Bailey's Nervous Kats

Biography by

Bailey's Nervous Kats was one of numerous fairly anonymous combos throughout the United States playing hard-charging, basic rock & roll at the tail end of the '50s and the early '60s. That period is commonly,…
Read Full Biography

Artist Biography by

Bailey's Nervous Kats was one of numerous fairly anonymous combos throughout the United States playing hard-charging, basic rock & roll at the tail end of the '50s and the early '60s. That period is commonly, and erroneously, assumed to have been an era in which little such music was being made and recorded. Could it be, though, that part of the reason more such music was not more popular (on record at any rate) during this time was that it wasn't too imaginative? That could be the case with Bailey's Nervous Kats, formed in 1957 in the upper part of Northern California, in the vicinity of the small town of Redding. For the next few years, they enjoyed considerable popularity in the region as a live act, due in part to the absence of much competition at a time when rock & roll bands weren't nearly as commonplace as they would be in following decades.

Bailey's Nervous Kats got to make a few singles in 1959-1961 for tiny labels; one of them, "Cobra," actually reached number one on KRDG in Redding, displacing the Everly Brothers' "Cathy's Clown." Usually, the band favored nervous-tempoed, elementary vocal and instrumental tunes with growly guitars. It is easy to imagine that the Cramps, for instance, would have been knocked out by discovering the swampy "Traveling Sam" in a thrift store (the liner notes to the Bailey's Nervous Kats compilation CD, Get Nervous!, imply that such an incident actually took place). Also, as a self-contained band that wrote much of their own material, the group, like several similar outfits in the Pacific Northwest, was laying the groundwork for an approach that revolutionized '60s rock. Like those Northwest bands, though, Bailey's Nervous Kats didn't really participate in that revolution, because their songs lacked variety and high-quality content.

Bailey's Nervous Kats managed to do a regional tour with the Fendermen and Dorsey Burnette, and went to San Jose for awhile in the early '60s in an attempt to make some headway in the music industry, to little effect. They were still drawing live crowds back in their Shasta County home grounds in 1963, and did some more recording with an all-instrumental EP on Ikon in 1964. In 1965, a limited-edition LP on Emma contained re-recordings of some of their early tracks, but by this juncture their approach had been rendered passé by the British Invasion and other trends. Guitarist/vocalist Bob Smith moved to southern California in the late '60s to form the Sons of the Keystone Cops, described by Alec Palao in the liner notes to Get Nervous! as a "psychedelic bubblegum outfit."