Very few of the original rock'n'roll heroes from the 50s can claim to have the kind of almost perfect track record of Jackie Lee Cochran. Although not the most recorded of artists, the legacy he left behind includes a string of genuinely superb records that still sound as fresh and vital today as they ever did. Very few of his rock'n'roll peers made as many consistently good records as did Jackie Lee Cochran. No matter which part of his back catalogue you dip into - be it on Sims, Decca, Spry, Jaguar, Rollin' Rock or Sunshine, in a period spanning the 50s to the 80s - it's quality stuff all the way.
That's because Jack was the real deal. Old school.
Twenty years ago I wrote the sleeve notes for his FIDDLE FIT MAN LP, now eventually making its long overdue debut on CD. In the intervening years Jack has departed for that great rockabilly jukebox in the sky (going upstairs in March 1998), but "Fiddle Fit Man" remains one of his greatest triumphs and fully deserves being introduced to a new audience.
The whole concept of taking an original rock'n'roll icon and getting them to cut a new album x number of years since they were last in a studio has proven to be an extremely dodgy exercise. On rare occasions it works well (sometimes with spectacular results), but more often than not it can be something of an embarrassment- especially if the material is naff and the producer not sympathetic to the job at hand.
Thankfully, there were no such problems with "Fiddle Fit Man". The material was all original (half of it written by Jack himself) and the producer was Mike Vernon, a veteran with more than 20 years experience under his belt, who fully understood what Jack was all about. Pairing the Georgia-born rocker with Scottish-based outfit Johnny & The Roccos was another inspired move.
At the time of the recording, April 1985, the Roccos were one of the leading rock'n'roll bands on the European circuit, playing regularly at all the leading festivals and weekenders, often backing visiting US rockers such as Billy Lee Riley, Ray Smith and Sonny Fisher. The same month they teamed up with Jack (to back him on his first UK gig at Weymouth as well as to cut the "Fiddle Fit Man" LP), they also waxed their own album with Mike Vernon at the helm. Titled TEARIN' UP THE BORDER, it was another all-original affair, its 12 tracks coming from the pen of group founder member and ace guitarist, Bob Fish. Many of the cuts became instant favourites in their live repertoire, in particular 'I Was A Teenage Werewolf From Outer Space' and the Teds' anthem, 'I Hate The Disco'. The full 'Tearin' Up The Border' LP makes up the second half of this CD and is joined by three bonus tracks, one of which is their previously unreleased version of the Carl Perkins classic, 'Matchbox'. Johnny & The Roccos are still out there struttin' their stuff today; one of the longest serving bands on the rock'n'roll scene.
My original liner notes to the "Fiddle Fit Man" LP closed with the advice: "Just slip your stylus in the groove and rock with one of the best - Jack The Cat!" Now, in 2005, the sentiment remains the same but it's now time to let your laser do the work.
By Trevor Cajiao
(Editor - Now Dig This')