The missing link between wild rockabilly abandon and snarling garage punk
Dean Carter was/is the ultimate rock'n'roll anomaly. Just check out the photo on the cover of CALL OF THE WILD!, one of the craziest collections your humble compiler has had the pleasure to assemble in recent memory. Presley-like stance, guitar by his side, with a swept-back do and zebra-striped jacket to die for. The ultimate in rockin' cool. Must be late 1950s, right? Uh-uh. How does 1968 grab ya?
Carter was a wildman, coughing up some of the most insane rock'n'roll platters known to man and beast, records that are all the more remarkable for their improbable recording dates. There's a time-warp sensibility to the sound of Dean Carter that is truly intriguing. He'd been singing rock in his native Champaign, Illinois since the late 1950s - indeed, there are even a couple of his rebel-raw 1959 demos included here - yet Carter retained his trademark rockabilly hiccup whether he combined it with a stomping garage beat (Sizzlin' Hot) or a rough hewn soul shout (Love's A-Workin').
Dean Carter really wanted to be a star and it's obvious from the sounds contained onCALL OF THE WILD! that he really had the goods to have become one. With an uncanny ability to swing from a high falsetto to a moody growl, the singer could switch from crooning a dramatic ballad to belting out a sizzling rocker. He just did things he wanted to do, in the way he felt right. With his sidekick Arlie Miller behind the studio controls, the amazing recordings here span a full decade (1959-69), yet they sound as though they all could have all been taped at the same session, such is the relentless rocking drive common to each and every performance.
The apex of Dean Carter has to be upon the truly berserk treatment of Jailhouse Rock that was issued as a single on Carter and Miller's tiny Milky Way label in 1967 (and has been widely bootlegged in subsequent years). The record itself defies description - suffice to say, it sounds as though a riot really is taking place - yet incredibly the research for the notes threw up the fact that buried amongst the sonic chaos is not only an accordion and a frantically-scrubbed dobro, but also a clarinet played by a 12-year old girl!! Joe Meek could not have devised a more unusual session. Many other tracks are only slightly less crazed, such as I Got A Girl, Black Boots and the stomping Mary Sue, the latter cut as a single in Washington in 1968 with the aid of one-time Gene Vincent sidekick Jerry Merritt.
I could blather on about the genius of Dean Carter for a whole RT, but instead I urge you all, if you say you like rock'n'roll, to buy this CD, ogle the eye-bending pix, read the bizarre story and revel in the unselfconsciously manic sounds it contains. This guy is an unsung hero of unprecendented proportions. All hail Dean Carter!
By Alec Palao