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Crazy Rockin’ by John Carroll and His Hot Rocks

February 2024 Jasmine Records

Reviewed February 2024

Johnny Carroll and His Hot Rocks

Johnny Carrell, to give his correct surname, and his friends pianist Bill Hennen, bass player Billy Bunton and guitarist Jay Salem formed a group in the mid-50s in their home state of Texas and were managed by Jack Goldman who went by the name of “Jack Tiger”. After recording some demos in Jack’s studio Jack managed to get Johnny a deal with Decca records, that deal did not include the band so for the thee Decca singles (the first six tracks on this CD) the backing musicians are Nashville session men, Owen Bradley on piano, Grady Martin (guitar), Harold Bradley (rhythm guitar), bass player Bob Moore and drummer Buddy Harman. Sadly Johnny’s time with Decca came to an end as the result of legal row with his manager. He then went on to have records released on Phillips International (a subsidiary of Sun Records), and Warner Brothers. On the Warner Brothers recordings the musicians behind Johnny are Howard Reed (guitar), Bill Hennen (piano) and Royce McAffe (drums). This line up also had a single released under the name The Spinners and those two tracks are the last on this CD.

Track by track review

Rock 'n’ Roll Ruby – Johnny Cash is credited with writing this song that was first released by Cash’s stable mate at Sun records, Warren Smith. Decca released this version hot on the heels of the Sun 45 but it failed to match the commercial success of the original. Nevertheless, it's is a fine example of rockabilly.

Tryin’ To Get To You – Originally an R&B song by Washington DC vocal group The Eagles, this track is possibly best known because it was recorded by Elvis while he was at Sun. Johnny’s version is, for me, at least as good as Mr Presley’s. Johnny’s vocals are spot on, and overall it is a great B side to Rock 'n’ Roll Ruby.

Wild, Wild Women – I’m sure Johnny must have been inspired by Ruth Brown’s R&B hit “Wild, Wild Young Men when he wrote this. It is quite simply archetypal Decca rockabilly, a true classic. Johnny performs this track in the film “Rock Baby - Rock It”.

Corrine, Corinna – A song that many have claimed to have written, including Bob Dylan! Johnny gives another strong performance in this rockabilly version of a traditional tune. This was the B side to Wild, Wild Young Men. The single was also issued in the UK on the Brunswick label

Crazy, Crazy Lovin’ – Written by Jack Tiger this was the last of the singles in Decca. Like the other two, despite being now regarded as classics of the rockabilly genre, it failed to make the charts either in the US or UK where it also appeared on the Brunswick label. It is also featured in the film “Rock Baby - Rock It”.

Hot Rock – Also written by Jack Tiger, this is just too good to be a B side. It’s rockabilly at it’s best.

That’s The Way I Love – Another song composed by Johnny but I feel he must have been listening to Freddy Canon’s “Buzz Buzz A Diddle It” while he was writing it. Released in the USA on Phillips International in 1957. A good rocker that I feel is more successful than it was.

I’ll Wait – Here Johnny tries his hand at a ballad and makes a fine job of it. Released as the B side of “That’s The Way I Love”.

Bandstand Doll – This is the first single from Johnny to be issued on Warner Brothers and reflects the change away from hard core rockabilly to more poppier material that many others were making at the time. It sold well but alas did not chart.

The Swing – Johnny was a good friend of Gene Vincent and I think Gene’s influence is strong on this track. It is a good stroller and another excellent B side.

Sugar – The second and last single for Warner Brothers. Another pop rock tune with a strong Gene Vincent influence.

Lost Without You – The B side to “Sugar”, and as the title suggests, it is a ballad with a haunting, heartfelt vocal from Johnny.

Run Come See – A gospel song recorded for the WA label in Texas, an interesting shift in style from his rockabilly past but not one that would bring him any great success.

Trudy – The other side of “Run Come See” and it’s rock and roll rather than gospel. Some great guitar and piano playing.

The Sally Ann – Released in 1962 this was the last single for at least a decade from Johnny. This has pop calypso feel to it. Issued on the Duchess label in the USA. The change of style sadly did not mean a positive change of fortune for Johnny.

Run Come See – A different version of track 13.

Rag Mop – This and the last track on this CD, “Little Otis” was issued on the Warner Brother label with the artist listed as “The Spinners” It is a quirky number that actually rocks quite well.

Little Otis – Like the A side this is a novelty rocker.

Summary and Recommendation

Like so many other artists Johnny Carroll didn’t get the success he may have deserved but nonetheless is well respected and remembered as a great rockabilly artist. This album not only highlights his rockabilly classics but his talent and ability to switch styles and still sound good. A solid compilation with good sleeve notes, definitely a worthwhile purchase.

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Reviewed by Jailhouse John Alexander




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