Various Artists

Hey Baby! the Rockin' South

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While the history books have Ernie Young's Excello usually listed as a blues label (and rightly so, with their plethora of excellent "swamp blues" releases), these 30 tracks bearing the Excello, Nasco and Zil imprints show that the label had a wide spate of rockabilly and rock & roll sides in the catalog as well. Everything is from a time span of 1954 to 1960, prime years for the label's commitment to the big beat. With the exception of four excellent uptempo hillbilly/proto-rockabilly sides, everything collected up is firmly in either the Louisiana wild men or Nashville renegade rocker category. Since label owner Ernie Young was no Sam Phillips when it came to producing, he relied on producers like Jay Miller or the team of songwriters Kenny Moffett and Noel Ball (the team that wrote and produced "Oh Julie" by the Crescendos) to provide him with masters. Both sides of Al Ferrier's Jay Miller-produced Excello single is here kicking things off, and you don't get many examples of Louisiana rockabilly much better than the title track while its flip, "I'm The Man," (an answer record to Jim Lowe's hit "The Green Door") is one of the best Johnny Cash knock-offs ever. Miller's regular session drummer Warren Storm clocks in with four solid tracks in the Fats Domino mold, with the closer "I'm A Little Boy (Looking For Love)" being a particular standout. Another Miller session of note is the one that produced the two-sided Johnny Jano rockin' blast of "Havin' A Whole Lot Of Fun" and its bluesy flip, "I'd Make A Good Man For You." Moffett and Ball's productions were cut at the ultra-primitive Globe Recording Studio above Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, the famous liquor haunt around the corner from the Grand Ole Opry. The procession of artists who recorded there -- Lowell McGuire (the wooden "Spellbound" and "Leave My Girlie Alone"), the Monorays (the crudest version of "It's Love Baby" ever recorded and a sleazy instrumental in "What's Your Name?"), and Billy Fortune ("Trapped") -- are merely a faded stain of discographical research about whom little, if anything, is known, and the crudity of their efforts is palpable, bathed in a sea of tape echo, school band percussion, misplaced mikes and lopsided one-track mixes. The only previously unissued track aboard is also one of the best things on here, an unknown group called the Trends doing a totally delightful light harmony rocker called "Tell Me" that truly captures the Buddy Holly style in fine 'hey, we wrote a song' teen band fashion. There's a pile of great music aboard here and even though a handful of these tracks appear on other Excello best-of retrospectives, there's just so many great things making their first CD appearance here, one needn't justify adding this one to the collection at all.

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