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Ramrod… Solo, Groups & Sessions – 1956-1962 by Al Casey.

Released July 2023 on Jasmine Records Reviewed date August 2023 Buy the album here:

Ramrod… Solo, Groups & Sessions – 1956-1962 is a collection of recordings from various artists showcasing the work of Al Casey.

Alvin Wayne Casey (October 26, 1936 – September 17, 2006) was an American guitarist. He was mainly known for his work as a session musician, but also released his own records and scored three Billboard Hot 100 hits in the United States. His contribution to the rockabilly genre has been recognised by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. As a session musician during the 1960s he was a member of the legendary Los Angeles based Wrecking Crew who played on many hits during the decade. This album focuses on Al’s days before the Wrecking Crew when Al was building his reputation as a guitar player.

Track by track:

Nola – recorded in the mid 50s for a local label, Old Timer, on which he’d been billed as Art Jones this has the feel of a novelty track but there is some interesting guitar work nonetheless.

The Fool – It was when Al met with record producer Lee Hazelwood that his career took off. The singer on this track is Sanford Clark whose rather moody vocals contrast nicely with the twangy sound of Al’s guitar. A rockabilly classic that was a chart success in the USA when issued on Dot records in 1956.

Buying On Time – Lee Hazelwood is the vocalist on this md tempo country tune with a honky-tonk vibe.

How About Me? - Pretty Baby – This fine example of rockabilly was first issued on the Viv label. The vocalist is Jimmy Johnson, one of Casey’s fellow Arizona Hayride bandmembers.

If I Told You (Wouldn’t Know It All By Myself) – Al wrote this rockabilly track and in 1956 it was the first record he had issued under his own name on the MCI label.

A Cheat – It is Sanford Clark on vocals again but the guitar work of Al shines through. The track itself is similar in feel to The Fool.

A Fool’s Blues – Another attempt to emulate the success of Sanford Clark’s “The Fool” but issued under Al’s name. This is an instrumental that this is a bit faster than Sanford’s hit.

Nine Pound Hammer – Although not as successful as “The Fool” this did hit number 48 in the American charts for Sanford Clark. The track is mid paced rocker with a good guitar break from Al.

Guitar Man – Not to be confused with the Jerry Reed/Elvis song of the name this is rather moody track with Lee Hazelwood providing the vocals. I love the line “I have never worked a day in my natural life because I’m guitar man”!

Ramrod – Although this instrumental is credited to Duane Eddy & His Rock-A-Billies when issued on Lee Hazelwood’s Ford label it is Al on lead and a young Duane Eddy is on rhythm guitar. Duane later recorded his own version on this track that was written by Al.

Caravan – Originally recorded by Duke Ellington this was the B side to “Ramrod”, some very nifty finger picking by Al helps drive this instrumental.

Waltz Mignon (Wherever You Are) – Like “Nola” this is another instrumental issued under the name Art Jones but it is Al displaying a gentler style of playing.

Snake Eyed Mama – Al is actually the piano player on this rockabilly classic from Don Cole. “Take off your gloves and play” and Al does just that! There’s definitely a Jerry Lee Lewis influence here.

Willa Mae – This was issued on the Liberty label in late 1957 in the States c/w “She Gotta Shake. Rumour has it that it is Al on piano and Eddie Cochran on guitar.

She Gotta Shake – This is more of a stroller than “Willa Mae”.

The Adventures Of Frank N. Stein – The 50’s were definitely a golden time for novelty records and this is one of the weirder ones. A must for any Halloween playlist.

Give’n Up – This reminds me of “Searchin’” by the Coasters. Corky, the female singer is Al’s wife.

(Got The) Teen-Age Blues – A driving rocker in the vein of Ricky Nelson but of course it is Al providing the guitar break and not James Burton.

Endless Sleep – For me this is one of the most distinctive guitar intros, Al at his best. A million seller in 1958 and an international hit for Jody Reynolds.

Fire Of Love – More or less “Endless Sleep” under a different name. This also made the Top 100 in America for Jody.

Tarantula – The Storms were Jody Reynold’s backing band. This is a moody instrumental very much in the style of the Champs.

Thunder – More of a rocking instrumental track this was the other side of “Taratula”. The Stinger – A pacey instrumental issued under Al’s name on the United Artists label in 1959.

Keep Talking – This was on the other side of “The Stinger”. A slow moody instrumental with the sound of a crowd of people talking in the background. A very Duane Eddy type track. At the time Al was the leader of Duane’s backing band.

40 Miles Of Bad Road – This is Al’s demo of the track that Duane went on to record and have massive success with.

Alley Cat – This excellent rocker comes from a one off session that Al did with the Champs. A solid beat with a great guitar break. One of my favourites on this album.

Makin’ Out – The second of the two singles that Al cut with the Storms. The track features some great sax playing and a steady guitar riff from Al.

Shot Down – Another instrumental and a good stroller, the B side of “Makin’ Out”.

Cookin’ – Al formed the Al Casey Combo in 1961 and at the time the organ was becoming an increasingly popular instrument and Al followed the trend. This instrumental got into the bottom half of America’s Top 100 when issued on Jim Gaylord’s Stacey label in February ’62. It is more pop than rock and roll.

Hotfoot – The B Side to “Cookin’” this more uptempo track features some great sax playing and Al’s guitar work shines through with an almost aggressive twang!

Jivin’ Around – Despite the title this not really a jiver. It’s a mid-paced pop rock instrumental with a good bass line and some nice organ playing. It did give Al commercial success getting to 71 in the Top 100 and reaching 22 in Billboard’s R&B.

Doin’ The Shotish – This instrumental was the B Side of “Jivin’ Around” and may well appeal to fans of Johnny and The Hurricanes

Laughin’ – Al’s guitar work is featured on this instrumental, the organ adds a bit of a jazzy touch. This release did match the success of “Jivin’ Around”.

Chicken Feathers – The B side of “laughin’” and the electric organ is the main instrument on this pop instrumental. Towards the end there is some rather good sax plating, possibly by Steve Douglas who was a member of the Wrecking Crew with Al.

Doin’ It – Another poppy, organ based track which failed to gain much commercial success.

Monte Carlo – More fine sax work and guitar playing from Al bring this interesting and enjoyable compilation to a close.

Summary and Recommendation: Although possibly not as well known as James Burton, Al Casey is very much of a similar pedigree and his contribution to rockabilly and rock and roll guitar playing should not be overlooked. This is great way to get to appreciate Al’s work and at the same time it’s a good example of how the music scene was changing through the late 50’s and early 60’s. The sleeve notes are also informative and another good reason (as if one was needed) to buy this album.

Reviewed by Jailhouse John Alexander YOUTUBE:

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