Boyd Bennett's standing in rock'n'roll is forever assured, thanks to his 1955 hit Seventeen a record that he had to fight hard to get released, and one that eventually sold more than a million copies. He never had another hit of comparable size, but he and his Rockets made a bunch of records that are treasured by rock'n'roll collectors everywhere especially those who like to dance.
We are fortunate that Boyd and the Rockets cut their best sides for King Records, as that company's superior recording facilities give their tracks an edge that other recordings of the time sometimes lack. It also gives us opportunity to gather the very best in one compilation, which is exactly what "Rockin' Up A Storm" offers. Some songs may sound a little cornball now, but the natural exuberance of the music keeps the rhythm tracks as fresh as the day they were recorded, in some case over 50 years ago.
This is not the first CD compilation of Boyd and his boys' King sides to be released, but it's the first to embrace the best material from every one of the Rockets' King sessions. And, as is Ace's custom with its King-derived releases, the tracks have been newly transferred from original session and production master tapes, for the best ever sonic presentation!
Boyd Bennett was obviously a great believer in the 'if at first you don't succeed, etc.' method of achieving success. He'd already failed at King as a hillbilly crooner and Dixieland jazz revivalist when Bill Haley's early headlong dive into rock'n'roll caused him to rethink and redirect for a third time. With some likeable songs, and a sound as fat and fulsome as that of Haley's Comets, Boyd and his Rockets represented King almost single-handedly, in the field of out and out rock'n'roll, between 1955 and 1958. They almost didn't, mind you when Syd Nathan, King's legendary founder, heard their recording of Seventeen he pronounced it to be 'crap' and refused to release it. When Syd eventually relented, some months later, he was rewarded for his change of heart by the biggest pop hit that the King label ever had.
Seventeen is just one of more than two dozen great, goodtime tracks on offer here. Although many of the tracks do mirror the Haley sound due in no small part to the similarities between Bill and the Rockets' regular lead singer "Big Moe" Muzey we also feature examples of the Rockets' prowess as instrumentalists, via their covers of Bill Jennings' Big Boy and Big Jay McNeeley's Big Jay Shuffle. Also included in its entirety is the band's final King session, featuring the vocals of Cecil McNabb Jr. which includes some of the most feral rock'n'roll ever committed to tape, and which is highly prized by genre collectors the world over.
Once Boyd Bennett left music in 1963, it was for good. He went back to his various outside businesses (including one that manufactured penile enhancements!) and to watching his young children grow into teenagers. Although he had not been active as a musician for decades, he had taken a booking to appear at South East England's premier rock'n'roll/R&B dance weekender, Rhythm Riot, in November 2002. However, the grim reaper had other ideas, and Boyd Bennett died on 2 June of that year.
His time in the national spotlight may have been relatively brief, but Boyd's happy-go-lucky rock'n'roll will live on forever. You'll hear My Boy Flat Top, Cool Disc Jockey or the Rockets' fabulous recordings with Moon Mullican and Cecil McNabb Jr every time rockin' dancers get together to strut their stuff. Corny it may be, but Seventeen is still a genuine Hall Of Fame rock'n'roll classic and most of what followed it was and remains some of the best fun one can have with one's clothes on. Boyd and his Rockets may not have changed the face of rock'n'roll, but the contribution they made to its breakthrough is as important in its own way as are those by any of the more readily-acknowledged genre masters. Here, in pristine sound is the ultimate qualification of that statement.