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Rock-A-Billy Fillies Rip It Up @ Central Park Summerstage

More Encore Photos Below. Follow the links for Full Photo Galleries of Imelda May and Wanda Jackson.

Rock-A-Billy’s Reigning Queen And Princess

The original rock-a-billy fillie, Wanda Jackson, was joined by the genre’s newest spitfire Imelda May for a Central Park Summer Stage night of 50’s styled riffing and jiving on July 27, 2011. The ladies lit up a perfect mid-summer’s eve in the park and wowed the audience with a host of original and cover tunes formulated to get your pulse a-racing and your feet a-dancing.

Let’s Have A Party

Wanda’s early career mixed country with the then burgeoning rock of Elvis and Gene Vincent and deservedly earned her the title of “Queen of Rock-A-Billy” in the ensuing year’s. Aficionados of the style know her catalog well and you’ll find her tunes being spun along with The Cramps, Eddie Cochran and The Collins Kids wherever DA’s, poodle skirts and pegged pants are found on the dance floor. In 2009 she was honored with induction into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. Jackson has flowed through stylistic changes of country, rock-a-billy and southern gospel but she has never “left the building”. Artists like Rosie Flores have championed her in the past and now Mr. Jack White (“a nice young man”) has given the lady’s catalog a healthy injection by producing her most recent album. Aptly titled “The Party Ain’t Over”, a decades later nod to her 1960 radio hit “Let’s Have A Party”, which was the set closer on this show.

I’m thrilled to report Ms. Wanda has kept her pipes in perfect shape and it is a joy to hear her serving up a blue plate special of I – helped – invent – this, four – on – the – floor, stomp. She also kept her red fringe shimmying for the appreciative crowd. Her stories of touring with – and dating – Elvis are priceless. She still keeps the ring he gave her to wear around her neck. Her originals, like “Mean, Mean Man” and “Fujiyama Mama”, penned to fill the gap for female vocals in early rock, match Elvis’s better Sun Records output and rival Gene Vincent’s work for flat out hot-doggin’ fun. Both tunes were in her Central Park set.

Hot Dog, He Got Me Mad

The Hi – Dollars, led by Heath Haynes, backed Wanda marvelously, got a few opening numbers in for themselves to warm up the crowd, and produced some stop-on-a-dime turn around’s with a dose Fender twang, Gretsch sting and banging keyboards; everything cruising along on a bed of pumping stand up bass and drums. The set included two personal favorites, Johnny Kid’s “Shakin’ All Over” and Eddie Cochran’s “Nervous Breakdown”, the latter being the ur-seed for Led Zep’s “Living Lovin’ Maid” and the former sporting a lick that, though covered by every band from here to Timbuktu, never gets old. A run through “Rip It Up” was another highlight for the rock-a-billy centric crowd up near the stage.

Wanda made note of the sad passing of chanteuse Amy Winehouse this week. Lamenting the death of a talent so young and paid tribute with a rendering of Winehouse’s “You Know I’m no Good”. She also dipped into her own country and gospel roots for a few tunes, even slipped in a sweet blue yodel, giving the young audience a nice glimpse of how traditional sounds collided to give birth to Rock.

Darling Buds of (Imelda) May

Petite powerhouse Imelda May’s star has been on the rise internationally since her well publicized stint with Jeff Beck on his Les Paul Tribute Show (Eagle Vision DVD). There she ably emulated the late Mary Ford (Les’s wife), harmonizing with her own meticulously multi-tracked versions of “How High The Moon”, “Bye, Bye Blues”, “Vaya Con Dios”. Similarly her own band includes husband Darrel Higham on guitar. The group is steeped in outre and retro culture. On this night Imelda sported a slinky blue dress emblazoned with the sixties Batman TV show logo, double bass player Al was attired in leopard print shirt and bleached buzz cut, Darrell’s on big fat Gibson & Gretsch hollow bodies – just like Eddie. Imelda resisted the Betty Page bangs so prevalent on the scene for her own signature look; a big blonde curl in her raven hair.

The band’s Dublin Ireland roots come out when Imelda wields a Bodhran and bones beating out a pulse for the audience to clap along to. Along with her own numbers like the popular “Johnny Got A Boom Boom” May peppers the set with tunes like Howlin’ Wolf’s “Poor Boy” and the Northern Soul classic “Tainted Love”, which served as her firey finale number. The group presented a nice tight opening set, only missing one favorite of mine, their take on “Rollin’ and Tumblin’”.

Double Mint Fun

As the audience clearly hoped both ladies took the stage for an un-staged version of Jerry Lee Lewis’s ”Whole Lotta Shakin Goin’ On”. “What key you do this honey?” “I’m following you.” You could see the mutual appreciation unfold as Wanda coached Imelda through the songs sly, sexy, spoken bit. “Now Imelda, my friend Jerry Lee tells me you can shake it just standin’ in one spot. Easy now… yeah, I think you got it”

Rock-A-Billy music will ring throughout the world as long as these ladies have something to do with it. Wanda and Imelda, long may you reign.

SkeletonPete Says: Get Off The Couch!

This free concert was a perfect double bill on a perfect New York summer night and is just one of the many shows offered by The City Parks Foundation and its sponsors. There is plenty more to come from Summerstage throughout the city. Check out their website for details. New Yorkers, time to leave reality TV for your own reality.

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Photo Gallery: Wanda Jackson @ Summerstage 2011


Wondrous Wanda Jackson reigning “Queen of Rock-A-Billy” and her band The Hi – Dollars lit up the Central Park Summerstage on July 27, 2011.

Full story and photos of encore performance with Imelda May are here.

Click any image to large the gallery.

Photo Gallery: Imelda May @ Summerstage 2011

Imelda May kicked off a night of Rock-A-Billy shimmy and shake at Central Park Stage on July 27, 2011. See the full story here.

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Brooklyn’s Street Sounds Hosts Gretsch Guitar Day

Saturday June 18, 2011
While many weathered the heat to get gander at aquatically adorned Mermaid Parade revelers, the real Brooklyn VIP Party was going down at Bay Ridge’s Street Sounds Music Store, in the shadow of the Verrazano Bridge as we like to say. It was a special day and those in the know packed Rocky Sciano’s family run business to take in the beautiful and voluptuous curves of those American designed classics – Gretsch Guitars. You may know Gretsch instruments as the Rock-A-Billy wreckers painted up in delicious Hot Rod colors, or maybe the country picker’s choice in the hands of Chet Atkins, or maybe the hell’s bells ringing red double cutaway Jet Firebird of AC/DC’s Malcolm Young . “Who’s Next”? “Quadrophenia”? – all Pete Townshend’s 6120, gifted to him by Joe Walsh. Django – Gretsch. Eddie Cochran – Gretsch. Got the point?

Homecoming and History

The Gretsch family company started its life in Brooklyn NYC in 1883 making banjos and drums for marching bands. They initiated their historic line of guitars in 1954. For this special event Fred Gretsch III and Product Specialist Joe Carducci paid a visit to original home turf bringing along California calendar girl Kim Falcon and top-notch picker Paul Pigat, AKA Cousin Harley. Of course the afternoon was all about the gear; the star item being the prototype of Gretsch’s 1957 Duo Jet George Harrison replica, reproduced down to the rust on the Bigsby vibrato spring. With only 60 of these puppies being produced worldwide, this Harrison family authorized gem was a thrill to ogle slowly revolving in its display case. Along with the Harrison collectors item Street Sounds showed off walls hung with beautiful examples of the expansive Gretsch line and District Product Manager David Waters was on hand throughout the afternoon to offer attendees help and information on specific models.

As part of the festivities, Mssrs. Gretsch and Carducci presented “The Fred and Joe Show” highlighting the company’s history and key artists. It was augmented to include information about the convoluted journey of George’s Duo Jet. It’s a great story, you can read it here. Raffle tickets were chosen by Ms. Falcon (with a little help from Rocky’s mom). Prizes included heaps of Gretsch merch like T-shirts, playing cards, Zippo Lighters and bolo ties. In addition, two lucky participants won killer Gretsch guitars. Paul Pigat played some smokin’ rock-a-billy, a smooth take on Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust”, and taught a compact lesson on the art of Travis picking. Up and coming group Foxy Studs (Joe on guitar, Christina on drums, Tammie singing and Elia on Bass) gave the audience a look at and listen to the future of Gretsch guitar and drum players. After the raffles and presentation Fred and Kim spent time meeting fans and signing autographs on calendars, posters and even a few guitars.

Whoa! Haven’t seen you since the Fort Hamilton High School “Battle of the Bands” in 1972

The event was like old home week for local musicians and brought out players young and umm…seasoned from the surrounding neighborhoods. It is just so cool that so many of us have kept the faith and kept playing. There were some Prodigal Children, a Rockingham or two, John “The Cat” Gatto from – genuflect now – The Good Rats, even a couple of members of Dance Half Done. Modern Drummer editor Billy Amendola was on hand as was Piercing Metal’s main mensch Ken Pierce.

The special day continued into evening with a walking tour at the original factory site – 60 Broadway in Williamsburg. Apparently, the pioneering Gretsch family beat the hipster invasion to the punch by over 100 years!

P.S.
The Frosted Pink Cupcake Lollipops were mind blowing! – no that’s not a psychedelic tribute band.

The photos below tell the story of a wonderful time had by all. Click any image to launch the gallery. (All photos copyright 2011, Peter Parrella)