I have long since lost my copy of Piano Red’s Great Rockin With Red. And I hate it. It was one of the many influences on the way I make music now. It was the first phonograph record I ever bought.
While visiting my uncle in Fort Worth in the early fifties, I wandered around the corner to a record store that was owned by a jukebox operator. In the back of his store he had bins of used records taken from his juke box route.
I rummaged around and pulled out the 78rpm platter…Rockin With Red…I bought it for a half of a dollar. 50 cents for what, to me, was a treasure. The song and Red’s performance spellbound me (and still does). It just had an attitude that I related to. I later recorded it for Ronny Weiser on Rollin Rock Records. Out of respect we re-titled it as simply Rock Me.
I was fortunate to run into a fantastic musician and performer who knew Red and patterned a lot of his own music after him. Harry Middlebrooks. Harry coined the description of Red’s piano work as “grits” style. Harry and Red, aka Dr. Feelgood, both lived and worked in Atlanta together. So they had a built a great respect for each other’s work.
Harry eventually composed and recorded a tune he called simply Grits. It was a fitting tribute to Piano Red.
I very often think of songs, and the people who turned me onto them, that affected me in my early years. Bob “Git It” Kelly is one of them. Bob was an upper class-man in Olney, Texas High School which I attended in the early ‘50s.
The big hangout in Olney was the No D-lay Drive In. They had super sandwiches and fries and they were inexpensive. Plus, the place had a huge Jukebox.
Bob called me over to the player one night and said that he had been watching my progress as a fledgling performer, but that he thought I should include some other sounds along with the hillbilly tunes I was doing.
That night, along with the R&B song Sixty Minute Man and others came Big Joe Turner’s Shake, Rattle and Roll. Those songs opened up the flood gates of music that I never knew existed. Thanks to Bob Kelly for sharing his knowledge with me.
Bob and I caught up with each other again in 1957 when I was recording for King Records. He brought two demos of songs he had written recently. I liked, and picked, Somebody Help Me.
However Louis Innis, the producer, decided What You Want was a better bet. I later recorded Somebody Help Me for Major Bill Smith in Fort Worth. I still like ‘em both.
And I still like Bob Kelly’s music.
Thanks for your time and…
Keep On Rockin
Many thanks to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame