two more groups to go, so when Alvis told the crowd he could only do one more song, I started to hear the boo's, and I knew they weren't being directed at Alvis! I guess Alvin Wayne was a good act to follow Johnny Legend!
The next group to take the stage was the legendary New Mexico Group, The Fireballs. Next to Buddy Holly, The Fireballs are the most famous act to originally record for Norman Petty at his Clovis, New Mexico studio. Probably best known for the 1963 top seller "Sugar Shack", the group is still led by George Tomsco, and it was the record label that billed them as "Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs" when "Sugar Shack" was originally released. Dressed appropriately in their flaming, matching shirts, George and his group took he crowd through several of their songs and instrumental hits, including "Torquay". Anyone seeking more information about the history and evolution of the Fireballs can do so by clicking on to www.fireballs-original.com.
Sue Thompson is presented her Rockabilly Hall of Fame Induction Certificate by Shelby Riggs.
Sue Thompson sings "Sad Movies Make Me Cry," with Glen Glenn. What a lady!!
The last group booked for the night, Detroit's own Lazy Crazies, did not actually take the stage until about 2:30 a.m. Easter Sunday. Although the crowd had dwindled significantly, and there were some equipment problems hampering the start of their set, it was amazing how many more people came into the lounge after a few of their songs, including Rip Carson and Marco DiMaggio. Fronted by drummer and lead singer Brian Holly, the Lazy Crazies also feature Dadio Rocker on lead guitar and Alvis Ash (who Brian says looks like another Detroit musician, Eminem), on slap-bass. During Saturday's afternoon jam session Brian took the stage for a couple of songs, and the crowd wouldn't let him get off until he did six more! This group is truly "over the top", and when Rip Carson comes in the lounge at close to 4:00 a.m. to check them out, you know I am talking about some performers here! The Lazy Crazies tried to do their last song about 4:00 a.m., but the remaining crowd would not let them leave, so they did an encore. After the encore, the crowd still yelled and cheered for more, but as much I love the Lazy Crazies, it was after 4:00 a.m., I had been up almost 24 hours, and I had run 8 miles Saturday morning before "punching in" 16-hours earlier, so I had to split! It was kind gratifying to walk out of the lounge after 4:00 a.m. and seeing all the rockabilly lovers still there, appreciating the wild, wonderful sounds of the Lazy Crazies. A perfectly fitting conclusion to one of the most unbelievable days in the history of rockabilly! If I have any say in the matter at all, you will see the Lazy Crazies on "prime time" at next year's Viva Las Vegas.
EASTER SUNDAYWell, after Saturday's long, wild ride, you might expect that Easter Sunday would be a bit of a let down, being Easter Sunday and the last day of Viva Las Vegas, but there were some really enjoyable shows on Sunday.
By the time I finished enjoying the Rio pool and arrived at the West Lounge in the late afternoon, I discovered that a jam session was already going on, and it sounded pretty good! The last two acts that I was able to catch included Craig "Bones" Maki, formerly the front man for Detroit's Big Barn Combo, introducing his new group, "Bones Maki and the Sun Dodgers". This new group also includes former BBC bassman Kenny Bruce. I believe that Bones Maki and the Sun Dodgers are making their initial release on vinyl in the near future, so stay tuned. As always, Craig was in good voice, has the talent to write songs and pick out great material, and is undoubtedly one of the most knowledgeable people I have ever met about all things rockabilly. Also appearing before the scheduled acts was Nick Willett of the Chicago area. Nick looks like he has it all: voice, good looks, and a great stage presence. I believe there is a good future in store for Nick Willett.
Paul Galaxy and The Galactix. Have you heard their Rollin' Rock release yet?
It's Glen Glenn! Left to right: Gator, Alan Clark, Gary, Glen and Glen's long time guitarist Gary Lambert. Two great shows, two years in a row. Bob Timmers wouldn't let Glen get off the stage until Glen sang Bob's favorite song, "Laurie Ann."
At 6:00 p.m. we had the first of two consecutive "Rusty's" appear on stage. The first was Rusty Evans, a Johnny Cash look-alike and sound-alike, who also does other material. Rusty put on a great show and the crowd was very appreciative of his talent. Rusty stuck around to sell his CD's and sign autographs.
Rusty York sings his great hit, "Sugaree."
Taking the stage next was Rusty York, whose version of the Marty Robbins' song, "Sugaree", is one of my all time favorites. Rusty recorded for several labels in the late 50's and early 60's, most notably King Records in Cincinnati, but he is best known today for his classic version of "Sugaree", released on the Chess label. A kind, gentle man who brought his wife, children and grandchildren, Rusty wore a navy pinstriped suit and tie, and with his lean figure and distinguished salt and pepper hair and beard, created an excellent presence when he took the stage. It is amazing how many rockabilly compilations include Rusty York's version of "Sugaree ". Rusty brought several different compilations with his song on them, and they didn't include the recently released "That'll Flat Git It Volume 10: Chess Rockabilly" by Bear Family Records and "Sugar Lump" on Bear Family's "Buffalo Bop" imprint! So popular was this song, that the crowd made Rusty come back and do an encore performance of "Sugaree". A truly great song and a great performance! Next time around, I'd love to see Flash do the saxophone that's on the original recording.
Craig "Bones" Maki debuts his new group, "Bones Maki & The Sun Dodgers."
When people hear the name of Billy Swan, they sometimes think of his big hit, "I Can Help", which was a crossover hit in both country and rock and roll. Some people even know that it was Billy Swan who wrote the song "Lover Please", which was a big hit for Clyde McPhatter as a solo artist (after the Drifters). But even fewer people know that in 1973 Billy Swan was a member of Kinky Friedman's band, "Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys". After his set, I sat next to Billy and we spoke about Kinky. Boy, would I love to get Kinky Friedman on our stage next year! Preceding Billy was Rick Keen and the Highway Band. Rick is a gifted musician who works with Billy, and also playing with Billy Swan that night was former Blue Caps bassman Bill Mack, and T.C. Gebheim on drums. After Billy Swan's great set, the crowd was treated to a reprise performance by Marco DiMaggio. I guess Sunday night you could call his performance "Marco DiMaggio and Friends". Marco's guests included a talented black-haired beauty from Hoilland, a very attractive lady dressed in red whose voice might be the best female vocalist I have heard since Marti Brom. Also jumping up and joining in were Paul Burlison and Rocky Burnette, who did a little reprising of their own, recreating the magic of last year when they performed as the Rock and Roll Trio. You could tell that Rocky, Paul and Marco all had a great deal of fun playing with each other, and Paul just kept smiling as he traded licks with Marco. It is nice to see that Marco DiMaggio is becoming much more well known as an excellent guitar player and rockabilly performer and vocalist. Just mentioning his name and the time of his performances at the West Lounge guaranteed a big crowd. I know an attorney from the Detroit area, Sheldon Kay, who plays guitar and performs as a rockabilly act. I ran in to Sheldon in Detroit while I was writing this article, and one of he first questions he asked me about Viva Las Vegas was, "Have you ever seen this Marco fellow everybody is talking about?"
Barry Klein and Billy Swan talk about their mutual friend, Kinky Friedman.
Photo credit: Lesley Unruh (617) 233-4167.
A nice, all-American couple enjoying the West Lounge on Saturday night.
I can't close without saying how I much missed Mack Stevens at Viva Las Vegas, even though he set my rear end on fire on stage at last Easter's show. Mack was the original performer who led the Rockabilly Hall of Fame's jam sessions in the Dance Hall at Viva Las Vegas II, and it was kind of spooky not having him perform or come to Viva Las Vegas IV. We miss you, big guy!
Another act I wished had performed Saturday night was The Starlight Drifters. The Starlight Drifters are from Ann Arbor, Michigan and have a new CD out on Rollin' Rock that is absolutely terrific! Bill Alton was at Viva Las Vegas (he's the lead singer), and I sure would have loved to hear them do a live performance that would have included the excellent material from "Thirteen to Go".
Rockabilly Revival: after 3:00 am Saturday night, the Lazy Crazies brought the fans back in the West Lounge for their wild set.
The Lazy Crazies are, left to right: Elvis Ash, Brian Holly and Daddy-O Rocker.
THANK YOUAgain, a big Thank You to The Chop Tops, and all the wonderful acts which appeared at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame's shows in the West Lounge.
Well, I hope you forgive the lack of coverage in the Ballroom and elsewhere, but for me Viva Las Vegas is still mostly about the music, and for four nights and three days, you just couldn't ask for anything more at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame Show in the West Lounge. Great legends, new stars, and future stars in the jam sessions. All in all, over 50 acts took our stage, and it was a great experience!
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
For a listing of Barry's other articles for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame