Alley & The Alley Cats
This had to be one of the greatest discoveries of the early 80's for it was unknown even to Don Kirsch when he published the superb second edition of his 'Rock'n'Roll Obscurities' in 1981.
Jim Alley had two 45's on the Pearl label out of Muncie, Indiana, but for years, only the second (#4447/8, 'Dig That Rock'n'Roll' c/w 'Lonesome Feeling') was listed ; the top side was a fabulous (albeit a touch repetitive) guitar rocker. But what a gas when we uncovered his unexpected, powerhouse version of 'The Great Pretender' - yes, the Platters' smash from 1956 !
Cut in 1961, recorded at Jan Eden Recording & Sound studio (Indianapolis), produced by George Mc Mahon and custom pressed by RCA, it rocks like there will be no tomorrow ! The vocal is superb - clear, melodious and totally free of any sort of chorus in the background ; as for the guitar break, underlined by some real pumpin' piano, it certainly ranks as one of the best of the genre. You'll never play the Platters' original again afterwards, believe me ! But you'll also avoid the funfair-style instro on the flip, 'The Alley Cat Scratch', just the same...
Therein lies the magic of those great singles, as well as the foolishness of collectors : many a time, one side can be enough to satisfy our soul, regardless of the steep price of the whole disc !
Billy Bowman was the steel guitar player in Bob Wills's Texas Playboys for the best part of 1950 and then again, from 1953 to 1956. His clear, light touch on his non-pedal steel can be heard to great advantage on such MGM tracks as 'Jolie Blond Likes To Boogie', 'Bottle Baby Boogie', 'St-Louis Blues', 'Cadillac In Model A' and, of course, his own 'B. Bowman Hop'.
After he left Wills, Billy cut two instrumental singles for Decca, most notably the one coupling 'New Roadside Rag' with his composition, 'Billy's Bounce'. And swing, it does ! Bowman has his own 'motifs' and plays with considerable drive. Both tracks also feature splendid guitar, piano & fiddle parts - as one would expect from such seasoned Western Swing musicians.
His other Decca '45 coupled 'Midnight in Old Amarillo' with 'Coquette' (#30477).
Both discs released in '57.
Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs
MGM K 13452
You all know at least one tune by this band - namely 'Wooly Bully', a monster hit in the summer of 1965 when leased from Stan Kesler's Pen Records in Memphis and released by MGM. Bit on the novelty side but a good sounding record anyway. Sam was Samudio Domingo (vocal & organ) ; the Pharaohs were comprised of David Martin (bass), Jerry Patterson (drums), Roy Stinnet (guitar) & Butch Gibson (tenor sax). All had Tex-Mex origins. Their first waxing was a cover of Gene Simmons's 'Haunted House' in 1964 (b/w 'How Does A Cheating Woman Feel', Dingo 001). 'Wooly Bully' climbed to the top spot in Billboard and was followed by a string of lesser hits including 'Ju Ju Hand' and 'Lil' Red Riding Hood'. The band appeared in the film, 'When The Boys Meet The Girls', where they sang 'Monkey See, Monkey Do' (see above picture). However, their best moment was their surprisingly excellent reworking of Billy Emerson's Sun cut, 'Red Hot', which had become a timeless rockabilly classic thanks to both Billy Lee Riley (Sun #277) and Bob Luman (Imperial #8313). Sam's vocal is powerful and the thumping backing, reminiscent of the Dave Clark Five productions of the time, is nevertheless perfectly adequate - topped by a real fine guitar solo in the good ol' tradition. The other side, 'A Long, Long Way', written by Gibson the saxman, is good 60's rock with plenty of fuzz guitar. A Jack Clement production, it should not be overlooked. PS : On the record, the band's name is misspelled as 'Pharoahs'.