When I was growing up in Epping on the outskirts of London during the 1950s, Uncle Syd" Nathan was a familiar unseen presence in the life of our family. The distant cousin of a distant cousin of an obscure American relative on my mother's side, Uncle Syd was the family's only link to the entertainment world, an extremely tenuous connection that my mother grandly made the most of during those grey and glitz free years. "
Mum was thrilled when one of Uncle Syd's discoveries, a girl named Bonnie Lou, made a sizeable splash with Tennessee Wig Walk, a jaunty little novelty number that completed for UK chart honours with big-timers like Frankie Laine and Guy Mitchell, two singers my mother adored. And later, when my father would gripe about Elvis Presley and that awful racket he makes", he was told not to complain as Uncle Sydney had done very well out of "that kind of music".
And so it went. There were never any specifics. Mother wouldn't suddenly say, "I see Hank Ballard's got a new one out, then", as she ladled out the soup. Just generalisations. Like when Chubby Checker hit big with The Twist, she'd go around telling people "Uncle Sydney gave that boy his start", an oblique reference to the fact that King had put out the original version of The Twist by Hank Ballard which Chubby had merely cloned to his complete advantage for another record company.
Only a tiny fraction of King Records were released in the UK during the 1950s and 60s and in common with most collectors of that generation, I was only to discover much later, the depth and scale of King's back catalogue.
It wasn't until those attention-to-detail specialists Ace Records took an interest in the 1990s that fresh light was thrown on King's vast repertoire - in fact, an entire programme of rock, R&B and soul will be coming your way on Ace in the next year or two.
King Rock'n'Roll is the long-awaited sequel to King Rockabilly and brings together 24 rare records that show King going for broke in the market for commercial rock'n'roll with a range of styles that comprises Bill Haley-ish 'jivers', country-boogies, rockabilly and straightforward Elvis-influenced rockers.
Two artists featured on King Rockabilly make a return. Delbert Barker's previously unissued Goose Bumps stems from the same session as No Good Robin Hood and Jug Band Jump (heard on "King Rockabilly") while Fuller Todd impresses with You Baby and Cuddle Up, two unissued sides drawn from the same session as Top Ten Rock, which also appeared on "King Rockabilly". Among the fine one-offs is What Is Your Technique by Ronnie Speeks and the Elrods, a mythical Elvis imitator who was popular in the backwaters of the Mid-West 40 years ago.
Wes Voight, who later changed his name to Chip Taylor and penned the rock anthem Wild Thing, started out as a teenage rock'n'roller on King's DeLuxe subsidiary back in 1958. He is thrice represented here in convincing form. Jivers will warm to Bob Temple's Vim Vam Vamoose and Kenny Martin's I'm The Jivin' Mr Lee, not to mention Wayne Carroll's Chicken Out.
Wait till you hear Trini Lopez' Rock On cut for King in 1959 when he was a club entertainer playing to drunks who didn't know, or care, who he was. There's a confidence about it that shows that Lopez had it down long before fame beckoned. Wacky Booker Lee Jr, one of the star turns on "King Rockabilly", makes a return with You Are My Happiness, the other side of his sole Federal 45.
Rob Finnis has put it all together with his usual thoroughness and penned the accompanying notes. It's all terrific fun and if you enjoyed "King Rockabilly", then this CD makes an essential companion volume.
by Brewster Nathan