GENE AND BOBBY RAMBO – WILD DALLAS ROCKIN’ CATS
Since the early 50’s, the Dallas Sportatorium hosting the Big D Jamboree was a “hot” place for Country and Western acts and, later, for Rock’n’Roll bands. That show, broadcast by KRLD, was probably one of the best way down South, with the Louisiana Hayride, to showcase new talents and give them large exposure
.GENE AND BOBBY RAMBO – WILD DALLAS ROCKIN’ CATSTHE BOB “GIT IT” KELLY’S CONNECTIONSBobby & Gene
Since the early 50’s, the Dallas Sportatorium hosting the Big D Jamboree was a “hot” place for Country and Western acts and, later, for Rock’n’Roll bands. That show, broadcast by KRLD, was probably one of the best way down South, with the Louisiana Hayride, to showcase new talents and give them large exposure. The barn could host 6.300 customers and was often packed. The show started in 1945 as the “Lone Star Barn Dance”. Then in 1948, the show changed its name to “The Big D Jamboree” and a segment of the show was broadcast on CBS “Saturday Nite Country Style” in nearly 40 states. Until the mid 50’s, every Saturday a strong roster of regulars like Helen Hall, Charline Arthur, Orville Couch, The Belew Twins, Riley Crabtree or Billy Walker rubbed shoulders with “hopin’ stars” like Jimmy Lee Fautheree, Country Johnny Mathis, Wade Moore & Dick Penner or Sid King & the 5 Strings. Big names like Webb Pierce, Ernest Tubb, Hank Thompson or Rose Maddox guested too. With the coming of Elvis on April 16, 1955 and later Carl Perkins, Mac Curtis, Groovey Joe Poovey, Johnny Carroll and Gene Vincent, the "wrestling ring" would start to rock wildly.
Sid King & Band - WFAA (Dallas)-1955
Some other Dallas shows like the WFAA Saturday Nite Shindig would stay more country with performer like Joe Price, Jimmy Collie “The Cherokee”, The Lovett Sisters or Arlie Duff. From the WFAA studio, they would have to move to the State Fair Auditorium, a larger venue, with the raise of Country shows in Dallas. There was also the KCUL’s Cowtown Hoedown with Frankie Miller, Jackie Lee Cochran or The McCoy Kids. Some clubs like the Sky Club were advertising “Cat Music” nights as soon as 1954 and bring young singers like Lew Williams who cut the classic “Cat Talk” for Imperial records.
B. Kelly 1957
Hosted by Johnny Hicks and Al Turner, the Jamboree encouraged local musicians with its weekly search for prospective stars and talent guests from Hillbilly to Rockabilly and welcomed Ronnie Dawson or Bobby Crown to name a few.
Elvis was the first to bring the Sun Hillbilly Bop sound until September 3, 1955 but he was soon followed by Carl Perkins who became a semi-regular on the Jamboree. Listening to him play on stage “That’s All Right”, “Blue Suede Shoes”, “Slippin’ & Sliddin’”, “I Got A Woman” and “Everybody’s Tryin’ to Be My Baby”, that now survive on wax ,guaranteed you would have goosebumps. The next big attraction, in summer 57, was Gene Vincent and his Blue Caps. Gene placed his career in the hand of Ed McLemore’s Artist & Service Bureau just like Sonny James and Buddy Knox had done earlier.
C. Perkins at the Big D Jamboree
Many local singers traded those Elvis licks to follow the steps of Gene Vincent for his vocal abilities and his wild stage antics. Listening to him and his Blue Caps ravin’ on “Blue Jean Bop”, “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On’”, “Dance To The Bop” and “Lotta Lovin’” helps you understand how they got the Dallas crowd in the palm of them hands.
Among those die-hard fans were Gene and Bobby Rambo, two brothers, who first recorded “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll”, in 1956, at the Buss Everett Studio in Dallas. Those two songs would lay on that acetate recording under the name Don Rambo & The Rhythm Kings until “No Hit” Records brought them to us in the 80’s.
“Man”, recalls Gene Rambo, “After I saw Gene Vincent I said forget Elvis – It was pure excitement from the start to finish”. His brother Bobby remembers too: “All of us were Vincent Nuts, Man! If he made some wild stage move, we’d pick up on it and do it too!” The brothers with their band would record at Nesman Studio located in Wichita Falls (Tx) a great original song that copies perfectly the Gene Vincent’s style. “My Little Mama”, recorded under the name of Gene Princeton and the Plaids, is a fabulous waxing and any of Gene’s fans worldwide would appreciate the effort.
Not many performers came as close to Gene’s style with them own stuff except maybe Johnny Carroll, in 1959, with his “Warner Bros” recordings. They also tried their hands on “Dance To The Bop” and at two others originals at Sellers Studio, in Dallas, “Reel and Rock (with My Baby)” and “ Pink Pedals Pushers and Bright Red Hair”. Really great stuff!
At the end of the “Dance To The Bop” session, they backed Carl Canida on great covers of “That’s All Right” and “I Forgot To Remember To Forget”, two Elvis songs. The acetates came on a “Presto” disc with no mention of the studio. Bobby will play guitar for Carl Canida on his lone disc issued, in 1959, “Party Date” b/w “Our Little Park Bench” (Creole 1740). (Creole was Bob Kelly’s own label)
The “Creole” records story is an interesting one ‘bout the music publishing in the 50’s. Bob Kelly needed to have a record out to have his “Little Star Publishing” registered by BMI..
So in 1960, he just set up his own label and recorded under the name of The Kellwoods “Skipping Along” b/w “Indian Squaw”. The band name is a split up of Bob Kelly and Neil Wood’s names. Neil joins him on vocal in the “Squaw” side, a novelty tune with good guitar and Indian tambours. One hundred were pressed and “Little Star Publishing” was registered. Later, Bob will lend his label to others who used his recording facilities like Carl Canida. Bob made them pay only studio time at his “Top Ten recording” facilities and mastering. Sometime, if needed, he would take care of the publishing rights. The Carl Canida record publishing rights came to “Vandenburg Publishing” owned by Vandan records owner.
The Flames became the house band at Pattie’s Teen Club and later at the Irving Youth Center. In May of ’57, The Flames won first prize at the Big D Jamboree’s weekly talent show and came back for ten weeks with the support from their all chicks fan club “The Flamettes”. Those gals used to flash banners stating “The Flames will burn Forever”. Bobby will also back some other performers on recording sessions like Joe Poovey on “Teen Long Fingers” (Dixie 2018) or Scotty Mc Kay, a Blue Caps, on “Rollin’ Dynamite” (Event 4295). Back at Sellers Studio, Bobby would record great covers of Carl Perkins “Your True Love” and Eddie Cochran’s “C’mon Everybody”. Here the acetates came on a regular “Audiodisc” wax. In Dec 1957, they will play the Big D Jamboree with Charline Arthur, Darrell Glenn, Joe Poovey and Johnny Dollar. Around the same time they also played on the same bill with Country Johnny Mathis, Johnny Horton, Bob Luman, Mac Curtis …
Bob Kelly and The Pikes having also done preliminary shows at the Big D Jamboree got a publishing contact with Ed McLemore. Bob’s own compositions “Git It” and “Somebody Help Me” find their way to Gene Vincent’s repertoire in March 1958. Bob and The Pikes demos of those songs made at Sellers Recording studio in 1956 are fabulous and worth a listen by themselves. On the ACE CD “Gene Vincent cut our songs”, a demo of “Git It” is noted “Unknow group”. That’s Bob Kelly and the Pikes at a first try of the song … Bob was also the composer of “What You Want”, a song he recorded in 1954. His friend Mac Curtis took the song and Bob and The Pikes sang background for him on the “King” side recorded on December 29, 1957. “What You Want” demo is a very good side that could match with the Strikes vocal work for “Imperial”. Mac Curtis also recorded “Somebody help Me” but for Major Bill Smith. Still for Major Bill Smith he also recorded a song tilted “No” that was a Bob Kelly’s original re-christened. Bob’s song was originally titled “Boo” and Bill Smith, unknown to Mac, took credit for that song after changing only the title.
G. Rambo and the Flames
Bob’s own “When We Get Together” fell into the hands of Jerry Capehart, when he moved to California from June 57 to February 58, and soon it was in Eddie Cochran’s repertoire, with some words changes, as “Let’s get Together”. Later, with some rework, it became “C’mon Everybody” when issued by Liberty. Bob’s own recordings can be heard on his Libra CD “1954/1959 Rockabilly”.
After some Teenage riots in 1958 at The Yellow Belly Drag Strip, The Fames disbanded and Bobby Rambo will join Vince Murphy and The Calatinas who will record the great “Speechless” on Back Beat 513 before moving with Gene Vincent’s Blue Caps in 1959. Later, Bobby will join’ Scotty McKay’s band with his friend Bob Kelly (on bass) for a few years. Together, in 1960, with the support of Paul Carney on drums, they will record some demos with Bobby on vocal. Two of them “Dreams in your Eyes” and “Let It Happen To Me” are still owned by Bob Kelly. They also backed, still for Bob, a gal named Kelly Hart on two sides “Never Fall in Love, Again” and “She Dream”. All four songs are ballad in the late 50’s style and were never released. Bob will also produce for Vandan label the great “Wine, Wine, Wine” by the Nightcaps and several songs by The Continentals for that same label. In 1962, Gene Summers recorded his “Dance Dance Dance” (Alta 106) at Bob’s Top Ten Recording Studio. The “Alta” records label was owned by Jim Lowe (not to be confused with the singer), Program Director of WRR radio station, where Bob worked as DJ.
Bobby Rambo, Gene Summers and Bob “Git It” Kelly stayed in the music business and are still well and ready to entertain you. The Rambo Brothers work was re-issued on a “Norton” records CD and Bob Kelly's work is available on “Rollercoaster”, ACE and on his own label “Libra” at Amazon.com. Gene Summers had a brand new CD tilted “Reminisce Café” on Seduction records. Those old cats, with Joe Price, helped me a lot with that issue.
All those stories could have never been told without the outstanding work of David Dennard, owner of Dragon Street record, Billy Miller of Kicks Magazine and Kevin Coffey. All these recordings prove, if needed, that the Dallas area was one of the earliest to feel the rumblings of Rockabilly and Rock and Roll. It was an essential place in the raise of Honky-Tonk, Hillbilly Bop and later Rockabilly music. There’s still a lot to write about Lew Williams, Johnny Carroll, Gene Summers, Jackie Lee Cochran, Ronnie Dawson, Mac Curtis or Joe Poovey.
Maybe later, ‘Gators and Wild Cats.
Dominique “Imperial” ANGLARES
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