Rockin’ and rompin’ rockabilly revisited


Coincidentally, as I am devouring Peter Guralnick’s captivating biography on Sam Phillips and SUN Records, rockabilly revivalist JD McPherson and his band gigged at the Belly-Up at the Solana Beach this past weekend.

As implied in last week’s post, I didn’t hear rock’s first wave at its inception. Spokane’s KNEW (Channel Seven-Ninety) didn’t switch from MOR to the new teen fad until late 1956 or early 1957, and I didn’t get my first transistor radio until the early sixties.

I regretted growing up so far from rock’s roots without easy access. We always heard the latest national trend in music a couple of months after they charted in the big cities across the country. [There was one exception when, in the summer of 1963, the KNEW jocks spun a double-sided single—Love Me Do/From Me to You—by an English group few others in the nation “knew” about until six months later.

I often wonder what it would have been like to have seen Elvis when he played Spokane in the late fifties or to be in Memphis when Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, JR Cash, Jerry Lee, Billy Lee Riley, Ike Turner, and Roy Orbison were molding there sounds down at 706 Union or to have heard them for the first time on KDIA.

JD McPherson may experience a similar longing, when the young Oklahoman pilots his custom-made JT Smith through what he describes as “’50s psychedelic,” a throbbing, driving sound that echos  those early rockabilly and rhythm & blues artists as filtered through perhaps a little Stray Cats influence.

An LA-based band that I lauded two years ago in one of my early posts, Honey/Honey, opened for McPherson Saturday and joined him in a closing tribute to David Bowie. Honey/Honey, which features Suzanne Santo, model/actress/banjo picker/fiddler/guitarist/vocalist, and Ben Jaffe, lead guitarist/songwriter/vocalist, performs soaring and original Americana fostered by their Ohio and Massachusetts roots. Their vocal harmonies dance in unison with soft rhythms that build to towering crescendos.

Catch JD and Honey/Honey live, if you can. If not, definitely drop some coin on their recordings. Great stuff.


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