Harry Glenn was an entrepreneurial visionary. Peddling his records out of the trunk of a car a good decade after Sam Phillips and Leonard Chess had abandoned the practice and hooked up with real distributors, Glenn was a throwback to a simpler time. A frustrated songwriter, he saw his hometown areas of Calumet City and Hammond, IN become a haven for country night club musicians after World War II. Seeing this bumper crop of talent moving into his backyard, he decided to take advantage of the situation and formed Mar-Vel Records in 1949. Originally using the label and the artists who recorded for him as an outlet for promoting his songs, he quickly changed his mind and started drawing from the large pool of talented musicians and writers around him. The 20 tracks collected here represent the best of his forays into hillbilly boogie, rockabilly, and rock & roll, cut between 1954 and 1962. Keeping in mind that often these were straight-up hillbilly and Western swing bands trying to make the jump over to the new music, the occasional accordion solo, like on Harry Carter's "Jump Baby Jump," doesn't seem so out of place next to the fiery guitar solos. Bobby Sisco's "Honky Tonkin' Rhythm," Jack Bradshaw's humorous "Naughty Girls," and Harold Allen's "I Need Some Lovin'" are all solid pieces of hillbilly boogie, many sporting knife-edge solo work. The main collector's item "must buy it for this track alone" entry comes with the inclusion of Herbie Duncan's insane rocker, "Hot Lips Baby." This is one of the truly legendary records of early '50s rock & roll. Just exactly who told Duncan he was a singer remains a mystery to this day, but his completely out of tune, off-time, and hyperventilating efforts on this track literally defy description. Because the band is trying to follow him as best they can while Duncan -- sans instrument -- bellows out a tune with little to no structure to it, chord changes move in and out of the background like a slide show and never musically resolve in logical terms. But none of it really matters, because Herbie Duncan is rockin' in 100-percent full commitment to the moment, a glorious D.I.Y. moment in rock & roll history captured forever. In 1958, Herbie Duncan was as alternative as you could possibly get, and in some ways, still is. Indiana rockabilly at its finest and perhaps most eccentric.
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