Larry Donn's Rockabilly Days - CARL MANN

Rockabilly Days

LARRY DONN writes for Now Dig This

This story was inspired by an advert in the Febuary '95 NDT for a Carl Mann album. I stuck one of those little yellow pieces of note paper with a sticky strip on the back to the page to remind me, then I forgot about it. Today, a friend was reading that issue and asked me about the piece of paper. I took a look and remembered, four years and some months later, and hear it is.

I thought it was Jerry Lee when I first heard Carl's record of 'Mona Lisa'... for a few seconds, at least, then I realised it wasn't. I liked the boogie-woogie rhythm, and I liked the lead guitar which I learned later was played by Eddie Bush. I decided Mann was a Jerry Lee imitator, but I noticed the record was on Sam's Phillips International label, and I figured Sam knew what he was doing, so it didn't bother me. I liked Jerry Lee's music well enough that I also like anybody who sounded like him, if they were competent.

I also noticed that the drummer sounded familiar, but I couldn't quite place him until I saw Carl and his band on television. It was W.S. Holland, who played with Carl Perkins on the shows we did with him, and actually played drums with us... Benny and Scotty Kuykendall and me... one night at the C&R Club near Trumann, Arkansas, when our drummer, Sammy Creason, didn't show up. Sam was in the high school band and was subject to being called at the last minute for some special band practice or some sudden school function, and sometimes he didn't have a chance to tell us about it. One such failure to show resulted in me meeting Arlen Vaden and subsequently recording 'Honey Bun', an event I've covered here a few times.

I think someone else was on the show that night at the C&R, but I can't remember who it was, nor why we didn't ask that drummer. Perhaps it was a slight hope that W.S. would do it. In any case, I told him our drummer didn't show up, and "would you mind to play with us?". He protested that if he did, he would be playing all night. "If you don't", I said, "we'll have to play without a drummer and do Johnny Cash songs all night". He said he would do it, and he did. It was quite a thrill, having him playing those hot single-stroke rolls behind me, though Sammy was quite a good drummer, so I was used to the good timing and strong beat. We did two sets and Carl did two sets, and I still can't picture how another artist fits into the program, so maybe there wasn't another band. W.S. played all night and didn't complain about it when the night was over. In fact he said he enjoyed playing with us, but he didn't say how much.

When I saw Carl Mann was going to be at the C&R Club, I phoned Benny and we made the twenty-five mile trip to see him. We knew the manager quite well, as we had played there several times, so we didn't have to pay to get in. It was late when we arrived, and Carl was just beginning his last show. We watched from the front for a few songs, then parked ourselves near the bandstand for the rest. After the show, we greeted W.S. and found that he remembered us from the previous shows with Perkins, which pleased us.

I was quite impressed with Eddie Bush's lead guitar playing, and that was one of the reasons I bought Carl Mann's first LP. In fairness to Carl, though, I should mention that I liked what he did, and that was also a reason, as was the fact that W.S. Holland was on it. I would have bought an Eddie Bush LP if he had done one, but I don't know if he ever did. I heard he died a few years ago. A terrible waste of talent.

One of the songs from Carl's LP is on my 'That's What I Call A Ball' CD. 'Rockin' Love' was recorded at a rehearsal at Arkansas Music Supply one night after the store had closed. On the LP, Carl starts the song slow, then rocks it up; while preparing the track for the CD, I left off my slow start because that part of the recording wasn't very good and it was too long.

I don't know what Carl Mann is doing now, but if he's still among the air-breathing mammals and happens to read this (He's alive and well and living in Huntingdon, Tennessee - Ed.), perhaps he'll ring me up and we'll spin some stories about the so-called "good ole days".

MORE NEVILLE DICKEY A friend in London, Keith Rothesay, recently wrote reminding me of a piece I did a few years ago on Neville Dickey in which I mentioned a boogie-woogie piano LP I bought in a record store in the Croydon area of London. I enjoyed the record so much that I wanted to know more and hear more of Dickey. I learned from readers that he is a well-known and quite accomplished jazz musician, but I certainly wouldn't hold that against him.

In any case, Keith recently encountered Dickey doing a lunchtime performance at a London restaurant. After the set, he spoke to Dickey and told him of NDT, 'Rockabilly Days' and my interest in his boogie-woogie. And Dickey... bless his ole boogie-woogie heart... sent me an autographed CD! It's wonderful! And get this, Al Casey is playing guitar! Christmas! Christmas! Casey is one of my favourites, too, and to find them on the same record is quite a treat for me.

The official title of the CD is 'Neville Dickey And His Rhythm Kings, featuring Al Casey - Shout For Joy'. It also features Dick Morrisey on tenor sax, Mickey Ashman on bass and Terry Jenkins on drums, and is on the Southland label of New Orleans. It was released in '97, but was recorded on May 5th 1989 at The Bull's Head, Barnes, London.

Keith says, "over the years, others of my rockin' friends have mentioned Neville's 'Back To Boogie' album, saying how much they liked it; it seems to have achieved cult status around the rock n roll scene...".

He obtained Dickey's phone number for me, and I plan to give him a call and try to arrange a meeting during my trip to England for next May's Hemsby. If such a historic event comes to pass, you may be certain I will give you a full report complete with details of any boogie-woogieing that might erupt during our chat.

Keith also asked me to pass along my thanks to Jeff Horton of London's famous 100 Club for his help in this matter, so Jeff may consider himself thanked, and I'll send him the very next armadillo roadkill that shows up on the highway in front of my house. If you go to the 100 Club and see armadillo steak on the menu, you'll know it came from Arkansas. I certainly hope Jeff is a good-humoured sort.

COMPUTER THOUGHTS For the past several years, everyone has been busy storing all the knowledge of the world on computer discs, so that future generations, if there are any, might benefit from it. Throughout the world, business is run by computers. They are wonderful until the power goes off, then they might be worth a few pence for the scrap metal. It doesn't matter if your's has a xillion gigabytes of memory, it can't remember a thing without electricity. Without the electrons from the power company flowing through my word processor, I wouldn't have a clue about what is recorded on the magnetic discs in the box on my desk. All the wisdom of history might be contained therein, though it's not likely, and it would be of no use to me whatsoever without electricity.

On the shelves in my office are many books. If the power goes off, I can read them by daylight or candlelight. Many, or a few, years from now, when the world has been ravaged by the Great War, a falling astroid, or Godzilla, as the movies tell us will happen sooner or later, and civilisation has been mostly destroyed, books can still be read but computers will be used for candlestands.

This scenario is a bit extreme, of course, and it isn't going to happen. Oh, we might get hit by a heavenly body (I hope it's Cheryl Ladd!) sometime or other, and there will be wars and more wars, but civilisation is not going to be destroyed, nor is the electricity going off worldwide. It is likely that it will go off in some areas of the world, and stay off for long periods, but as long as there is a generator left, and the fuel to power it, there will be electricity somewhere. It might be halfway around the world, though, and you probably wouldn't have a twenty-thousand-mile-long extension cord handy.

If Will Shakespeare had done all his plays on a word processor and was ready to store them on disc when the electricity went off, he migh have shrugged his shoulders and said, "Aww, phooey on it... I think I'll become a carpenter".

The obvious point of all this is that we shouldn't put our knowledge where we can't get to it if a worldwide catastrophe should come along.

You may quite naturally think that if the electricity goes off, you won't be able to play your favourite records. Not so. Grip a straight pin between your teeth (don't swallow it!) and twirl the record on a pencil. Put the tip of the pin against the twirling record, and you will hear scratching, moaning and whining. If you hold your head steadily enough to keep the pin in the groove, and keep the record level, and turning about the right speed, you can rock n roll all night by candlelight. It ruins the grooves in your records, but if you had to listen to records through a pin between your teeth, you probably wouldn't do a lot of listening.

Larry Donn's Delta Musicians Page

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