When Larry Williams picked up the banner so prematurely dropped by his Specialty label mate Little Richard in 1957, he became for a while the very personification of rock'n'roll. Frantic but always in control, wild but witty, crazy but cool, he had an unquenchable taste in bizarre women: short, fat, bony, dizzy or jelly bellied, Larry loved 'em all.
The magnificent Larry Williams first lit up my life during the summer of 1957 when his London-American release Short Fat Fannie came crackling out of the family wireless set's overworked speaker. Earlier that week I bought Little Richard's Jenny Jenny and had worn myself out trying to sing along with it-.-but this Larry Williams', while similar, was different. Not only could you sing along, you could whistle, too! Rock'n'roll whistling? Crazy! I bought the record and played it until word perfect on Short Fat Fannie and its flip High School Dance. Unlikely as it may seem for a white kid from a North London council estate, I became Larry Williams. To emphasise the effect that London HLN 8472 must have had on me, it should be noted that other records that I acquired at that time included Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On by Jerry Lee Lewis, That'll Be The Day by the Crickets and Searchin' by the Coasters. Who said that we didn't have better summers in those days?
Bony Moronie, a couple of months later, was even better. Can there have been a more perfect example of a rock'n'roll record? Even square old Gooff, the jazz loving owner of The Melodaire record shop couldn't stop himself from smiling as he played the record for me. With the rockin' You Bug Me Baby as the flip side I didn't think that things could get much better. But then along came 1958s mammoth two-sider Dizzy Miss Lizzy / Slow Down. I first heard this by way of the jukebox in the infamous Busy Bee transport cafe on the Watford by-pass, a favourite haunt of the 'ton-up' motorcycle fraternity. Just to impress the chicks it became something of a challenge for these leather boys to select a record and then race down to the first roundabout and back before it finished playing. But nobody left the 'Bee once I started playing Larry's two-sided epic!
By 1959 we were being told that rock'n'roll was dying-.-but fortunately Larry Williams was not listening. She Said, Yeah / Bad Boy was yet another classic double sider that had the old Rock-Ola glowing. My record player turntable almost went into meltdown too. There was no escape for my parents who, on retiring to the front room, found themselves confronted by UK rocker Roy Young standing at a piano and squawking out She Said, Yeah on BBC TV's Drumbeat!
Larry's final UK London-American release, I Can't Stop Lovin' You / Steal A Little Kiss came as something of a disappointment when compared to his previous records. Somehow we didn't expect a 'girlie' chorus on a Larry Williams record. Perhaps rock'n'roll had died after all.
In recent times our chums at Ace Records have kept rock'n'roll fans and resuscitation units well supplied with vinyl, tape and CD compilations featuring the best of Larry Williams. However, this double CD package of dynamite is possibly their finest moment. Not only do we get those classic London/Specialty singles and LP tracks as well as the now well known alternates that have cropped up in recent years but we also get (wait for it...) 18 tracks new to CD in any form of reissue (out of 47 in all). These cuts didn't stagger bleary-eyed from the Specialty vaults, they jumped. The studio chat is hilarious and the music is glorious.
Compiled by the redoubtable team of John Broven and Stuart Colman, with Stuart's usual fascinating notes, this my friends is one of the greatest rock'n'roll releases ever, maybe it's even better than that. I think I may have to become Larry Williams again.
by ERIC DUNSDON (Now Dig This magazine)