THE BLACK HOLES
The band that gave me my name! Based in London, Ontario, original members Vince Braca (vocals, rhythm guitar), Tom Hilborn (lead guitar) and Sean Anderson (drums, a mix of Buddy Rich and Keith Moon) introduced me to the songs of Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Freddy Cannon and even Fats Waller. The Holes continue to play bars and college pubs and inspire sexy dancin’ to rockabilly classics.
Formed: late ’90s, London, Ontario
Notable covers: Johnny B Goode, Not Fade Away, Tallahassie Lassie
Fort Worth Stomp http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ol9mduJ3pM
THE DETROIT COBRAS
My favourite mix of punky sounds and classic R&B. Rachel Nagy and the Cobras specialize in covers of lesser known ’50s and ’60s rhythm and blues numbers, revved up like nobody’s business. They cover more obscure songs by the likes of The Marvellettes and Mary Wells and make them sound new.
Formed: 1994, Detroit, Michigan
Notable songs: Bye Bye Baby, You Knows What to Do
Cha Cha Twist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8ZhLBO9NZY
In the late ’70s, Gordon burst on the scene as the new Elvis which, perhaps, wasn’t the best marketing idea since the King had only died in ’77. Even so, Gordon and his brand of retro rockabilly was Elvis-inspired and the quality of his voice and playing was top notch. Gordon also wrote a terrific book about the city where Presley’s career began, “It Came from Memphis.”
Born:1947, Washington, DC.
Notable songs: Someday Someway, Lonesome Train
The Way I Walk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckJQxjKQQ9U
One of Candye’s albums is called “The Toughest Girl Alive” and she is certainly one of ’em. A teen Mom, former adult film star who survived physical abuse and heavy drug use to become a rhythm and blues diva. In recent years Kane has also battled pancreatic cancer and the toughest girl alive is still out there performing to appreciative audiences. As a matter of fact, when I purchased one of her CDs at a music shop in Wasaga Beach, the owner said, “She used to be in adult films, you know.” I didn’t. But I’m glad I bought the disc because Candye Kane is one of the finest modern-day R&B singers.
Born: 1965, Ventura, California
Notable songs: The Toughest Girl Alive, Who Walks in When I Walk Out, Work What You Got
The Toughest Girl Alive https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4VNX95hjow
A few years back I caught a show on PBS paying tribute to music legend Les Paul. I recognized Jeff Beck on guitar but the vocalist who did a fabulous job on “How High the Moon” was the Irish-born May. She can rock, swing or sing the blues.
Born: 1974, Dublin, Ireland
Notable songs: Johnny Got a Boom Boom, Big Bad Handsome Man
Another great band from Toronto that salutes the golden age of rockabilly with style, and the fabulous vocals of Sarah Butler. I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah in September 2015 at the Wasaga Beach Blues Festival. She was part of an early Elvis tribute called “A Boy from Tupelo.”
Formed: 2009, Toronto, Canada
Notable songs: Each Day, Sweet Talk, High-heeled Hot Rod
Each Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sC4Wx1aKy1o
As a Sirius/XM subscriber I have to salute Petty for his terrific program on the Deep Tracks channel, “Buried Treasures.” Tom plays lesser known and classic blues, R&B, country and lots more…almost as good as the Rock and Roll Riot! His love of classic rock and roll was best expressed in the lyrics of “Runnin’ Down a Dream” when he wrote about singing along to Del Shannon’s “Runaway” while cruising the highway.
Born: 1952, Gainesville, Florida
Notable songs: Refugee, Free Fallin’, Even the Losers, Runnin’ Down a Dream
Won’t Back Down https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvlTJrNJ5lA
I know what you’re thinking. The Ramones are a punk band, why do I regard them as rock and roll revivalists? Well, one of their best songs, “Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio” features tributes to Jerry Lee Lewis, Alan Freed and many others. The Ramones also covered “Let’s Dance” and “California Sun.” They knew where their sound came from!
Formed: 1974, New York City
Notable songs: Rock & Roll High School, I Wanna be Sedated, Sheena is a Punk Rocker
Blitzkrieg Bop https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbDekaqw3lQ
REVEREND HORTON HEAT
They preach the gospel of a genre known as Psychobilly, a mix of rockabilly and punk that has a pretty hard edge. Most of their stuff is a too raunchy for my show….sad to say…but I do play a terrific RHH cover of Bill Haley’s “Rock this Joint.”
Formed: 1985, Dallas, Texax
Notable songs: Rock this Joint
Galaxie 500 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb_juTPQJUc
THE ROYAL CROWNS
In the early ’80s, drummer and singer Teddy Fury played in a Toronto rockabilly band called The Bopcats. To this day I’ve tried to find Bopcats material for the show but it only exists on vinyl and cassettes (remember them? I haven’t had a working cassette player in years). The Royal Crowns are Canada’s leading rockabilly ambassadors, combining playful lyrics with fabulous instrumentation.
Formed: 1986, Toronto, Ontario
Notable songs: Bettie Page, Wine Drinkin’ Woman
Your Way https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awjnY85C4K0
What is it with Irish teenagers and their love of early rock and roll and R&B? Lead singer and bass player Stefan Byrne told me that artists back then had a raw energy that’s lacking in today’s music. No argument here. Stef also said the tunes get people up on the dance floor.
Formed: 2013, Dublin, Ireland
Notable songs: Long Tall Sally
Down on 59th Street https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Z6NPHAMHm74#t=0
THE STRAY CATS
I have to admit, when The Stray Cats hit it big in the early ’80s, I didn’t get their retro rockabilly sound. I was into Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. But, as the years went by I started to like Brian Setzer and his group and appreciate the fine playing and singing, whether it was their originals or covers of rock and roll classics. They were heavily inspired by ’50s rockers Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent so today, I salute their great taste!
Formed: 1979, Massapequa, New York
Notable songs: Stray Cat Strut, Sexy and 17
Rock this Town https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoaazVGPtuQ
A group of Irish teenagers (as of this writing, June 2014) that covers songs by Bo Diddley and Leiber & Stoller? Rock and roll is alive and well. They’ve been compared to early Stones, Who and Yardbirds. Check out the performance on the Late Show with David Letterman. Normally the host follows with “that was wonderful (time to go home).” After The Strypes rocked the Ed Sullivan Theatre, Dave was pretty pumped.
Formed: 2011, Cavan, Ireland
Notable songs: What a Shame
What a Shame https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRs5G5j0SEs
THE SWINGIN’ NECKBREAKERS
Another awesome mix of high energy rockabilly, punk and garage rock. These New Jersey natives were featured a few years back in The Sopranos, playing the house band in a club run by Adriana. Very cool. The do killer covers of Chuck Berry’s “I Want to be your Driver” and Little Richard’s “The Girl Can’t Help It.”
Formed: 1992, Trenton, New Jersey
Notable songs: Shakedown, Ice Water, The Girl Can’t Help it
Rip it, Rip it Up https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qS9mD5NbxEs
24TH STREET WAILERS
How can you not love a band whose lead singer (and drummer) is called Lindsay Beaver? So Canadian, to be a little racy and a lot of fun, and the Wailers are all that and more. Beaver’s powerful vocals and rhythms kick the songs into overdrive, and she’s ably supported by Michael Archer on the upright bass, Marc Doucet on guitar, pianist Jesse Whiteley and the honking sax of Jonny Wong. Guitarist Emily Burgess left the band in 2015 due to the grind of touring, but continues to make guest appearances with many of Canada’s top rock and roll bands.
Formed: 2014, Toronto, Canada
Notable songs: Wicked, Don’t Cross Me, Aim to Please
Aim to Please https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vv7Btf7hSGE
My least favourite radio format of all-time was the “new country” fad of the ’90s. Shania was hot, couldn’t stand her songs. Garth? No thanks. I lumped Dwight Yoakam in with ’90s country and that was a mistake. Dwight was a fan of the Bakersfield sound created by his idol, Buck Owens. He’s a rock and roller who combines country, rockabilly and even a bit of punk (he started out playing on the L.A. punk scene), and I love his versions of “Little Sister” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”
Born:1956, Pikeville, Kentucky
Notable songs: Guitars Cadillacs, Please Please Baby
Turn it on Turn it Up Turn Me Loose https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-2xdkl1srg