STOP THE PRESSES: All of the songs featured in the post have been identified by several helpful correspondents. Read on for the answers, in Bold, below!!!
Over 15 years ago, I was at yet another large rummage sale somewhere, and came across a tape in a metal cannister (the type more typically used to hold 8mm films), labeled simply "Rock and Roll". This, of course, could have been anything from early Rock and R & B, to Beach Boys albums to 1970's stadium rock and beyond, but it certainly the sort of thing I would take a chance on.
It turned out to be a recording of about 60 (mostly) rock and roll singles, many apparently recorded off the radio (based on snippets of DJ chatter and AM electrical interference here and there). But the odd thing was that these were not the standard "biggest hits" I've come across on nearly every other tape featuring old rock and roll that I've come across.
A handful of songs would be immediately familiar to anyone who enjoys the music of the era - all of them from 1959, dating the tape nicely. Another quarter of the songs might be known to people with a more intimate knowledge of that period - non-hits by Chuck Berry, The Poni-Tales, Ritchie Valens, Bobby Darin, Bobby Day, Art and Dotty Todd, and several others that I've been able to identify with the help of the internet in the ensuing years. What was remarkable to me was the sheer number of non-hits and tracks I still can't identify. Whoever made this tape managed to capture - in about 40 of the 60 tracks - records which were not national hits. And yet most of these seemed to be off-the-radio recordings, meaning that either the area in which they were recorded had a ton of regional hits, or that the person recording was lucky enough to listen to a station which had an unusually large playlists.
As I've winnowed the songs I can't identify, over the years, I've been left with about a dozen, including a few that I really enjoy, and one that I just adore. So I'm putting the word out to all of those out there who also know and love this period in American music, and might know who/what a few of these are. I'm offering up six today.
The second track on the tape - and the one I've never grown tired of listening to - is an alternate version of a song recorded by Robin Luke in 1959 or 1960, titled "Well Oh, Well Oh (Don't You Know)". It seems unlikely that someone would do a cover a of a song which was on a failed 45 by an artist who had only had one hit, so perhaps this was the original version and/or perhaps regional hit. I have tried, on two occasions, to find out who this performer might be, from noted experts in early rock and roll, and they were both stumped. I love the energy of this record, the vocal - which owes something to both Elvis and Buddy Holly - the Bo Diddley beat of the verses, and rimshot kicking it into the swinging chorus. I could do without the honking sax, but otherwise, it's just about perfect, and immeasurably better than the rather toothless Robin Luke version, which you can hear here.
As it turns out, I was unable to find this song because Robin Luke's people changed the title. The above is the original track, titled "Well Don't You Know" performed by the song's writer, George Weston, in 1959!
My second favorite track on the tape was a nonsense/novelty record which I've titled "Great Scott", which is probably not correct. It's full of silly, fake words, and someone shouting more ridiculous verbiage with a ton of reverb.
This is actually "Crazy Talk" by the Loafers!
There are four more tracks from the tape that interest me enough to want to know what they are. I have guessed at the titles of three of the four, and have no idea on the fourth. I hope these (and the two above) are of interest to readers/listeners like me who love this era of American music (despite, in my case, the fact that these records come from the year before I was born!!). Most of the tracks start moments after the actual start of the record, and those are technically incomplete. But the final track, below, seems to be missing perhaps half of its length, and, being that it's an instrumental, I have no idea how to identify it, unless it's by someone who knows the track already.
That's "Wanna Dance" by Frank Pizani!
That's "Ooh-Sha-Lala" by Mickey and Kitty!
That's "Sweet Shop" by Randy Stevens!
That's "Rockin' Crickets" by Hot-Toddys (featuring Bill Pernell)!
If anyone knows the remaining mystery song, or if you just want to offer up a comment - at email@example.com.
Special thanks to Lee R., Ken E., Steve C., Stewart B., Bruce M., Rich M., and Hellodes, who each offered up suggestions and/or answers to the mysteries of this obscure roll of tape!