Rock'n'roll films didn't matter. That's the first thing. They were budget productions shown as double features in drive-in theatres where teenagers were more interested in copping a feel than following a paper-thin plot.
Rock All Night, an American-International Picture directed by Roger Corman, was no exception. Shot in five days and lasting a mercifully short 65 minutes, the sleazier-than-usual story (based on a teleplay called "The Little Guy") revolves around a couple of murdering punks who fetch up in the Cloud Nine rock'n'roll bar where singer "Julie" seeks an audition. "Shorty", a smart-mouthed customer played by Dick Miller, in his first leading role, overcomes the bad guys and walks off with the girl. Her small-time agent, "Sir Bop", attracts the most guffaws-.-he's given to a wildly excessive 'beat' language with lines that ought to be etched in movie folklore ("That was the infinite, the livin', rompin', stompin', whippin', flippin', non-stop end. That's what it was, daddy!"). Twinned with AIP's "Dragstrip Girl", another trashy teen crime melodrama, Rock All Night went out to LA drive-ins during April 1957.
Samuel "Buck" Ram, who was the musical director, was hard pressed to meet the filming schedule and pulled a few stunts to come up with pre-recorded material to which everyone mimed. The soundtrack album contained two songs by the Platters (not included on this CD), four torrid instrumentals by Eddie Beal's Combo, two songs by Nora Hayes and four tracks by the Blockbusters.
The original Blockbusters, including Gene Labadi, Dennis Clark and Al Pommetto, came from Philadelphia. They worked the Las Vegas lounges, signed to Buck Ram's Personality Productions, had a near-hit with a rock'n'roll version of George Jones's Why Baby Why on Aladdin and split up in 1956 after a second record on Intro. Henceforth, Ram used the name as a convenient cipher, applying it to another seven or eight bands including Gene Davis's Star-Routers, Johnny Olenn's Jokers and a Dallas-based combo led by singer-drummer, Bill Peck.
In Rock All Night, Sir Bop's discovery "Julie" mimes to Nora Hayes' vocals on The Great Pretender and I Guess I Won't Hang Around Here Anymore, a song which Buck Ram wrote in 1947. The songs are performed flat and off-key because "Julie" is required to fail her audition. The lustrous Ms Hayes does a perceptibly better job on the album cuts, one of which features strenuous harmony by The Colts who accosted Ram in a Bakersfield restaurant. "They stood by my table and said 'We'll sing here'. They were two brothers whose father was a minister. They'd been singing in the choir and had such a fresh sound. I wrote Adorable for them." Nora Hayes was a pseudonym for Patti Anne Mesner, the daughter of Aladdin label owner Eddie Mesner, whose wife was black. Patti Anne recorded for Aladdin (1952-56) and appeared on coast-to-coast concerts with Buck Ram's stable of stars.
Buck Ram died in a Las Vegas hospital on 1 January 1991. Some people will tell you that he couldn't enter a room without picking an argument, but when I spoke to him in 1973 he sat on the edge of his bed in a Mayfair hotel room and told me the story of his life with tremendous affection for everyone who'd figured in it.
The CD release of Rock All Night is the third compilation in Ace's Buck Ram series and features some great jiving rock'n'roll, R&B ballads and piano instrumentals. Johnny Olenn contributes some of his finest numbers to this record including a version of The Magic Touch, made famous by Buck Ram's star act the Platters. There is also plenty of genuine rock'n'roll from Benny Joy and Bill Peck, with the instant classic title Alligator With The Blue Suede Shoes. Each artist's background is detailed in the sleevenotes, making this a fine and comprehensive package of the label's soundtrack repertoire.
By Bill Millar