Thursday, December 13, 2012

Elvis Decks the Halls in Blue!

Hi rockabilly fans...I'm back to try my hand at a second post. And, who better to feature at this festive time of the year than the King himself!  Elvis was not only a rockabilly icon, but, he could easily croon the blues.  Although his early influences stemmed from Gospel music and hillbilly music, Elvis was a fan of the blues.

He frequented a Tupelo radio station, possibly at the age of 12 or 13, and became acquainted with the star of the show, Mississippi Slim.  There was a Saturday afternoon show on the station called WELO Jamboree.  Mississippi Slim taught Elvis some guitar chords, and, also backed Elvis up while he sang.  Slim was a major influence on Elvis, giving him guidance and some valuable experience, setting a path for the future King of Rock and Roll. 

  One of Elvis' first successes came from the likes of  Big Mama Thornton, who was well known for her performances of the ever-famous blues song 'Hound Dog'.  As we all know, Elvis took that song to a whole new level, and sent the world on a tailspin!  He had seen it performed by Freddie and the Bellboys at the Venus Room in Las Vegas in 1956, and asked them if they had any objections to him recording the song.  Elvis quickly added 'Hound Dog' to his live performances.  He was also a fan of  Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard.  So, even though he didn't have much of a Blues background, Elvis patterned himself after some pretty influential Blues icons.

As most of you know, the song 'Blue Christmas' goes way back to the late 1940's, where it first became popular.  Ernest Tubb recorded the song in 1950, and, it quickly became a Christmas staple.  Elvis took out one verse of the song in 1957, I learned, and recorded it on his Christmas album.  However, it didn't become a marketable single until 1964...quite a few years later.  Elvis' Blue Christmas single didn't even chart in the U.S., but made it to the number 11 spot for the week of Christmas in the UK.  

The Beach Boys recorded the song on their Christmas album in 1964, and, it charted at #3 in the U.S.  Go figure!!!  And, I'm sure you've all heard Porky Pig's version of 'Blue Christmas'...oink!  Well, enough badgering for now.  

Have you heard the BEST of 'Blue Christmas' this year?

Well, I think I can grant your wish!  Merry Christmas to all!  

Have a safe holiday...remember, Elvis (I mean Santa) is watching!
Stop by and say hello anytime!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Rockin' 1950's In a Small Town

My Parents' First Cafe * Bridgeport, Texas * 1954

My folks bought this small custard stand from my uncle in Bridgeport, TX in the 1950's.  As you can see, it was called 'What A Burger'...go figure! But it was better known as 'Bennie's Custard Stand'.  My dad's hamburgers were a favorite among the townspeople who enjoyed a lunch out from time to time.  Along with frozen custard Dad served up chili, hot dogs, fries, and other mouth watering cafe favorites.

Mom and dad worked long hours daily, serving up burgers and drawing frozen custard cones and other frozen desserts.  My brother, Danny and I, helped out by peeling potatoes and cleaning up out on the grounds in the parking lot.  During this time, my parents employed a few helpers and carhops to serve customers outside.  And, inside the small cafe there was a jukebox, much like the one pictured below, while,  outdoors, speakers were hung up in the trees.  This jukebox would entertain the patrons as they ate their 'Bennie Burgers'!

I was pretty young at that time...say, 5 or 6 years old.  My brother and I would frequent the cafe, that's where we ate most of our meals.  And, on any given day, weather permitting, you could find me outside, standing on top of one of the picnic tables, singing and dancing away for the customers, and, they would toss coins my way in return for my songs.  Hmmm...I thought then, that maybe I could earn money while singing, or, perhaps, by making a fool of myself!

My love of music and singing began in church, where I sang every Sunday, and, any other time we had services or Church functions.  But, my musical preferences expanded as I sat in the cafe listening to the rocking tunes of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jack Scott and Little Richard.  I did my best to imitate these performers in their mannerisms and movements.  Well, then, dad handed me a guitar one day and told me that I'd better learn to play...SOMEONE had to play music to my singing, and, it might as well be me.

When I about 9 years old,  a traveling guitar instructor was coming through town once a week to give lessons to anyone who wanted to  learn to play.  And, when I got word of this, I was on the scene!  He would stop at the home of a student, and, I, along with a few other guys, would sit in to pick up what we could.  The instructor taught us chords and rhythm for a few dollars a lesson.  From there, I was able to at least play to my favorite songs while I sang.  Well, I should be better at the guitar by now, but, I don't think I am.  However, I can sit in and pick up almost any key, and play along with other musicians.  Later, as a teenager, I would form my own band.


With that, I will close for now...we'll discuss my band, and, some Rockabilly history in my next post.  Thank you for coming by.  I guess you know this is my first blog post.  Do I know what I'm doing?  Probably not.  But, with a little luck, and my fond memories, maybe, I can send some entertainment, fun, and knowledge your way.
  And, I'm sure you can teach me a few things!

And, on my way out, I send this song your way that Suzanne and I recorded at home.  It's our cover of one of Jerry Lee Lewis' hits from 1957, Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On.  Now, bear in mind, we don't do Karaoke (karaoke can't keep up with me)!  We only used two instruments with this guitar, and, Suzanne, timidly played the drums.  Oh, and, I'm singing the song!
It was just a lot of fun!

"That Rockabilly sound wasn't as simple as I thought it was."
~Carl Perkins

Be safe...stop by anytime and say hello!