July 30, 2010
While it was the awesome Flxible Vistaliner tour bus that caught my attention, a listen to this LP was a pleasant surprise. Even though its called a “Country Music Show,” this is really a multi-genre LP; it serves up an amalgam of Jazz, Country, Folk, Blues, Western Swing, Rockabilly, R&B, and a bunch of nice steel guitar to boot. There are a few clinkers, but overall a good listen. Here is the list of artists on this LP, some of whom you may know, others may seem obscure:
LITTLE JIMMY DICKENS
THE COUNTRY BOYS
Their crossing of paths on the Philip Morris Country Music Show marked a period of change and cross-pollination in American Popular music. It was 1957. Think Elvis and Sun Records. Think Patsy Cline. Think Bill Monroe. Because each of the above artists had their own unique careers under way before they were hired by Philip Morris, I will, in no particular order, present an overview of each (with links) and hope you will take the time to listen to some of their music.
AMG has this to say regarding the fairly obscure Rockabilly performer Ronnie Self:
Why Ronnie Self never made it as a performer is one of the great mysteries and injustices of pop music history. He had the look and the sound – a mix of country, rockabilly and R&B that sometimes made him sound like a white Little Richard, but mostly like the young Elvis or Carl Perkins – and he wasn’t lacking for good songs, which he mostly wrote himself. He should have been there, thought of in the same breath as Perkins or Jerry Lee Lewis; instead, he’s a footnote in rock & roll history outside of Europe, where he’s treated as a legend. (Bruce Eder)
I have no reason to question the judgment of Mr. Eder, and I have to say that Ronnie Self seems cut right out of the mold of Elvis; not that he TOTALLY imitates The King, but the influence is undeniable. Imitation is the…you guys know the saying. And when your only charted “hit” was “Bop-a-Lena,” a song that was released just after Gene Vincent hit it big with “Be-Bop-a-Lula”…Nonetheless, Self still sounds different enough to be given some respect; his energy level was off the charts.
Ronnie Self was notorious for constantly moving back and forth on stage while singing (screaming?), more of a frantic running and squating than Elvis-style gyrating in place. His manager, in fact, dubbed him “Mr. Frantic” to help explain his kinetics. You got to admit that photo above makes one want to go back in time and listen to a group that has fiddle, bass fiddle, drums and gui-tar!
Give a listen to some classic Ronnie Self and dig his vocal style. How a guy could sing a whole gig this way and not lose his voice is beyond me. Also keep in mind that he has some street cred too in that he actually was a juvenile delinquent in real life (vandalism arrest?). It’s guys like Self that made conservative parents fear for their daughters’ safety.
This was the age of the two-minute song, so it won’t take up too much of your time:
ABOUT THE BUS
The awesome tour bus on the cover of the Country Music Show LP is a custom Flxible Vistaliner (VL 100).
The Vistaliner was a competitor to GMC’s more famous Scenicruiser.
The Raymond Lowey-influenced Scenicrusier, a superior and more sexy 3-axle, dual-level bus, is the one that is still considered an American design “icon.” To me, it’s just a well-designed and attractive bus, more attractive than the VL100. One could say that the Vistaliner is to the Scenicrusier as Ronnie Self is to Elvis. It’s kinda like that.