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Bootin': The Best Of The RPM Years, CD (£11.50)
Rosco Gordon began his career in Memphis alongside Johnny Ace, BB King and Bobby Bland as part of the Beale Street group in the late 40s. Ike Turner (then a local talent scout) first recorded him for Modern Records in 1951. He next recorded for Sam Phillips who sold a master of Bootin' (Gordon's own composition) to two competing labels, Chess and RPM, a mix-up which did not prevent the song making #1 on the R&B chart in 1952. The follow-up, No More Doggin', another hit, was a hugely influential record, which pre-dated and influenced Jamaican ska.
Following a pattern set by Bootin', it featured a loping shuffle rhythm with a strong accent on the off-beat that depended on monotony for its excitement. It also gave the impression of being inexpertly recorded (it was, in fact, produced in someone's living room) and this slightly shambolic feel was later reflected in much of early Ska. Gordon developed the style which came to be known as 'Rosco's Rhythm', on follow-ups such as New Orleans Wimmen and Lucille.
Johnny Ace, Floyd Dixon, Shirley & Lee, Fats Domino and T-Bone Walker have been cited as seminal influences in the development of post-war Jamaican music but it wasn't until 1959 that the local scene coalesced into a recognisable movement when aspiring musos were galvanised into action by Gordon's No More Doggin' (not available in Jamaica until the end of the decade). No greater authority than former Island Records supremo Chris Blackwell underlined Gordon's importance in the scheme of things in an interview he gave in 1964 - around the time Ska or 'Bluebeat' was experiencing a growth in popularity among white British teenagers.
"Towards the end of the 50s," he explained, "Jamaicans got keen on rhythm and blues, particularly a record called No More Doggin' sung by Rosco Gordon. They got hold of this beat, cheered it up a bit, added some cute lyrics and called it Ska - an onomatopoeic word for the sound the guitar made. From 1959 onwards this was all the rage."
Digitally mastered from primary sources, BOOTIN' contains the cream of Rosco's RPM sides (including one previously unissued title) and represents the distinctive young Gordon at his creative peak.
by Rob Finnis