Rockin'the Blues

We're Gonna Rock We're Gonna Roll

Logo Rockin'the Blues Informed by Blues, Boogie Woogie, Jazz, R&B, Hillbilly and Country music, Rock 'n' Roll, Rockabilly became the first music to aim directly at a teenage audience, and it hit. Rock 'n' Roll extended an unparalleled influence around the world.

Shakin' Stevens And The Sunsets / Rockabilly Revival

Shakin' Stevens And The Sunsets

Shakin' Stevens and the Sunsets evolved from the rock and roll scene in and around the Penarth and Ely areas just outside Cardiff. One of its leading lights since the late 1950s was the Backbeats, a band fronted by Robert Llewellyn (who performed under the name of Rockin' Louie) and managed by Paul 'Legs' Barrett, a local entrepreneur and "card-carrying Communist".

Michael Barratt, Shakin Steven's birth name, was a fan of the group , and used to approach Louie for singing and dancing tips and, soon enough, Michael was being referred to as 'Rockin' Louie II'. By the mid 1960s however, Michael had formed his own band. Originally named the Olympics, then the Cossacks, they finally decided to call themselves the Denims, by which point they found themselves as a support act to Michael's heroes, the Backbeats. Eventually, when the Denims fell apart, Barratt formed a new group named the Rebels. It was this outfit that Paul Barrett came to see after a recommendation early in 1969. Although unimpressed with the band itself, Barrett saw something in their young singer who, only a few years earlier, had been hanging around looking for ideas from the Backbeats. He offered to manage Barratt on two conditions: firstly, he would have to ditch his group and, secondly, he must find himself an exciting new stage name. Agreeing to both suggestions, Barratt left the Rebels and then, inspired either by the memory of an old school friend playing bat and ball or maybe even an eccentric local roadsweeper, became Shakin' Stevens.

Deciding that the group would be named Shakin' Stevens and the Sunsets, Paul Barrett set about assembling a backing band for his new protege. Several musicians passed through the ranks of the Sunsets during these early days. There was a transitional period as the Backbeats evolved into the Sunsets which saw Dave Goddard and Sid Petherick briefly retained from the old band on bass and lead guitar respectively. Then, after two short lived guitarists by the names of Alan Langford and Mike Bibby, the band finally settled upon Carl Petersen. Early bass player Stephen Prior was soon replaced by Steve Percy, while the original drummer Brian Williams was replaced after Paul Barrett had managed to persuade former Backbeats frontman Rockin' Louie to hammer out a rhythm for the Sunsets. On saxophone was Paul Dolan (actually a guitarist who was a veteran of the Cardiff music scene for many years), and this early line-up was completed by London born Trevor Hawkins on piano, who had offered his services when the formative band played a gig at the Northcote Arms in Southall.

As a hardcore rock and roll fan, Paul Barrett was both surprised and amused at John Lennon's appearance at a rock and roll revival show in Toronto in September 1969 and promptly wrote a letter to the music press inviting Lennon to audition for the Sunsets. The offer may have escaped the Beatle's attention, but it was enough for the Rolling Stones management to offer the group a support slot at their forthcoming show at the Saville Theatre in London on 14 December. The resultant gig suggested that Shakin' Stevens and the Sunsets were not quite ready for the big time. A nervous Shaky was disconcerted at having to use Mick Jagger's PA system and, when realising he had left his drumsticks back in Cardiff, Louie had to borrow a pair from Charlie Watts. On discovering his snare stand was also missing, he resorted to resting the drum on an upturned fire bucket.

Welsh revival rock'n'roll band formed in Cardiff in 1968 and fronted by vocalist Michael Barratt, better known as Shakin' Stevens. The band disbanded in 1977 and Shakin' Stevens found fame as a solo artist in the 1980's. In 1999 the original Sunsets won a legal battle against Barratt on charges of non-payment of royalties for reissue of their 1970 debut album A Legend. Per 2013 some of the original members still performed under then name The Sunsets on the local circuit in Wales, fronted by Barratt's nephew Levi Barratt.

Dave Phillips / Rockabilly Revival

Dave Phillips

Having left the Blue Cats in 1980, Dave Phillips took some time off before forming his own band. Still with Gene Vincent in mind he named his new band the Hot Rod Gang after the 1958 movie featuring the screaming kid. The first line-up consisted of John Day and Ray Thompson on guitars, Rob Tyler on drums and of course Dave Phillips on double bass and lead vocals. But it’s the second line-up with Mark Harman from Restless on guitar replacing both Day and Thompson that entered the history of modern rockabilly. Harman was the perfect choice, his fast Gallup influenced licks being the perfect complement to Phillips. The trio recorded Wild Youth in late 1981 and contrary to what the cover reads it’s Tyler on drums and not Andrew Wrightson who was the band’s driver (even on the cd reissue features the mistake).
One can suppose that the label (Rockhouse for both) acted with Phillips the same way he did with the Blue Cats’ second album (with Clint Bradley) hence the presence of many familiar cover in a more traditional style (Flea Brain, Summertime, Baby Blue and the Phantom’s Love Me sung by Harman). But there’s enough modern stuff to make of Wild Youth a benchmark in Neo-Rockabilly history, the best known being their cover of Tainted Love. It’s an instant classic that will have a lasting influence on many young bands.
Essential to any decent collection.

Source Fred “Virgil” Turgis

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